I have three potential scientifically derived tropes. The first is "overburden," which is defined as: "the material that lies above an area of economic or scientific interest in mining and archaeology; most commonly the rock, soil and ecosystem that lies above a coal seam or ore body. It is also known as 'waste' or 'spoil'. Overburden is distinct from tailings, the material that remains after economically valuable components have been extracted from the generally finely milled ore."
Overburden refers to the rock/soil that lies above coal seam or ore body and this is usually considered 'waste', but since this is usually not toxic, it can be used to fill in destroyed parts (though I doubt that it usually is). The 'abstraction' (or tenor) I've been playing around with is something having to do with these geological abstractions of Baudrillard, Deleuze, and Foucault. Foucault's archaeology (and Deleuze's reading of it) has really indicated a sort of 'geological' turn in contemporary continental thought. Where does the overburden fit in with Foucault's mapping of discursive relations?
I would like to suggest that the "overburden" is a metaphor/vehicle to show the non-discursive relations of power--the 'forces' (to use Deleuze's term) that cannot be discursively recognized. This 'overburden' of non-discursive relations makes us miss the groundlessness of our thought (the lack of origins, the lack of foundation) that Baudrillard points to in Fatal Strategies (and I realize I keep coming back to this passage):
"For at bottom (!) the ground never existed, only a cracked epidermis; nor were there any depths, which we now know are in fusion. Seisms tell us as much; they are a requiem for the infrastructure. We are not longer waiting for the stars or heavens, but for the subterranean gods who threaten us with a collapse into emptiness" (Baudrillard 40).
Like the earthquake of philosophy (the 'solicitation' or 'shaking' as Derrida would put it), mountain top removal disturbs the earth to reveal that the surface cannot be penetrated without producing waste--waste that needs to be taken into account.
The second option for my scientifically derived trope is "middling": Low density material is clean coal whereas high density material is reject (rock). The intermediate density material is called middlings."
So low density material is clean coal (the coal that produces slurry) whereas the dense material is reject waste (which may relate to overburden??) and the intermediate density material is 'middling'. This reminds me of all of the various philosophies that tell us that we should find the "mean" in life (in the West--Aristotle; in the East: Buddhism). The "middle" path. By typing the word "middling" into wikipedia, it redirected me to the 'mediocrity principle":
"The mediocrity principle is the notion in philosophy of science that there is nothing special about humans or the Earth. It is a Copernican principle, used either as a heuristic about Earth's position or as a philosophical statement about the place of humanity."
--This conduction is problematic, as i'm not sure that I want to argue that 'middling' is a vehicle to explain the indifference of humanity (though this seems to be the trend in Object-Oriented-Ontology, Consequentialism, and Posthumanism). Technics, on the other hand, seems to maintain a kind of privileging of the human as particularly able to participate in the ontology of technology. if this is the case, then 'middling'--this 'mean' is really mean because we are the ones that make decisions and are responsible--even if we are taking the side of the object.
Finally, as I explored the methods of coal washing I came across some interesting language. "Gravity separation methods" are the methods of separating the "wheat from the chaff". This is different for different densities of material. I think the metaphor of "density" is an interesting metaphor to explore for ontology--it seems to me that it may relate to Deleuze's reading of Bergson's "intensity."
The 'dense medium process' reminds me of something like a hurricane (florida). Also this creates a bridge to a trope Ulmer has mentioned repeatedly (but of which I am less familiar than I should be): Pound's Vortex.
"Dense medium gravity separation methods use a material such as magnetite to form a medium denser than water to assist in separation.
A cyclone is a conical vessel in which coal along with finely ground magnetite (media) is pumped tangentially to a tapered inlet and short cylindrical section followed by a conical section where the separation takes place. The higher sp. gr. fractions being subject to greater centrifugal forces pull away from the central core and descend downwards towards the apex along the wall of cyclone body and pass out as rejects/middlings. The lighter particles are caught in an upward stream and pass out as clean coal through the cyclone overflow outlet via the vortex finder."
However, this doesn't seem to be the process that produces coal slurry. Rather, this process is a 'dewatering' of the coal. Strangely, this 'dewatering' is actually done by adding 'thickeners' to the coal:
"Water is removed from tailings to recycle water. Filters, centrifuges and thickeners are used in this part of the process. The blackwater which is produced as a by-product is typically placed in a coal slurry impoundment."
"The thickened slurry, also called thickener underflow, is pumped out of the bottom of the thickener. In the case of product coal, further dewatering is usually required before shipment. Thickened tailings can be pumped to a tailings dam, combined with larger sized rejects for disposal (co-disposal), or dewatered further before disposal."
If you will allow me a Modernist poetic association:
Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst he rock one cannot stop or think [. . .]
If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
and also water
A spring [. . .]
But there is no water
--From T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland"
Here we see that adding thickener and cleaning coal involves sucking the water out of the coal--here we see that we are creating the Wasteland--the infertile wasteland where nothing grows. Prezi is my wasteland:
"A heap of broken images, where the sun beats"
Where "these fragments I have shorn against my ruins" reside.
|Land after Mountain Top Removal--A vertiable Wasteland|