The Treasure State

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"No. 3 Coal Mine Roundup Montana," 1915. No. 3 Coal Mine used underground methods to remove pillars of coal from seams deep beneath the earth's surface. Courtesy of the Roundup Community Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

As the nation industrialized, the demand for natural resources fed the expansion of railroads. These railroads allowed the expansion of mining operations with new heavy equipment which had previously not been available in Montana. Miners knew more gold was available but finding it would require digging shafts and tunnels into the hillsides. Quartz mining used large, expensive equipment in order to retrieve the buried gold. Large corporations, such as the Anaconda Company owned by Marcus Daly, were the only ones with the resources to purchase the equipment needed to successfully mine ore from these deep veins. With new equipment to retrieve the ore came the ability to mine many different precious and base metals including gold, silver, copper, zinc, aluminum, iron, lead, tungsten, uranium, platinum, manganese, and cobalt. Butte’s copper deposits became world famous as did the Copper Kings, Marcus Daly and William Clark. These two men owned the largest copper mining interests in Montana and waged war for control of the resources and politics of the state.

Along with these resources, companies started to develop Montana’s mineral resources such as coal, petroleum, natural gas, gypsum, and limestone. Gemstones such as sapphires and garnets were also mined in Montana. With dependable, high capacity haulage introduced by the railroads, and year-round service, Montana's mines grew as did the industries that supported them. Larger, more stable mines and secondary industries created growing and stable communities across Montana. The major stakeholders of these mines and companies were investors from back East. Therefore the mining profits left the state rather than remain in the Montana economy.