Speculator Mine disaster

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Monument to the victims

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.

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 in the tunnels underground. Notes were written by some 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.[1]

It remains the most deadly event ever in underground hard rock mining in the USA.

There is a memorial to the miners killed in the fire. Some of the notes written by the miners can be viewed at the site.

The monument is located at 46°1′35.90″N 112°31′25.12″W / 46.0266389°N 112.5236444°W / 46.0266389; -112.5236444.

In popular culture[edit]

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. It has also been memorialized in the song "The Miners" by independent Celtic recording artists The Elders and is featured on their album Story Road (2014). For the centennial of the disaster, it was memorialized in the song "Tap 'er Light" by Montana singer songwriter Nick Spear, who performed the song at the Granite Mountain Speculator Mine Memorial above Butte on June 8th, 2017.


  1. ^ Punke, Michael. Fire and Brimstone.

External links[edit]