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Monument to the victims

The Granite Mountain/Speculator Mine disaster of June 8, 1917, occurred as a result of a fire in a copper mine, and was the most deadly event in underground hard rock mining in United States history. Most men died of suffocation underground as the fire consumed their oxygen; a total of 168 miners were killed. The Butte, Montana copper mines were at full wartime production to support the US for the Great War. Miners had been seeking improved working conditions, as they were at high risk.

As part of a fire safety system, the mining company was installing an electric cable into the Granite Mountain mine. The cable fell in an area approximately 2,500 feet below the surface and was damaged. When a foreman with a carbide lamp tried to inspect the damage, he accidentally ignited the oil-soaked cloth insulation on the cable. The fire quickly climbed the cable, and turned the shaft into a chimney, igniting the timbers in the shaft and consuming oxygen in the mines.

A total of 168 miners died in the ensuing blaze, most from asphyxia. Some of the deceased did not die immediately; they survived for a day or two in the tunnels underground. Some left notes written while they waited in hopes of rescue. A few managed to barricade themselves behind bulkheads in the mine and were found after as long as 55 hours. The miners went out on strike to protest working conditions and the many deaths after the disaster.[1]

A Granite Mountain Speculator Mine Memorial, honoring the miners killed in the fire, was later erected at the site. Some of the notes written by the miners can be viewed at the site. The monument is located at 46°1′35.90″N 112°31′25.12″W / 46.0266389°N 112.5236444°W / 46.0266389; -112.5236444.[2]a

In popular cultureEdit

The disaster was memorialized in the song "Rox in the Box" on the album The King is Dead (2011) by The Decemberists, an indie rock band. It has also been memorialized in the song "The Miners" by independent Celtic recording artists The Elders and is featured on their album Story Road (2014). For the centennial of the disaster, it was memorialized in the song "Tap 'er Light" by Montana singer songwriter Nick Spear. He performed the song at the Granite Mountain Speculator Mine Memorial above Butte on June 8th, 2017.


  1. ^ Punke, Michael. Fire and Brimstone.
  2. ^ Mine Memorial

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