Copper Stain is a history of environmental injustice, corporate malfeasance, political treachery, and a community fighting for its life. The book gives voice to nearly one hundred Mexican Americans directly affected by these events. Their frank and often heartrending stories, published here for the first time, evoke the grim reality of laboring under giant machines and lava-spewing furnaces while turning mountains of rock into copper ingots, all in service to an employer largely indifferent to workers’ welfare. With horror and humor, anger, courage, and sorrow, the authors and their interviewees reveal how ASARCO subjected its employees and an unsuspecting public to pollution, diseases, and early death—with little in the way of compensation.
Elaine Hampton and Cynthia C. Ontiveros weave this eloquent testimony into a cautionary tale of toxic exposure, community activism, and a corporate employer’s dubious relationship with ethics—set against the political tug-of-war between industry’s demands and government’s obligation to protect the health of its people and the environment.