Mining is a vitally important, but highly dangerous, industry.† A nation with a reliable supply of raw materials has an advantage over one with poor resources.† But at what price does this security come?† In modern day America, we pay the price in risk to human life.† Mining is the most dangerous industry in America, with more work related deaths than any other business.† Great strides have been made in regulating and protecting the miners, and entire industries have sprung up to meet the demand for safety.† Today, with an abundance of science to aid us, we rely on 20,000 workers to provide all of our mined goods, from coal and iron to sand and limestone.† But what would happen if magic, rather than science, ruled our lives?† The answers can be found on Gaea, in the land of Narheim.
Mining in Narheim is no less dangerous than mining in modern day America, but the Narians have come to rely on magic to solve their problems.† The human duchies that have minable resources in their lands have all developed different methods of extraction, ranging from highly sophisticated to medieval.
One of the most sophisticated operations is in the lands of Stepl, where iron and silver are mined.† The humans have adopted many of the dwarvish mining practices, and as a result, casualties are low.† The thinking here is to design the mines in such a way that accidents are unlikely to occur.† Magical tools are used to augment human skill, but miners are still regarded as craftsmen.† They use shovels, picks, and blasting powder like anyone else, but the tools are often coated in mythryle or endenimite (to make them more efficient and last longer) and their blasts are based on calculations (rather than experimentation).† Likewise, structural integrity and ventilation are designed and planned before the first shovel-ful is excavated, as opposed to the haphazard methods used elsewhere (see Azure, below).† The foreman usually has a means for detecting methane and other dangerous gases, and is ready with a gust or wind spell to keep the air breathable.† Itís still a demanding and risky job, but a miner in Stepl can reasonably expect to live to retirement age.
Callaveaís operations are just as sophisticated as Steplís, but they have taken a different tact.† In this duchy, it is preferred to use magical devices to keep humans out of harmís way.† One of the forerunners in this field was Dameon HarrowFoote, a kolba healer stationed at a mining post.† He was sickened
by the number of mining injuries he had to treat, and applied his Wolvesbane knowledge to creating specialty golems used in the more dangerous aspects of mining.† He worked in conjunction with the Duke (who supplied the raw materials) under the condition that his creations be used throughout the duchy.† Mines are charged a fee for the use of the golems, and a portion of their annual mining permit fees are used to cover their maintenance and upkeep.† Each mine in Callavea has 1-6 wooden golems, ranging from gnome to kolba sized.† These devices are used to clear out rubble, shore up supports, and test the atmosphere in the mine.† There are also three iron golems that travel from mine to mine, and are used for heavy excavation.† These beasts are not human shaped, but instead have shovels for hands and a long, wheeled dumpster for a body.† They break up and dig out new tunnels for mines.† Dameonís masterpiece, however, is an endenimite coated golem, which serves the same purpose as the iron models, but will last longer and need fewer repairs.† Unfortunately he passed away before the designs were completed, but his daughter Julia is carrying on his business.† Julia has tried using golems for the entire mining process, but has found they lack the intellect and judgment of humans, often destroying the very metal they are seeking.† She is still searching for a way of creating a golem that is smart enough to replace human miners.† Callavean miners use other magics, such as earth to mud spells, and consult mountain druids to find the richest veins of metals.† None of this comes cheaply, and itís this expense that keeps mining from being a more wide scale operation in this duchy.† The materials mined in Callavea are silver, diamonds, tin, and copper.
The compassion that the people of Callavea have for their workers is not mirrored in Azure.† Here the concern is centered more on turning a quick profit, and less on the health and welfare of the miners involved.† Azure does not have a great relationship with its dwarven population, so lacks the design and technical knowledge that gives Stepl its advantage.† Likewise, most of their magical endeavors are centered on the forests and timber industry, so they lack Callaveaís magical knowledge of mining.† They also face additional dangers from orc raiders and goblins (and occasionally elves, too).† About one third of an Azurian mine is made up of guards to protect the miners, one third are skilled miners, and the last third are conscripts (usually debtors).† Professional miners are fiercely proud of their skills and brag about their toughness and willingness to face danger.† They tend to be clannish and secretive of their techniques, using word of mouth and a guild system to pass on their knowledge.† Thereís very little science used in excavating a mine, and only a basic knowledge of soil types, dangerous gases, and the hazards of collapse are known.† An experienced miner might get the willies and call for more supports, but this is based purely on experience, not on any provable facts.† Cave-ins, asphyxiation, and explosions are fairly common (at least one mine a year gets shut down in Azure).† However, when disaster strikes, all the miners nearby stop what theyíre doing and try to rescue any survivors.† The conditions in the Azure mines are not intentionally cruel, and everyone working there is trying their best to make sure everyone comes out alive at the end of the day.† Strangely enough, this rough feeling of family attracts a lot of conscripts, who tend to stay on after their term is served.† An Azurian miner tends to start working at the age of 10, is lucky to live to the age of 50, and is likely too worn out to continue working much longer.† They mine tin, copper, and platinum.
The absolutely worst place to be a miner is in the duchy of Shad, where Narheimís coal is found.† The miners are all conscripts or people who have wronged someone important.† The mining conditions themselves are dangerous enough, since Duke Shad (a notorious cheapskate) would rather kill a dozen prisoners than spend money on improving conditions.† In addition, a wide variety of beasts live in the Green Mountains (wyverns, orcs, giants, worgs and wolves to name a few).† The few guards stationed at the mine (the worst post in Shad) are more interested in protecting the ore than the miners, and consider throwing a few prisons to the beasts Ďacceptable lossesí.† The only advantage the miners of Shad have is they can rent some steam powered mining equipment from the Green Dwarves, which makes their work go faster.
As far as non-human races are concerned, the dwarves are the masters of mining.† They use superior mining techniques coupled with alchemy and magical metals to create mines deeper and more efficient than those found in modern day America.† Collapse is virtually unheard of and usually due to sabotage rather than carelessness.† Most of these techniques are secrets reserved for dwarves alone, although some information has leaked out (see Stepl, above).
Of the other races, gnomes do only limited, shallow mining, usually for gems.† Kolbas tend to stick to the surface, usually panning for gold or shallow surface mining; they tend to work in family units.† Elves usually avoid mining, except for fyderians.† Fyderian mines are built along dwarven specifications, use magical techniques (like mountain druids and scrying) to locate minerals, and never use heavy machinery (they mine by hand).† Finally, lizardmen do not mine metals, preferring wood and bone weapons.† They do prize meteoric metals, and make their holy and magical weapons out of them.