[Image: P.R.S. Gallery].
In his unfortunately titled but excellent book Encounters with the Archdruid, John McPhee receives, from mining industry consultant Charles Park, a crash course in exploration geology (there's "the rootlessness of the life of an exploration geologist... 'You're just wandering. You're on the loose'"), as well as a quick introduction to the modern process of gold mining – which sounds a lot like medieval alchemy:
"The rock, Park explained, is taken to the surface and crushed until it is fine sand. Mercury is poured through the sand. The mercury adroitly picks up gold, and nothing else. The mercury is then boiled away. Cyanide is poured into the sand and dissolves from it even more gold. Zinc is then put into the gold-cyanide solution. The zinc dissolves, and replaces the gold, which falls as metal to the bottom. The sand is put back in the mine, where concrete is poured on it to make platforms for upward mining. Thus, the mine consumes its own tailings" – in a perfect architectural-alchemical loop that owes much to Ouroboros, the self-devouring, occult world serpent:
A few quick questions, then – because this is not a website about alchemy or the occult – or even about Ouroboros – it's a website about architecture, dammit:
If alchemy is considered a "religion" – and not just a form of speculative metallurgy – when America's gold mining industry receives federal tax subsidies, does that violate the separation of church and state?
Accordingly, are exploration geologists really Earth-worshipping pagans in an alchemical conspiracy against the U.S. Constitution?
Should somebody warn President Bush...?
[More on mines: Bingham Pit and Mirny Mine].