"If the human experience can be considered a manifestation of dreams, and desires, mines can be thought of as the source for the raw material of that experience. On one level of understanding, that mineral-rich ore is manufactured into the objects of our collective desire: the automobiles we drive, televisions we watch, jets that fly us around the globe, houses that provide us with shelter and comfort, and an endless stream of gadgets and goods. If gold, silver and diamonds are the greatest valuables we bestow upon each other, to honour great citizens and profess our love, then are not the great voids we leave in that residual landscape a lasting testament to these ambitions?
The imagery I derive from these landscapes therefore becomes symbolic. What this civilization leaves in the wake of its progress may be the opened and emptied earth, but in performing these incursions we also participate in the unwitting creation of gigantic monuments to our way of life." – Edward Burtynsky
In Burtynsky's images, it is the insatiable human appetite for the world's raw materials that is of primary interest. The tools of manufacturing are sometimes included, but they often function simply as a measure of the immense scale of the scene before us.
What is at first glance merely a scarred landscape becomes poetic evidence of resources spent, nature transformed as well as realized―or failed―hopes and dreams. The aerial images of the Silver Lake Operations at Lake Lefroy and of the pits and tailings at Kalgoorlie, along with the Dampier Salt Ponds are among the most handsome that Burtynsky has ever made. They combine a kind of mapping with a keenly felt experience of all the hard rock grit, dust and labour transforming these arid lands.