Montana Public Radio

mining

This section of Silver Bow Creek that runs through Slag Canyon in Butte will be rerouted in EPA's "proposed plan" for changes to the 2006 Record of Decision.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Updated and expanded, April 11, 5:45 p.m.

I’m down in the valley at the bottom of the Butte Hill with Nikia Greene, looking at two skinny headwater streams flowing towards Silver Bow Creek and the Clark Fork River downstream.

"This is Blacktail Creek. We’re just above where the confluence of Blacktail Creek and Upper Silver Bow Creek, at the Visitor’s Center. You can see a wetland in the background," Greene says.

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.

State officials say a proposed expansion to Montana Resources’ tailings impoundment in Butte next to its active copper mine there won’t impact groundwater.

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."

EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento meeting with Anaconda residents on April 10, 2018
Nora Saks

An administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency who’s been praised by leaders in Butte and Anaconda has been promoted to become a senior advisor to the newly-confirmed head of the EPA.

Doug Benevento has been a frequent visitor to Montana, and helped negotiate final cleanup agreements for Butte and Anaconda. He’ll remain based in Denver, but with a broader portfolio than just the six states he’s overseen since 2017.

Congress Approves Major Public Lands, Conservation Bill

Feb 26, 2019
Emigrant Peak in Montana's Paradise Valley. The valley is north of Yellowstone Park near the location of two gold mines proposed in 2015.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

WASHINGTON (AP) — A wide-ranging bill that revives a popular conservation program, adds 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, expands several national parks and creates five new national monuments has won congressional approval.

The measure is the largest public lands bill approved by Congress in more than a decade. The House passed the bill Tuesday, 363-62, sending it to the White House for the president's signature.

Emigrant Peak in Montana's Paradise Valley. The valley is north of Yellowstone Park near the location of two gold mines proposed in 2015.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

A major package of public lands legislation has passed the U.S. Senate. It includes permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act.

"Today is — it’s one of the greatest days of my life. It’s amazing, and it really restores faith in the system, too," says Colin Davis, owner of Chico Hot Springs.

Butte Montana is famous. It was at one time the biggest city between Chicago and San Francisco. It’s in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and sits at the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River, which flows all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Butte boomed and thrived for almost a century because of one thing: copper.

Butte’s massive copper deposit was key to America’s success. The “Richest Hill on Earth” literally electrified the nation, and made the brass in bullets that won World Wars I and II. But in the 1980s, the last of the big mines shut down. Now, most of the riches are gone, and Butte is struggling.

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