Mine tailings

Title Info
Source Dan L. Perlman
Human impacts Mining
Date June 07, 2000
Location Butte,Montana,USA,North America

Copper mine tailings, site of Speculator and Granite Mountain mine fire, Butte, Montana. This city was known as the ?richest hill on earth,? not because of gold or silver, which were there in modest amounts, but because of the vast quantities of copper. As the US and the world began to electrify in the late 19th century, copper for wires became remarkably useful and valuable. Between the late 1800s and the 1950s, copper mining in Butte took place underground, sometimes as much as 4,000 feet (1,300 m) underground. The black metal structure in this image was the head frame or top of a mine shaft. The surrounding hillsides were stripped of trees, waterways were polluted, and large areas were covered with tailings, the waste material brought up from the mines, as can be seen in this image. This site is especially historical, as this is where the massive fire of the Speculator and Granite Mountain mines occurred on June 8th, 1917. During that single event, 168 men died underground. While the copper of Butte powered a nation, the costs to the families and environment of Butte were extraordinary and the costs are still being felt today, as much of the city is part of the largest Superfund hazardous waste cleanup site in the United States.