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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - May 16, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta f The LetKbridge Herald Tliird Section Lethbridge, Alberta, Wednesday, May 16, 1973 PAGES 33 TO 44 COPPER: Life and death for a Montana Now, just a hole in the ground The ore that made a boom of Buttc is still there. But times and mining tech- niques change, and today "the richest hill on earth" has become just another hole in the around. mining town BUTTE, Mont. Every day at noon a dynamite blast goes off here which rattles windows, cracks ceilings, wakes up bab- ies and disintegrates into pollution another chunk of the metropolitan area. But does anyone complain? No one complains. Sigh: Anaconda giveth and Anaconda taketli away. The famed mining company, which years ago put Butte on the map. now threatens to wipe it off. After more than a cen- tury of digging away the out- skirts of town, Anaconda's op- eration is now digging away the town itself. Already one suburb of Butte has disappear- ed. Residents along some streets can actually see the earth disappearing in front of their homes. Right now Ana- conda is within four blocks of the business district and to- morrow: Tomorrow, says long- time Butte resident Tripp Pren- tice, "There won't be anything left here but a hole in t h e ground. He could be right. Making the most of what it calls "The Richest Hill on Ana- conda switched from deep to strip mining in 1955. In the two decades since, they have scrap- ed some 750-million pounds of earth, and, in the process, cre- ated a stupefying ever enlarg- ing pit on the edge of town. Anaconda officials do not say what will happen next, but most in Butte have few illusions; al- ready some of the downtown stores have relocated on land out of the juggernaut's way. Indeed, relocation has evolv- ed as the community's primary solution to Anaconda's expand- ing copper pit. Rather than or- ganize to fight engulfment, the citizens prefer simply to make way. And small wonder. Butte is a classic company town; it owes not only its past and pres- ent to Anaconda, but also, so residents say, its future. 4The company' In 110 years of mining. The Company, as it's called here, has extracted 23 billion pounds of copper, zinc and magnesium from the area. This has provided jobs for up to a third of the Butte work force and shouldered as much as 50 per cent of the area's tax re- sponsibility. says one politi- cian here, "everybody in Butte works for The Company. Be- cause if it wasn't for The Com- pany, there wouldn't be any other business to work for." But besides the longtime loy- alties to Anaconda, residents have another reason for going along with The Company's ex- pansion. If Butte is a company town, Montana may be a com- pany state. It is the only state, at least, which allows mining companies (read it: Anaconda) the right of eminent domain. The Montana legislature bs- es that since mining is a pub- lic use, mining concerns must have near governmental au- thority. Thus, even if Butte residents tried to fight the de- terioration of their town, they could not in the end legally stop an Anaconda push. Occasionally, some few have tried to buck The Company. Years ago one homeowner in the path of progress refused to accept Anaconda's bid for his land. His protest was small and ultimately squelched. "The Company didn't even bother to take him to says a local newspaperman, "they just built a fence around his place and left him there isolated. You can see it today. It's all surrounded by Anacon- da. Everybody else, of course, sold out." Currently, at least one other immediately threat- ened property owner is balking. Tom Gergurich, 56, owner of a small bar which sits on the pit's east edge, says he's not selling unless he gets "a better offer." Also, some suburban residents have recently banded together to protest the proposed open- ing of a second Anaconda pit in their area; the suburbanites are complaining that the sec- ond pit will close Butte's major children's playground and de- value otherwise fine residential property. Some exasperation Then too there are some sighs of exasperation on the state level. The Montana legislature has recently discussed a pro- posal to alter the laws regard- ing the private sector's right" of eminent domain. State Sen. Her- bert Klindt, of Billings, says that too many mining com- panies (read it again: Aana- conda) are using ''psycholog- ical warfare, tlu-eat.s and badg- ering" to acquire land title for corporate use. Yet there aren't many stand- Ing up to The Company. Dis- cretion is as much a part of Butte as the sulphur fumes. In- dividual wariness, in fact, takes on exaggerated proport ions here. There are numerous sad stories of people who have been bodily injured by Anaconda's daily blasting but who fearfully refuse to complain. Says a AV o m a n clerk at Butte's Ramada Inn motel: "I remember when my daughter signed a petition against The Company building a road through our neighborhood. Well, my husband works for Anacon- da and he was called into the office about the matter. That's the way it is. They have a hold on everybody." Tims the apathy in Butle, and mass resignation. "The pit just isn't controversial says newspaper editor Al Darr. Adds Mayor Mario Milcone, frankly: "This is a mining town and people are used to the mining company. They are also used to the mining company being right." John Malensek, for example. He lives on a street being eaten up by the Anaconda pit. His walls shake during the noon blasting, his siding is covered with copper dust, and every hour of every day he can hear the roar of the 150-ton trucks in the hole beneath his living room. Yet gripe? Not he. He doesn't work for The Com- pany, doesn't owe it anything, yet displays only a quiet, re- signed and proper respect. Well, he says, "They got to get the ore out of there don't No doubt. The proven and po- tential resources still in Butte's earth are estimated to be more than the nation's total require- ment for the next 50 years. More than billion worth of precious inetal is said to lie under the town alone. So, the juggernaut continues. And what the hell, say citizens here, Butte has deteriorated so much in the last century maybe the Anaconda expansion is a bless- ing. Sort of a dynamite Urban Renewal. OPENING lit Lethbridge we are Three in Alberta we are Twenty-Three DRESSES by LEO DANEL Summer styles, plain and prints. Short and long sleeves. Sizes 10 to 20. From........ SPORTSWEAR CO-ORDINATES By TAN JAY and PARIS STAR, BAGATELLE and others. Sizes available in 10 to 20. WEDDING GOWNS Traditional and modern loveliness lace and nor- ganza overlays. 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