Sitting atop the continental divide, in the northern Rocky Mountains of the United States, lies Butte, Montana, a town that boasts a rich and colorful mining history. Today Butte stands as America’s largest superfund site, or in other words, the most heavily polluted area in the United States. Among the many miles of superfund in Butte and Quietly tucked behind Butte’s infamous Berkeley Pit, sits the Yankee Doodle Tailings Pond. At over 3 times the size of the Berkeley Pit, the Yankee Doodle Tailings dam is one of the world’s largest earthen dams.
The consequences of mining are permanent when it comes to the Yankee Doodle Tailings Pond. Although the damage to the Butte landscape is irreversible, the hard lessons learned here can and should be applied to mining operations around the world, so that this magnitude of pollution can never occur again.