Mining in Idaho – Kia Fye

Idaho is known for its natural resources and is commonly referred to as the Gem state. In the past many people have come to mine for resources in Idaho. Some of the most abundant resources are and were silver, zinc, lead, precious gems and lumber. A group of these people had come from Ireland to obtain such resources.

Irish immigration to the United States exponentially increased during the Irish Great Famine of 1845-52. This led many Irishman to search for labor and a way to make a living. In Idaho labor was in demand by other Irish immigrants, especially in the mines. Many Irishmen made their living in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, mining unpolished emeralds. These emeralds did not look like the ones bought in jewelry stores, they were rough, pale green, and oddly shaped. Emeralds were considered rare, and therefore very valuable.

Due to the influx of immigrants in Idaho, locals’ space was being violated. They did not want the immigrants there, and many fights, strikes, and land disputes followed. Religions clashed, and the mix of immigrants and locals was a disaster waiting to happen. Wages and working conditions were poor, and unions began to form. These unions only caused more issues over wages. Labor strikes and several mines being intentionally burned or exploding caused Irish immigrants to explore neighboring areas in Idaho. The environment was also being affected. This mining in the mid 1800’s was unregulated, and little was known about the impact of mining on the environment. Unregulated mining eroded the soil, decreased biodiversity, and contaminated water sources. These issues were the source of several health codes that are in place today.