This column by Floyd Bossard, of Butte, who had a long career in the mining industry, runs periodically. The column, called “Braggin on Butte,’’ focuses on Butte’s mining history and related topics.
William A. Clark was the first significant investor in Butte's underground mining operations. In 1872, his purchase of the Original, Colusa, Mountain Chief and Gambetta claims, along with the Travona silver mine, launched his career as the first of Butte's Copper Kings. By 1879, every vein exposure in the Butte Mining District was covered by mining claims. Records indicate that 89 underground mines operated over the next 20 years. After successfully operating in Butte, Clark developed a successful copper mine in Arizona and laid out the original town site for Las Vegas, originally a watering station for Union Pacific steam engines.
In 1881, the Anaconda Partnership was formed. It included Marcus Daly (Butte) and three investors from San Francisco (Higgin, Tevis and Hearst). Their partnership operated until 1891, when it transitioned into the Anaconda Mining Co. Subsequently, in 1899, the Amalgamated Copper Mining Co. (a holding of the Standard Oil Trust) purchased the Anaconda Mining Co. Marcus Daly died in 1900 at the age of 58. Who knows what this visionary would have accomplished if he had lived longer.
The legacy of Augustus Heinze is the least known of the Copper Kings (Daly, Clark and Heinze). He arrived in Butte in 1889. Background: In 1872, the National Mining Law was enacted, verifying the ownership of vein-type mineral deposits, based on the apex of the vein and the extrolateral rights of 20-acre mining claims (1,500 feet by 600 feet); these two ownership rights were litigated and confirmed in the Comstock silver mining district in Nevada. Once a vein of ore surfaces on earth, it can be mined to depth on the decline, within the parallel end lines of the claim, to depth even though the excavation enters under adjacent mining claims owned by someone else.
Heinze started his Butte career as an underground surveyor, which gave him the opportunity to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the underground geology and the extensive underground workings in the eastern part of the district. He followed this up in 1892 by going to Germany, where he studied the metallurgy of copper smelting.
Returning to Butte, he gained control of the Estrella, Glengarry, Rarus and a 385-square-foot fractional claim that he argued was the apex of Boston and Montana and Butte and Boston Company's mining claims. This argument was the basis of extensive litigation that reached the court of Judge Clancy (who was controlled by Heinze in 1898). These mining properties were located in the Meaderville area where Heinze had built a smelter, which cut the costs of smelting copper ores in half.
During this period, Heinze's financing came from two sources. He received a $50,000 inheritance from a grandmother. The Baring Brothers, a famous British banking group in Boston, backed his Butte exploits. Also during this time period, he built a smelter in Trail, British Columbia, and a connecting railroad to the Rossland mines. He sold both out to the Canadian Pacific Railroad for $1,200,000. The Trail-Rossland Mining District had developed into a world class mineral deposit. With these funds in hand, Heinze declared war on the Boston and Montana, and the Butte and Boston Company’s as he was convinced that the apex of the veins they were mining was not on their ground, but rather on his properties. Intense litigation commenced and continued for almost a decade. In the meantime, the Amalgamated Copper Company acquired the Boston and Montana and the Butte and Boston Companies and assumed protracted litigation with Heinze. Extensive and intensive litigation continued until 1906 when a settlement was reached, with Heinze receiving $12 million.
In 1915, the Anaconda Copper Mining Co., formerly the Amalgamated Copper Mining Co., was formed. This was a result of the break-up of the Standard Oil Co., the largest monopoly in the world. It was dissolved as a result of the anti-monopoly legislature passed by Congress during President Theodore Roosevelt's tenure in office.