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Anaconda celebrates Smeltermens Day with tours of smelter stack

Posted at 8:40 AM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 11:10:02-04

ANACONDA - Every year for three days only a tour bus filled with tourists, locals, and historians travels to the massive smoke stack that stands tall over Anaconda.

"Our relatives came through Ellis Island and I personally had people tell me that they only had a picture of the stack on them," said Margie Smith.

The 585-foot tall smelter stack overlooking the town of Anaconda sits atop a massive Superfund site surrounded by land owned by the Atlantic Richfield Company.

The yellow bus pulled to a stop and let out those wanting to get as close as possible to a piece of Anaconda’s history.

One of those people is local historian Ray Haffey.

"It’s the symbol of the copper industry - largest in the world, a stack, and it has not only historic relevance but for this community it stands as a tribute to why the community was built," said Haffey.

The smokestack was built in 1918 in the hopes it would lower emissions of toxins and spew them out higher than the original Washoe stack that was only 300 feet tall.

The stack operated until the 1970s when Atlantic Richfield acquired the Anaconda Minerals Company. Three years later, all smelting operations were shut down and, in 1983, Atlantic Richfield wanted to demolish the stack.

Margie Smith, along with Mike Finnegan and other members of "Anacondans to Preserve the Stack" lobbied the 1985 Montana Legislature to save the structure.

"We made several trips to Helena and lobbied and the final day at midnight they passed the bill that preserves the stack," said Finnegan.

Thanks to their efforts, the Anaconda Smoke Stack became a state park and a national landmark.

"It’s part of why we’re here. There's not many things left to tell our story and Anaconda’s changing so fast, so we need to take care of it," said Smith.