WHERE AMMONIUM NITRATE EXPLOSIVES HAVE TURNED SOLID GRANITE INTO RUBBLE
The wind whips across the grassland near the top of Triple 2. This used to be a tiny, winding Forest Service road, used mostly by hunters making their way through the Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) lined hills in search of Whitetailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus ssp. couesi). Now it’s wide open, the tops of the slopes peeled off like the lid from a tuna can where ammonium nitrate explosives have turned solid granite into rubble. A rutted jeep track transformed into a thoroughfare 30 feet wide in some places, and smoother than most asphalt roads in the Atascosa Highlands. Above the whistling of the sharp breeze a low rumbling can be heard. Suddenly a massive yellow truck comes flying around the curve. It’s a mining hauler fixed with an 8,000 gallon water tank, and as the truck passes it blasts a fan of water from the back of the cistern coating the dusty soil as it speeds downhill to refill its water tank for another run. The water droplets briefly show a rainbow of colors as they reflect the light, but in minutes the sun has dried all traces of moisture from the ground.
Farther along border monument 127 stands, a stark white obelisk, against the green and tans of oak and dry grass. The entire hillside below it has been blasted away, revealing the bones of the mountain. Volvo A60 mining trucks are being loaded up with the remains, straining at their 61 ton carrying capacity, further compacting the road that is being constantly wet down by passing water trucks. The machines dump the rubble away from the construction site and bulldozers plow it off the newly made road and on top of the Oaks (Quercus spp.) and Mesquites (Prosopis velutina) downhill. No one ever surveyed the slopes below the road, now submerged in rock and dirt with the tips of trees poking out like the masts of ships sunk in a shallow bay.