Man Cleaning Zinc Furnace at Anaconda Copper Mining Company, Great Falls
January 20, 2021
This wonderful photo shows a man by the name of Charlie Larson tending to a zinc furnace at the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in Great Falls, Montana in 1942.
The Anaconda Copper Mining Company was one of the largest trusts in the world as of the early 20th century. It was part of the Amalgamated Copper Company from 1899 to 1915, and in the 1920s became the 4th largest company in the world. At its height, it stretched from its holdings in Montana down into South America, where it operated the world's largest copper mine in Chile, and had another in Mexico. Much of the copper processing infrastructure took place in Great Falls, where Mr. Larson here performed his labors.
The Anaconda Copper Mining Company's fortunes, and by extension the towns in which it was the principal employer, rose and fell with the nation's demand for the metal. At the time that this photograph was taken, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company was enjoying a great upswing as a result of the heightened demand produced by World War II. After the war, that demand would fall once again, resulting in lower prices. At the same time, the cost of copper mining rose a great deal, and the Anaconda Copper Mine, which directly or indirectly employed thousands, was closed. The Anaconda Mining Company then constructed what would become the Berkeley Pit in its place, exploring open-pit mining rather than the more traditional methods.
The Anaconda Copper Mining Company had its highest profits in 1956, even as prices were dropping. In the 1960s, their mine in Chile was seized and nationalized by the Socialist government, severely cutting down the company's production. Eventually, in 1982, the Anaconda company's last mine closed down.