Title

Butte, America: Poor Practices of the Richest Hill on Earth

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Butte, America has long been referred to as "the Richest Hill on Earth." The discovery of massive ore deposits in the area in the nineteenth century ignited what would become decades of resource extraction that would forever change Butte. Not only would the subsequent decades of mining drastically alter the geographic landscape, environment, and history of the region, but also the very people of Butte. The job opportunities that copper mining in Butte provided at the time led to a wave of (predominately Irish) immigration that helped grow and foster a burgeoning economy, but at huge costs. These costs of Butte's mining practices are environmentally obvious, as one glance at the Berkeley Pit will demonstrate. However, there are significant human costs that are much less evident. The toll that mining in Butte had on human health was immense. The high levels of silicosis in miners from this area offers an example of the human aspect of the toll that mining had on Butte, and the environmental injustices that occurred there. My research will utilize the perspective of environmental justice to examine the impact that mining had on human health in Butte, especially regarding silicosis. Through exploring human health impacts, I will examine an issue that is often overshadowed in the case of Butte's mining - environmental degradation is most often at the forefront of research and concern. Additionally, I will explore the issue in regard to environmental justice, which is not often considered, even though it is significant. I will utilize historical documents and statistics related to the Butte area and its history to gain knowledge of Butte's mining practices, and then apply the current understanding of health and environmental justice to this subject to highlight an issue that is an important part of Montana history that deserves more attention.

Category

Humanities

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Apr 17th, 10:00 AM Apr 17th, 10:20 AM

Butte, America: Poor Practices of the Richest Hill on Earth

UC 332

Butte, America has long been referred to as "the Richest Hill on Earth." The discovery of massive ore deposits in the area in the nineteenth century ignited what would become decades of resource extraction that would forever change Butte. Not only would the subsequent decades of mining drastically alter the geographic landscape, environment, and history of the region, but also the very people of Butte. The job opportunities that copper mining in Butte provided at the time led to a wave of (predominately Irish) immigration that helped grow and foster a burgeoning economy, but at huge costs. These costs of Butte's mining practices are environmentally obvious, as one glance at the Berkeley Pit will demonstrate. However, there are significant human costs that are much less evident. The toll that mining in Butte had on human health was immense. The high levels of silicosis in miners from this area offers an example of the human aspect of the toll that mining had on Butte, and the environmental injustices that occurred there. My research will utilize the perspective of environmental justice to examine the impact that mining had on human health in Butte, especially regarding silicosis. Through exploring human health impacts, I will examine an issue that is often overshadowed in the case of Butte's mining - environmental degradation is most often at the forefront of research and concern. Additionally, I will explore the issue in regard to environmental justice, which is not often considered, even though it is significant. I will utilize historical documents and statistics related to the Butte area and its history to gain knowledge of Butte's mining practices, and then apply the current understanding of health and environmental justice to this subject to highlight an issue that is an important part of Montana history that deserves more attention.