As they sat in the Magrail compartment they watched the landscape of the Mariner Valley speed past. Black Rock was a grade 2 Terminus, which essentially meant that not every train stopped there. Previously this had only been about once per week, but the service had since been upgraded. The speed of the thing was in excess of 600km/hour, and the trip would be quite short.
Outside they could occasionally glimpse the Golden Road, the trail which roughly paralleled the Magrail along which the massive Road Trains hauled ore from the mining to the processing facilities, and thence to the factories and industries of Mars.
“Another crummy mining town I guess” said Spyder, not noticing the frown from Doc. Orlov.
“I don’t get it”, he continued, “I thought Mars had turned out to be a bust mining wise, and yet there are these small mines everywhere.” Doc. Orlov stirred.
“Is not total bust – is merely not the profitable bonanza anticipated.” Spyder wondered what an old cowboy show had to do with it but said nothing.
“In the beginning, mining operations on Mars very good – produced better than anyone hoped. Jobs were plentiful and calls to Earth for more settlers brought more shuttles of people hoping to cash in on prosperity. Unfortunately, this not last. Dig sites all began to encounter a material in the ground that was incredibly hard to drill, blast, or bore through. We have seen it”. She paused.
“The material was useless to the miners and no one could find a way to profit from it. Worse still, all indications were that material was present all over planet. The big mining operations were shut down or curtailed in most locations. Mega-Corporations pull out. Unemployment rose and most of settlers trapped.”
“Planet even lose out on tourism as newer worlds colonised.”
“So why are there all these mines dotted about then Doc?” asked Jonas.
“They are mostly small operations: miners co-operatives and smaller companies. On scale they operate they can still get by and sometimes keep operations within cost. Sometimes.”
“Also they have no choice” she added.
“I still seen some Mega Corp mining offices on Mars tho” persisted Jonas, “And theres a few others like Parkfield.”
“They being blackmailed by UWC” responded Doc. Orlov. “Blackmailed to stay. Blackmailed to provide some jobs. Also incentives to non mining companies to establish research facilities and the like.”
“And so Marcus Homestead survives by feeding some of these mines huh?” asked Jonas.
“Very probably. Black Rock is sort of stop off for local mines. Even so, most of the mines you hear people mention, they probably abandoned rather than active.”