clocketpatch (clocketpatch) wrote in little_details,

Mining operations/Pollution/Child labour

I’m just starting to string together a plot, but I want that plot to make sense from the get-go and am being stumped by a few details. My google-fu is failing me more than a little bit and I’ve got a feeling that I’m missing some magic search term – or, more likely, that I’m still too vague to get any real results.


Similar to Earth. A few very rich people and factories may have two-way radios, but I think that the general technology level is mid-industrial revolution. There may be off-worlders with higher technology who do business with the rich people but never actually land.


Plot background:
POV Character is 11-14 years old. Her family raises small deer-like creatures for milk and meat but lose the farm and are possibly put on trial after the milk and meat make several people very sick. With the family in dire straits and the verge of starvation the POV character tries to find a way to bring in some extra income but ends up being kidnapped and in a nasty child labour situation. I want the labour the POV character ends up in to turn out to be the cause of the farm failure (the pollution from it contaminated the animals, somehow).




The POV character is older than most of the slave children (some are extremely young, like, 3-4) but people from her region are naturally small. I’m thinking she’s around 4”4 and 50-60 pounds. Does this height-weight make sense or have I made her freakishly fat/skinny/something is just off? I’m bad at estimating these things.

What sort of industry work would be looking specifically for children, not just for the economy of not having to pay them, but because the children’s small size makes them better suited for the work? I’ve been leaning strongly towards mining but I’m open towards other suggestions. Even if I just go with mining that leaves open the huge doorway of WHAT are they mining? And how does that particular type of mine operate.

Whatever it is needs to be hard and dangerous work with potential for injury and environmental hazards. I’ve been thinking of something where the children have to shinny down tight natural crevasses to obtain some kind of volatile crystal, and the crevasses can’t be widened without risking damage to the end goods. Is there anything like this in the real world? Because it’s a fantasy world I could theoretically have them mining for unobtainium and make it all up, but I wanted to find out if there was any real-world mineral that meets my specs (as to what this mineral is used for… the off-worlders can want it for “purposes unknown” for all I care)

This industry/mine/whatever needs to create some kind of pollution to contaminate the POV character’s family farm. The pollution can be created by the mine or by the processing of the raw materials. The industry is far enough away that the POV character only knows about it vaguely, if at all, and there is a large wilderness area (several days walking time through hilly terrain) between the POV character’s farm and the industry. The pollution needs to contaminate the POV’s farm animals in such a way that the people who get sick can trace it directly back to the POV’s farm and blame it on them without getting into the entire community’s water/food supply (though it may do this later after the POV character is kidnapped). Is this even remotely plausible?


Search Terms:

I’ve gone through several webpages on conditions in Industrial revolution factories and mines (the answer is: horrifying) and googled: “jobs requiring small children”, “child labour jobs”, “Child miners”, “mines that require children” and various permutations there on. The results are mostly about modern child labour or about landmines (and all of it continues the trend of horrifying) but I’m not finding any reasons for specifically wanting child labourers beyond them being cheap unless they’re wanted for the sex trade and this story isn’t going there.

I’ve also googled: “milk contamination”, “meat contamination”, “mining pollution”, “factory run-off”, “food chain milk contamination”, “deer milk pollution” and similar. All I’ve picked up is that milk concentrates toxins in the environment – which I already knew – I’m trying to figure out what toxins are being concentrated and how they’re getting into the deer



Tags: ~human culture (misc), ~pit digging & mining

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