Montana is world famous for its pristine natural environment, but it’s also home to America’s largest Superfund site (in Butte) and numerous other wastelands of its industrial past. Over the years, various well-intentioned economic revivalists and snake oil salesmen have proposed solutions to alchemize mine waste into gold - first with the environmental restoration industry, now with bitcoin miners putting out shingles in historic hard rock mining towns. This series of stories will explore the Treasure State’s collapsed pride, and efforts to process its toxic shame and legacy into a new identity and economy.
Butte is poised for a lot of action this year. It’s a town going through a major transition while wrestling with big questions about its future. Our goal is to follow these developments closely and compassionately and to look at Butte with a fresh perspective.
On the Superfund and environmental cleanup front - there’s a Consent Decree looming for the cleanup of the Butte Hill, a pilot project starting up to pump and treat water from the Berkeley Pit, dirt is going to fly with the upcoming removal of the Parrot tailings in town, and new EPA human health studies are on the way.
New and controversial economies are also popping up - like Bitcoin. And yet Buttians still struggle too - with high poverty rates, and with addiction and mental health issues. But in the midst of all of this, there’s this “Butte tough” mentality, and a fierce sense of pride and resiliency that shines through, but can have consequences too.
And we just found that NPR is backing our idea. We’re getting ready to go to D.C. in May to be part of a workshop that will help us make an even better podcast/series of radio stories.
How You Can Help
MTPR is committing some resources to get this project off the ground. But to do the kind of bang-up job that we want to do, and that we think this subject deserves, we’re asking for help from you, and from our diverse community of listeners.
If these are the kinds of the issues that are important with you - you liked SubSurface or Threshold and you want to see us turn our attention to Butte during this metamorphosis: get behind this project, now.