2001 Mining History Association Field Trip


12th Annual Conference, June 14-17, 2001

Montana Tech

Butte, Montana


For over a century, the mines, mills, and smelters of Butte and Anaconda, Montana supplied a large part of the copper required for the electrification of the nation and for the two World Wars.  Gold prospectors discovered the minerals in the 1860s.  Copper mining began in earnest in the 1880s after railroads had reached this remote region.  For most of its history, mining was confined to the high-grade underground veins of ore which crisscrossed Butte Hill.  What started as the rough-and-tumble miners’ camp of Butte City grew into the large, modern city of Butte.  Marcus Daley, one of the legendary copper magnates of Butte, established the city of Anaconda when he built a smelter there in 1883.  The company owned Butte, Anaconda, and Pacific Railroad was created to haul the ore from the mines, 26 miles away, to the smelter.  By the 1930s, the Anaconda smelting works had grown into the largest metal processing complex in the world.  In addition to the copper, lead, zinc, silver, and gold were produced in large quantities, along with smaller amounts of a host of minor metals as byproducts and coproducts.

Thousands of immigrants migrated to Butte from all over the planet.  They established a network of distinctly ethnic neighborhoods.  The many mines and their operating companies eventually were consolidated to form the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. After years of periodic labor unrest, strong trade unions were established which set a standard for many other mining districts throughout the West.


After World War II, as the rich ores began to be depleted, the Anaconda company switched to bulk mining of lower grade ores.  Eventually all underground mining stopped and production came from the gigantic Berkeley Pit.  The ultra-modern Anaconda Concentrator was constructed adjacent to the pit to process the ore.  In 1982, Anaconda closed its Butte and Anaconda, Montana operations.  Mining continues in the area but on a much smaller scale than Butte’s heyday.  Montana Resources operates its Continental Mine, east of the now flooded Berkeley Pit, and processes its ore in the Anaconda Concentrator.

There is so much to see in what is now the Butte-Anaconda National Historic District that this virtual tour provides just an overview.  Photo Galleries 3 and 4 contain photos taken during the MHA conference in Butte in 2001.  Few other photos have survived.  To show some of the additional areas visited during that conference, most of the photos in Galleries 1 and 2 were taken in 2011 at the time of the Dillon, Montana conference.  More information about the History of Butte and Anaconda is available on the web pages for the 2001 Mining History Association Annual Conference.




The Anselmo Mine headframe and mine yard were visited during the Mining History Association’s 2001 afternoon tour of Butte.  It is one of the best preserved mine yards on the “Richest Hill on Earth.”  Its various buildings point out the many skills on the surface that are required to support underground mining.  Photos in Gallery 3 show some of the retired miners who met with the MHAers.

The Original Mine headframe overlooks city of Butte.  The mine yard is now the venue for summertime ethnic festivals and concerts.


The Mountain Con Mine boasts that it is “A Mile High and a Mile Deep.”

The Steward Mine headframe and mine yard.


The headframe of the Granite Mountain Mine is surrounded by dumps from the Berkeley Pit.  The view is from the Miners Memorial that honors the 2,500 men that lost their lives in mining-related incidents in Montana from 1870 to 1983.

A granite plaque in the Miners Memorial portrays the horrific 1917 fire at the Granite Mountain and Speculator Mines that killed 168 Butte miners. It remains the most deadly hard rock mining disaster in the U. S.


Lexington Mine headframe and mine yard in the Walkerville neighborhood. Along with the Alice Mine (opposite), they were major silver producers before copper became “King” in Butte.  The underground Lexington Tunnel connected the mine to several of the mines in the northwest quadrant of the Butte District.  Photo Gallery 3 includes photos of the MHAers visiting the tunnel.

The Alice Pit, now reclaimed, started out as an underground mine.  It was also the first open pit in Butte.  It proved the feasibility of using open pit methods on lower grade ores.  Its success led to the development of the huge Berkeley Pit.  The distinctive shape of the pit today is the result of partial filling with waste rock from nearby dumps during the Superfund clean-up in the late-1990s

Photo Credits: Mike Kaas




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