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This photo from July 2013 shows the rim of the Berkeley Pit were a slough deposited surface material into the Pit lake in Feb. 2013. Photo by Fritz Daily.

Snow Geese Update

• It is estimated that many thousands of migrating snow geese stopped in the Berkeley Pit the week of November 28, 2016. The number of migrating geese that passed through this area and landed in the Berkeley Pit is unprecedented. Most geese left the pit on Tuesday November 29, 2016 and continued their migration south.
• Unfortunately, some geese remained in the pit for nearly a week or longer, and it is estimated that several thousand of those snow geese perished in the Berkeley Pit.
• Montana Resources (MR) and Atlantic Richfield Company (AR) operate a program under the direction of US EPA and the State of Montana to deter waterfowl from landing in the pit, and to encourage any waterfowl in the pit to leave as soon as possible after resting. Over the course of the last two decades, the average number of birds observed on the Berkeley Pit over an entire year is approximately 4,000 or less, and almost all of those birds leave the pit after a short rest.
• On November 28, 2016, many more birds landed in the pit in one day than are normally seen over an entire year. MR and AR personnel attempted to convince the waterfowl to stay away from or leave the pit, using bird wailers, fireworks, and other conventional methods along with the addition of new technologies including drones. Staff diligence and dedication working day and night saved thousands of birds.
• MR and AR are coordinating with federal and state agencies, as well as waterfowl experts, to understand this unprecedented arrival of waterfowl in the Butte and why the waterfowl selected the Berkeley Pit for resting.
• MR and AR will work closely with federal and state regulators, and waterfowl experts to identify and evaluate potential new methods to strengthen and improve the waterfowl mitigation program. These may include such items as additional on-the-water and aerial remote control drone technologies, laser technology remote controlled water craft, and sonic devices.
• There is a program to provide veterinary care and assistance to sick geese. If members of the public in the Butte or Dillon areas spot a sick or dead goose, they are asked to please contact Montana Resources at 496-3233 or Butte-Silver Bow Animal Control at 406-497-6527.
• Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is advising hunters to wait to consume snow geese harvested after November 28 in the Butte and Dillon area. Instead, FWP recommends that hunters process and freeze birds at this time and do not eat them until the department has conducted tests to determine how or if this event has affected the edible portions of the birds.

This map shows the locations of groundwater monitoring points for the alluvial aquifer in the East Camp area of the Butte Mine Flooding Operable Unit of the greater Butte Superfund site.

Maps of Berkeley Pit Monitoring Sites

Maps from the Montana Bureau of Mines & Geology (MBMG) showing Berkeley Pit-related alluvial and bedrock monitoring sites have been added to PitWatch.Org. View snapshots of the maps below, click on an image to view a larger version, or use the links at the bottom of the page to download printable .pdf versions of the maps.

This map shows the locations of groundwater monitoring points for the alluvial aquifer in the East Camp area of the Butte Mine Flooding Operable Unit of the greater Butte Superfund site.
This map shows the locations of groundwater monitoring points for the alluvial aquifer in the East Camp area of the Butte Mine Flooding Operable Unit of the greater Butte Superfund site.

 

This map shows the locations of groundwater monitoring points for the bedrock aquifer in the East Camp area of the Butte Mine Flooding Operable Unit of the greater Butte Superfund site.
This map shows the locations of groundwater monitoring points for the bedrock aquifer in the East Camp area of the Butte Mine Flooding Operable Unit of the greater Butte Superfund site.

 

This map shows the locations of groundwater monitoring points for the West and Outer Camp areas of the Butte Mine Flooding Operable Unit of the greater Butte Superfund site.
This map shows the locations of groundwater monitoring points for the West and Outer Camp areas of the Butte Mine Flooding Operable Unit of the greater Butte Superfund site.

 

This map shows the locations of groundwater monitoring points for the Butte Mine Flooding Operable Unit of the greater Butte Superfund site.
This map shows the locations of all groundwater monitoring points for the Butte Mine Flooding Operable Unit of the greater Butte Superfund site.
The future site of the Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana as it appeared in 1952.

1955-1982: Berkeley Pit history

The Berkeley Pit in 1963, shortly after the construction of the Weed Concentrator seen below the Pit, with the city of Butte, Montana to the bottom and right in the photo.
The Berkeley Pit in 1963, shortly after the construction of the Weed Concentrator seen below the Pit, with the city of Butte, Montana to the bottom and right in the photo.

Over the active lifespan of the Berkeley, approximately 320 million tons of ore and over 700 million tons of waste rock were mined from the Pit. Put another way, “The Richest Hill on Earth” produced enough copper to pave a four-lane highway four inches thick from Butte to Salt Lake City and 30 miles beyond.

The historic Berkeley mine in Butte, Montana, where the Berkeley Pit started in 1955. Photo from the Butte-Silver Bow Archives.
The historic Berkeley mine in Butte, Montana, where the Berkeley Pit started in 1955.

In 1955, mining in Butte saw the light, literally. Excavation on what would become the Berkeley Pit, named from one of several nearby historic underground mines that the Pit would later engulf, began that year in a transition from underground to open pit mining.

A street in Meaderville, one of the Butte neighborhoods destroyed to make way for Berkeley Pit expansion between 1955 and 1982. Photo from the Butte-Silver Bow Archives.
A street in Meaderville, one of the Butte neighborhoods destroyed to make way for Berkeley Pit expansion between 1955 and 1982.

The Pit would, in the next decade, swallow Butte neighborhoods like Meaderville, Dublin Gulch, and McQueen. The transition to open pit mining, a highly industrialized form of mining, also meant fewer jobs for the city’s miners. But mining had always been the lifeblood of Butte, and so the community embraced the new mine, and there was little objection to the sacrifice of some of the city’s neighborhoods.

The Anaconda Company’s decision to begin open pit mining in Butte was not without its reasons. In 1955, copper prices were the highest they had been since the end of World War I in 1918. And the following year, 1956, would mark the highest copper price seen until 2006 (with the exception of the lone year 1974, when copper briefly spiked due to an end to price controls and the ongoing demands of the Vietnam War).

The Holy Savior church, along with several historic neighborhoods in Butte, Montana, was buried to make way for Berkeley Pit expansion. Photo from the Butte-Silver Bow Archives.
The Holy Savior church, along with several historic neighborhoods in Butte, Montana, was buried to make way for Berkeley Pit expansion.

Those high prices gave the Company a big incentive to rethink its Butte operations. The most accessible parts of the Butte hill had already been mined out. Legend has it that Marcus Daly’s original ore vein was 30% copper. That is extraordinarily rich ore, and the veins of that quality could not last- as a point of comparison, when it opened, the ore mined at the Berkeley was about 0.75% copper, and the ore being mined at Montana Resources nearby Continental Pit operation today is approximately 0.25% copper. In order to economically extract copper from lower grade ore, the Pit was born.
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