Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Richest Hill On Earth

Mining started in Butte, MT in 1864 with gold panning and progressed to vein mining, block cave mining, and finally to open pit mining. There have been 512 mines here with over 10,000 miles of tunneling, including 49 miles of vertical shafts. WOW! It's a wonder the town doesn't collapse!

The are even headframes scattered throughout town.

The town is 1 mile high and this mine is 1 mile deep.

There was a lot of money in mining, and the houses in town prove it.

The Berkeley Pit operated from 1955 to 1982. A total of 1.4 BILLION tons of ore was mined. The pit is 7000' long, 5600' wide, and more than 1800' deep. It is almost full with acidic, metallic ground water, creating the nation's largest environmental cleanup.

Of course, mining is not without its hazards. Over 2500 men have died here from mining accidents.

Overlooking the town on the continental divide is Our Lady of the Rockies, the 2nd largest statue in the US, after the Statue of Liberty. But it doesn't have anything to do with mining. A local resident promised to build a 5' statue of Mary in his yard if his wife was cured of cancer. She was, and he upped his promise to a 90' statue on top of the mountain. With help from many volunteers, it was completed in 1985.

We went to visit the World Museum of Mining and went on a tour of the Orphan Girl Mine with tour guide, Mack. He is standing in front of a Fordson Snow Machine, a very early snowmobile.

First we were all outfitted with hard hats and lights. The batteries were attached to our belts in the back and were REALLY heavy.

Whoa - it's dark in here. Notice the metal mesh on the roof - that was just put there to protect the tourists. Most of the mine is filled with water, so we didn't go far.

The Orphan Girl Mine operated from 1875 to 1956, and produced 7,500,000 ounces of silver. Sounds like a lot, but it is only 1% of all the silver produced in the district!

Mack had a lot of interesting stories to tell, and demonstrated some of the very loud equipment.

He showed us how to make a hole to put dynamite in, and had a hard time getting a volunteer to hold the driver-thingy.

After the tour, we were free to roam around the outdoor museum and the museum's village, Hell Roaring Gulch, a recreation of an 1890s mining town. Wow, there's a lot of rusty stuff here!

The buildings in the mining town were filled with old furnishings from the time.

They weren't open, so you had to look in the windows, but they were easy to see.

The brick roadway was just like it was in the mining days.

The drug store was really amazing - where did they get all those old drugs??

They even had old cars -

And old wine bottles!

Butte had the largest red-light district in the West.

And a church too, of course.

So much rusty stuff, so little time...


  1. There just really is no place like Butte. It's a one of a kind town.

  2. For a person who likes rusty stuff, you must have been in heaven in Butte!

  3. IT Is a wonder if hasnt caved in with all those tunnels....and yuk to the toxic pool, are they cleaning it up or just promising to do so?

  4. They are working on it, Sondra. So far they are keeping it from getting worse, but still not getting better.

  5. What a neat place!! Thanks for sharing!

  6. We didn't get lights on our hardhats. I feel cheated. I wouldn't have held the driver thingy either.

  7. You were styling in that fancy mining get up!


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