Montana Public Radio

copper

Black Butte Copper Project, project facilities site plan.
Montana DEQ

Conservation groups want a Montana court to cancel the approval of the long-disputed Black Butte copper mine, saying it would pollute a tributary of the Smith River, one of the state's most popular recreational rivers.

The Washoe Smelter Stack in Anaconda.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Public meetings over a newly released agreement guiding the remainder of the Anaconda Superfund cleanup will be held over the first two weeks of March.

Butte Superfund Coordinator Jon Sesso speaks during the event unveiling EPA's final cleanup plan for Butte, Feb. 13, 2020.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency last week announced a final Superfund deal for Butte, detailing a roadmap they say will permanently clean up one of the most intractable Superfund sites in the country.

In August 1917, Frank Little was the victim of a grisly murder in Butte. Little was a labor organizer who came to Butte to unify and radicalize Butte’s miners in their fight against the Anaconda Mining Company for higher wages and safer working conditions. Most historians believe that the Anaconda Company was behind Little’s killing, but no one knows for sure. A note pinned to his underwear threatened, "Others take notice: first and last warning," along with the numbers 3-7-77, the calling card of frontier vigilantes.

At first glance, Butte, Montana's mutilated industrial landscape is often written-off as an ecological sacrifice-zone. Dirty, ugly as sin and regrettable, but necessary to supply the country with perhaps the most basic necessity of the Electrical Age: Copper. But if you take the time to really look carefully, what you find here will challenge, surprise and even change you.

Take a closer look at the copper that put the Richest Hill on the map; the city's storied past; and the nostalgia and sense of purpose that pervade the Mining City, right now on Richest Hill episode two.

Study: Proposed Copper Mine Won't Harm Popular Montana River

Mar 11, 2019
Black Butte Copper Project, project facilities site plan.
Montana DEQ

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Officials said Monday that a copper mine proposed along a tributary of one of Montana's most popular recreational rivers would cause the river no harm, a conclusion that conservationists question and say will reinvigorate opposition to the plan.

Richest Hill episode 01: Get to know Butte, Montana, one of America's biggest Superfund sites and one of Montana’s most compelling places. Richest Hill is a new podcast about the past, present and future of Butte, America, "The Richest Hill on Earth."

The Parrot Tailings removal project is underway in Butte. September 2018.
Nora Saks

Near Butte’s Civic Center, a massive construction project is going on across the street, in the heart of town. Mammoth excavators gouge out a colossal hole in the ground. Jumbo haul trucks whisk 70 ton loads of chewed-up earth away on repeat.

Anaconda copper smelter.
Keith Ewing (CC-BY-NC-2) / Flickr

A federal agency is offering free testing for lead in blood and arsenic in urine for Anaconda residents next weekend.

A century of copper smelting left soils in the Anaconda area contaminated with heavy metals, so researchers are asking: “Are exposures to arsenic and lead at levels currently that could adversely affect people’s health?”

Public tours of the Anaconda Smelter Stack are being offered to celebrate the stack's 100th anniversary. August 9, 2018.
Nora Saks

If you’ve ever driven through Southwest Montana on I-90, you’ve probably noticed the lone smoke stack standing sentinel near Anaconda. That’s the iconic Anaconda Smelter Stack - one of the tallest free-standing masonry structures in the world.

For over a century, the smelter processed copper ore from Butte, and the stack belched thick smoke out over the valley. The public has been forbidden from visiting it for nearly four decades. But this year, for it’s 100th anniversary, tours of the stack are being offered. I hopped on one Thursday.

Pages