In the week between driving up from California and heading off to Wisconsin we had a little bit of time to do some site seeing.

 Butte Montana: Butte is a small town that got it’s fame mining the “Richest Hill on Eath.” It’s estimated that over 1/3 of all Copper mined in the US during the 19th and 20th centuries, came from the mines in Butte.

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Sign overlooking the town.

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Yes that sign says, 1Mile High, 1 Mile deep. Butte is at about 6000ft, or over a mile above sea level, and the shaft that drops down below the headframe is over a mile deep.

What happens when you mine a hillside for over two centuries? Well, this.

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It’s a waste land of torn up ground, headframes, and debris. The water in Berkely pit lake is so toxic that when a large flock of geese decided to use it as a stop over point, well, 340+ of them died. ARCO decided to say it was because of their diet. Not! Acidic water and poisons killed them. Now Berkely Pit is one of the Superfund cleanup sites because it’s so toxic.

Berkely Pit lake

Sadly all the mining wasn’t just hard on the environment.

On the afternoon of June 8th, 1917 the worst metal mining disaster in history took place in Butte, MT. What became known as the Granite Mountain Disaster.  168 men lost their lives that day. A new power cable was being lowered into the shaft when a miners helmet light touched the sheath covering the wire and caught it on fire, setting the mine shaft ablaze. Trapping the men and killing them thousands of feet below the surface.

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