The Timber Butte Milling Company
Becomes the OXO Foundation (1973)
In Butte, Montana a prominent
geological feature is Timber Butte, a pronounced mountain two
miles south of the main part of town. On the north face of Timber
Butte is the large concrete structure that was once the "Crude
Ore Bin" portion of a huge zinc mill and concentrator built
there by the early-day Butte Copper King William Andrews Clark.
Known as the Timber Butte Mining and Milling Company, Clark's concentrator was built in 1914 and employed the latest in the metallurgical technology of its day. Zinc ore treated there came from the Elm Orlu mine, which was located on Butte's "Richest Hill On Earth" (where the Berkeley Pit is now). Electric railroad locomotives hauled the ore up to the top of the "Crude Ore Bins" on a large wooden trestle and dumped it into the bins. The 750-ton capacity of the bins allowed stockpiling enough ore to assure continuous mill operation.
Ore was drawn down from the bins by gravity into a crusher, (much like emptying the top half of an hourglass). From there the crushed ore was taken by conveyor belt up 600 feet to the top of the mill complex. If you look close you can still see outcroppings of the original foundation for the upper part of the mill buildings.
From the top of the mill the ore traveled by gravity back down through the concentrating equipment inside the mill. The liquid waste left after processing flowed further down the mountain to fill the small valley at the foot of Timber Butte which now accommodates the Copper Mountain Sports Complex.
Early assay records of the Elm Orlu ore indicate that it came directly from the mine at an incredibly rich 18 percent zinc. Small amounts of copper, silver, gold and lead were also recovered in the concentrating process. The mill could treat 450 tons of ore a day.
After W. A. Clark's death in 1925, the Anaconda Company acquired his Montana properties, including the Timber Butte mill. The mill ran sporadically until after World War II, and then was demolished in 1949.
The concrete ore bin structure you see, with its one-inch square, twisted steel reinforcing, is likely one of the first reinforced-concrete structures built West of the Mississippi. The structure proved too costly to demolish, and remains standing today as a "small" reminder of the once bustling zinc mill complex.
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