Anaconda Copper Mine (Montana)

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Anaconda headframes overlooking the city of Butte. HAER photo
Chalcocite replacing covellite, said to be found in 1883, in the early days of mining at Butte. Size 8.0 x 6.3 x 3.6 cm.

The Anaconda Copper Mine was a large copper mine in Butte, Montana. Originally a silver mine, it was bought in 1881 by Marcus Daly from Michael Hickey. Hickey was a prospector and Union Civil War veteran. He named his claim the Anaconda Mine after reading Horace Greeley's Civil War account of how Ulysses S. Grant's forces had surrounded Robert E. Lee's forces "like an anaconda". Daly developed the Anaconda Mine in partnership with George Hearst, father of William Randolph Hearst, James Ben Ali Haggin and Lloyd Tevis of San Francisco.

From this beginning Daly created the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, which ultimately became a global mining enterprise featuring the Anaconda and other Butte mines, a smelter at Anaconda, Montana, processing plants in Great Falls, Montana, the American Brass Company, and many other properties, mostly in the United States, with the largest copper mine in the world in Chile and another in Mexico. The Anaconda Copper Mining Company was acquired by ARCO in 1977.

The Anaconda mine was closed in 1947 after producing 94,900 tons of copper. Its location has been consumed by the Berkeley Pit, a vast open-pit mine that used a different technology to adapt to changing grades of copper ore.

F. Augustus Heinze used the apex theory in several lawsuits to lay claim to ore from the Anaconda Mines. Heinze purchased a small parcel of unclaimed land on top of Butte Hill. In actions upheld by several Butte judges, he was able to take copper ore that was in the Anaconda company's shafts. After years of losing lawsuits to Heinze, the company shut down all operations in the state. They put nearly 80% of the state workforce out of work in order to force the state legislature to adopt a "change of venue" provision for lawsuits. Eventually the company bought out all of Heinze's properties and claims.

See also[edit]


  • Malone, Michael P. The Battle for Butte: Mining and Politics on the Northern Frontier, 1864-1906 (1981), the most detailed scholarly history

Further reading[edit]

  • Bakken, Gordon Morris. "Anaconda and the Price of Pollution," The Historian Volume: 69#1 (2007). pp 36+ online edition, short scholarly history
  • Marcosson, Isaac F. Anaconda (1957), official company history
  • Mihelich, John Anthony. "The Richest Hill on Earth: An Ethnographic Account of Industrial Capitalism, Religion, and Community in Butte, Montana, 1930-1965," (Ph.D. Dissertation, Washington State U. 1999; 337 pp) Dissertation Abstracts International, 2000, Vol. 60 Issue 11, pp 4073–4073
  • Quivik, Frederic L. "Smoke and Tailings: An Environmental History of Copper Smelting Technologies in Montana, 1880-1930" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1998).

External links[edit]

All of the following are filed under Butte, Silver Bow County, MT:

Coordinates: 46°01′02″N 112°30′37″W / 46.017324°N 112.510167°W / 46.017324; -112.510167