Speculator Mine disaster
In the Granite Mountain/Speculator Mine disaster of June 8, 1917, an electric cable was being lowered into the Granite Mountain mine as part of a fire safety system. At this time, the Butte, Montana copper mines were at full wartime production. When the cable fell and was damaged, a foreman (approximately 2,500 feet below the surface) with a carbide lamp went to inspect the damage, and the oil-soaked cloth insulation on the cable was ignited by the flame from his lamp. The fire quickly climbed the cable, and then turned the shaft into a chimney, igniting the timbers in the shaft.
Approximately 168 miners died in the ensuing blaze, most from asphyxia. Some of the deceased did not die immediately; they survived for a day or two. Notes were written by them while they waited to be rescued. A few managed to barricade themselves within bulkheads in the mine and were found after as long as 55 hours. A strike ensued as a result of the disaster.
It remains the most deadly event ever in hard-rock mining in the USA.
The disaster was memorialized in the song "Rox in the Box" on the album The King is Dead (2011) by The Decemberists, an indie rock band.
There is a memorial to the miners killed in the fire, near the mine's location in Butte. Some of the notes written by the miners can be viewed at the site.
The monument is located at.
- Punke, Michael. Fire and Brimstone.
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