My interest in the small town of Anaconda, Montana is somewhat personal. In 1911, two years before my father was born, my mining engineer grandfather moved his family to Anaconda. He went to work at the copper smelter, which was the economic engine of the community. My grandfather relocated to San Francisco in the mid 1930s when the demand for copper declined during the Great Depression.
Copper smelting revived during the 1940s to meet the demands of war production. And the dominance of US industry during postwar decades kept the big copper smelter going through the 1970s. In 1977, the Anaconda Copper Company, sold the smelter and other assets to the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). And just three years later, ARCO abruptly shut the smelter that had been in operation since 1905. The closure immediately put 25% of the town's population out of work. And since then, the community has struggled with a massive economic decline as well as a copper smelting legacy--a huge environmentally contaminated slag pile (see photo below.)
More recently, Zachariah Bryan wrote about Anaconda in an article posed at the High Country News website on January 18, 2018, Mr. Brayan reviews in some detail how Anaconda has tried to restore its economy and mitigate the slag pile during the nearly four decades that have passed since the copper smelter closed. It is not a pretty story.