Mining, Copper

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  • Copper mining has a long history in the American West, dating to the nineteenth century, as the history of Butte, Montana, illustrates. Copper mine owners, as with owners of gold and silver mines, gained political power along with wealth. At the same time, smelting operations associated with copper mining released toxic gases, and economical open-pit mining for low-grade ore devastated the landscape.

    Butte, Montana, is a prime example of the political influence of copper mine owners. Because of Butte, the United States became the world's top producer of copper in 1883, and Butte held its primacy until 1917. At first, two Democratic “Copper Kings” battled for political supremacy. These were William Andrews Clark (1839–1925), who arrived in 1875, and Marcus Daly (1841–1900), who came a year ...

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