Berkeley Pit

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West Mercury Street,Butte 59701,Butte Area

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Think you’ve seen some big holes? Wait till you see this one. The pit was started in 1955 as a large truck-operated open-pit copper mine until mining ceased in 1982. By that time, nearly 1.5 billion tons of material had been removed including more than 290 million tons of copper ore.

Two communities and a large part of the one-time populous East Side was consumed to create the pit. The homes, businesses, and schools of the working-class towns of Meaderville and McQueen east of the pit site were purchased by the Anaconda Mining Company. Several deep shaft mines were also obliterated. The headframe of the Leonard was part of Meaderville’s main street.

The pit is 7,000 feet long, 5,600 feet wide, and 1,600 feet deep. Groundwater seeping from the several thousand miles of interconnected tunnels that honeycomb the hills surrounding the pit has created a small lake in the pit. In April of 1996, pumping operations began to pump and treat 2.5 million gallons daily to pre-vent surface flows from entering the Pit. Today, copper is being recovered from the water in the pit for use in industry.

The Pit water is acidic from water contact with mineralized zones. Since it is a hazard to waterfowl, a number of devices are being used to keep the birds from landing on the water. Flares, shell crackers, and electronic noisemakers are some methods.

The Pit is just off of Continental Drive. An observation stand is open at the site from dawn to dusk late spring through early fall. There is a small admission fee.

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