Berkeley Pit @ Butte, Montana (2018/06)

Back in June, I was able to escape the Arkansas summer heat and travel to Butte, MT to tie up some loose ends in my life. I wish it was purely a pleasure trip, but big things were happening and I’m lucky I was able to get the time that I had!

Butte was Montana’s first major industrial city, and was established in 1864 as a Rocky Mountain mining camp. The area was rich in ore, especially copper, allowing Butte to earn the nickname as “The Richest Hill on Earth”. Over the years, it became a thriving mining community, which brought financial success as well as environmental disaster. It is now home to Berkley Pit, the country’s largest Superfund site. Old mining techniques have left environmental impacts that we are still dealing with today, and will be dealing with for decades to come. This huge pit has been filling slowly over time with rain and groundwater. Due to the ground chemistry and previous work practices, this water is packed with toxic metals and is as acidic as lemon juice. It has been estimated that by the year 2020, the pit will fill to where it’s level with the area’s water table, and at that point the pit’s toxic water will begin migrating into the ground water…

Today, the town has museums showing the old mining techniques, and there is a walking platform that will take you to a viewing platform near the edge of the pit… but it’s much more fun to see things from the air 🙂


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