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Digital Subscriptions > Rock&Gem Magazine > July 2019 > EXPLORING MONTANA’S MINING PAST


This abandoned mine site still had its head frame intact, but all of the machinery used to operate it and the mining process has long since been removed.


The Pioneer Mountains of southwest Montana form an imposing chain of north/ south trending granite peaks that are bound on the east by Interstate 15 and on the west by the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway.

This chain is anchored on the north by Sheep Mountain, which is south and east of the town of Wise River and on the south by Mt. Baldy, which is north and west of the mining ghost town of Bannack.

The Pioneer Batholith formed some 70 million years ago from a detachment block that was thrust east from an enormous batholith in Idaho. It plowed into and folded a whole series of marine laid Madison limestone sediments. Hydrothermal solutions carrying a host of precious and base metals were liberated from the cooling granitic magma and formed deposits that were first discovered and mined in the mid-to-late 1800s. The miningcommunities that sprung up overnight are an importantcomponent in the early history of the area. Many of these mining towns have left little trace of their former splendor. They were established, flourished while the mines were producing, and then collapsed into ruin when the deposits played out or news of another discovery produced a stampede of fortune seekers to the next best thing.

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