Feb 24, 2013 2:53 PM by Katy Harris

Butte underground tunnels could access silver and gold reserves

BUTTE - The Anaconda Company was very particular about mining copper in Butte.

There are 10,000 miles of active mines, drifts, stopes and tunnels in underground Butte.

"There's a lot of workings underground," says Butte-Silver Bow Reclamation Manager Tom Malloy. "Those tunnels and drifts are still there and they're probably well preserved."

The Anaconda Company's primary focus was mining copper.

That leaves plenty of silver and gold reserves in the ground that could be accessed through tunnels.

"Long range drilling that the Anaconda Company did has proven reserves underground, still under the Butte hill that were never mined. There's lots of ore left in the ground," says Malloy.

In underground Butte there are one to two crossover tunnels on each block in the heart of Butte and most of them are caved in.

"A lot of people have reported the entrance to tunnels that they've seen in the basements of buildings around Butte," government records specialist Mitzi Rossillon said.

"It was for people to go across and it was also for the steam pipes to go across for our central steam system that we had here," said Old Butte Historical Adventures owner Bob McMurray.

A central steam heating system directed heat to several uptown businesses.

"They had six boilers between the two steam plants and they essentially generated steam," Rossillon added.

When natural gas was introduced in the early 1930s, the steam tunnels were abandoned. Rossillon says most of the tunnels are caved in at some point but some parts might still be intact.

There may be 10,000 miles of mining workings underground but there is only a surface footprint of seven square miles.

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