restricted access Butte And Anaconda, Montana: Preserving and Interpreting a Vast Landscape of Extraction


The mines of Butte, Montana led the world in the supply of copper from 1887 through the First World War. This period corresponds in human history with a new acceleration in the scale of the industrialized production of minerals, as the geography of extraction expanded. That scale of production required industrial infrastructure of tremendous size and complexity, creating cultural landscapes of extraction on a vast new scale, and leading to environmental impacts of a severity not previously seen. Such characteristics make the preservation of sites embodying the history of industrialized extraction daunting, as can be seen in the region embracing Butte and Anaconda, Montana. The legacy of environmental damage caused by the mining industry at Butte and Anaconda has created the largest Superfund site in the United States. Unfortunately, Superfund remediation is often incompatible with the preservation of some historic features of mining's industrial infrastructure. This article suggests how such a vast landscape of extraction around Butte and Anaconda can be interpreted through judicious attention to large historic landscape features that survive, that are compatible with and often integrated into the Superfund remediation, and that help to convey the complexity and scale of historical industrialized mineral extraction.