The Toxic Pit With A $3 Admission Fee

The Toxic Pit With A $3 Admission Fee

– 35,000 tourists a year
visit the Berkeley Pit. A century ago this was called
the Richest Hill on Earth. It was the Anaconda Copper Mine
in Butte, Montana. It’s not rich anymore, and
it’s not much of a hill. In the 1950s, the mine changed
from digging underground tunnels that followed particularly
rich veins of copper, to just excavating everything, turning the hill into an open pit on a scale that is difficult
to convey on camera. There were whole neighbourhoods destroyed
to make way for this. It is a mile wide, and so
deep that you could fit the new One World Trade Center
standing upright in it. Or at least you could, if the pit wasn’t halfway filled
with toxic dilute acid. It kills any birds that
land in there for too long. In 2016, thousands of geese
died in one night after a snowstorm forced them down there. The team here let me get a little bit
closer than the tourists do. – Some studies were done
to try to figure out how long a bird can withstand
sitting on the pit water and those studies found
that it’s up to 18 hours. Six to seven thousand birds come through and utilise the Berkeley Pit
as a resting stop per year. We’re on the overlap of two major flyways so it’s to be expected.
[deep boom] – Can you tell me what that was? – So that’s a propane cannon,
we have them on timers and they run 24 hours a
day, seven days a week. Hopefully, deter the birds
from ever considering landing on the water of the
Berkeley Pit to begin with. If the birds land, we
have a crew of personnel that observes from this shack on the hour. They log them and then
attempt to haze them off. The go-to is high-powered rifles,
you have that ability to hit very close to the birds from a
very far distance away. And it’s not so much the boom
as you would expect that scares them but it’s the projectile hitting the water, creating a large splash, and
that’s what usually does it. And in the case that we know
a large flock of birds is coming, we can have continual fireworks to deter the birds from
entering the pit area. We get almost all of them,
we are over 99% effective. – There’s around 10,000 miles
of mine shafts and tunnels under the city of Butte. That’s not an exaggeration.
10,000 miles. Groundwater and rainwater had
to be constantly pumped out. Nearby pumps moved somewhere
around 300 litres a second. But when this pit shut down in 1982,
so did the pumps, and water started to flood
the old tunnels and the pit. The rock here is full of iron pyrite. Combine that with oxygen and water
and as it rusts, you get sulfuric acid. That in turn, breaks down other
metals and minerals in the rock. And the result is that
the water down there is so acidic and so
contaminated with toxins that nothing except a few
hardy bugs can live in it. The deep groundwater here
is utterly contaminated but it’s a closed system. The sulfuric acid can’t
get in or out, for now, because there’s one more catch. Water is still flowing into the pit and if it gets above a certain level, then the nasty stuff
will start to leak out. – So down here we’re at the
Berkeley Pit pump station. Right now the Berkeley Pit
is the sink or the sump, like a hydraulic control for the system. So what we’re doing here
is we’re pumping, treating and discharging water from the system. And this includes bringing
Berkeley Pit water on line and treating it through an
existing water treatment plant. If the Berkeley Pit is not maintained, the protective water level would
be reached in July of 2023. pH at one time was as
low as about 2.2 or 2.3. Currently up to about 4.1. The water that we’ll be
discharging from the site will be clean water, about
7 million gallons per day. 2100 gallons per minute. Since 1982, the water
level has been increasing, in the neighborhood of about
six to seven feet per year. Later this year would be
the first time since 1982 that the pit water level will
be maintained and held steady. – Tourists go here because, well,
tourists will go anywhere interesting and this is interesting. In 2007, Dr Phaedra Pezzullo of the
University of Colorado, Boulder, coined the term ‘toxic tourism’. The fact that people will
come to gawp or be shocked or just to take a selfie,
and say that they saw the mile-wide pool of toxic waste. And there are much worse ways
to raise awareness and tell the world, hey,
this is pretty screwed up and we need to do something about it. A $3 admission fee is,
well, it’s capitalism. In the United States, a country that codified
the idea of the roadside attraction, it almost seems normal to pay for a ticket to see the mile-wide,
incredibly toxic pit. Thanks to all the team
from Montana Resources and the Berkeley Pit who
helped make this video happen. You can find out more about them
by pulling down the description.


  1. I couldn't find a way to mention this in the video but: next door to the pit, there's still an active copper mine! Of course, they're being a bit more careful with the environment there.

  2. I hate seeing this type of environmental disaster. It's disgusting and it's an indictment of humanity's carelessness and lack of foresight

  3. Great video, I saw your video about California City and it peaked my interest, I visited the place and liked it so much I moved there! 😀👍🏼

  4. It’s bringing on water bc they obviously hit a water table! Duh
    It’s not like they DONT KNOW or CANNOT FIX what they did!
    All that money from the copper mines and they ruined the earth!!
    This is just ONEexample of Human Devastation to the earth😭

  5. The pipe fitters at the Barkley pump station at 3:07 should be fired.
    I’m just curious, could they pump the water through a system of filters to remove the acid and contaminates?

  6. Now I want to know about the people who's houses were destroyed to get at the copper. Must be rich, I guess. That's how it works, right?

  7. Patrick Star: “Why don’t we just take the toxic pit and push it SOMEWHERE ELSE.”
    Oil Companies: “Mate you might be on to something.”

  8. Instead of spending all the time and money to scare birds away and have something like a harmful "lake", why not fill it in? Plenty of dirt around it and if they are mining close to it, use that dirt too..

  9. I've been here! Naturally, the gift shop was selling copper items. I considered buying a copper glass to make Moscow Mules, but fortunately I found out that unless the glass has a tin lining inside (this one didn't), the copper can leach into your drink and poison you. What better souvenir to bring home from Butte than metal poisoning?

  10. Copper mining is very destructive, not the mine is self but that chemicals they use to strip the metal from the ore

  11. On the up side: I'll bet a few people made lots of money during their destructive rampage.
    And, isn't that what's really important?

  12. So the water level is contained, but when will eventually the water stop being toxic? Is it like with nuclear contamination, lasting for hundred thousands of years?

  13. Had they never stopped the pumps that were pumping the water out of the pit when it operated, had they never allowed the pit to fill, the problem that ultimately resulted would not exist today. The company that operated the pit should have had a legal requirement to keep the pumps operating and treating the water when they quit producing ore from the pit. As stated in the video, as the acidic water is now being pumped out and treated, the acidity of the water is dropping, due to the dilution affect of fresh water inflow, and treated water outflow. If they keep doing that, which they must, in time, the PH of the water will reach a neutral value. At the present treatment efforts though, that will take decades.

  14. That seems like an awesome job and that guy is understandably happy.
    They get to use guns and propane cannons to SCARE AWAY BIRDS

  15. Funny how stupid we are, these things will remain toxic for centuries and we dont even know whether we can maintain them until they become non toxic. I have a feeling that the profit from mining in no way can cover the costs ofmaintaining this for perpetutity but then that how the financial systems work

  16. They commercialized Yellow Stone Park to such an extreme that the US Calvary had to protect the park for 30 years. Anything can become a capitalistic pit.

  17. Typical ripoff USA government, charging to see anything they can. Next they will be charging people to see the discarded syringe needles and homeless people shitting in the streets of San Francisco.

  18. Why dont they use it as a "free" Sulfuric Acid depository, like refine it into pure sulfuric acid and bam, a whole new industry for the small town

  19. when aliens discover our planet long after we're dead, this is going to be one of the biggest mysteries for them to figure out

  20. paying an entrance fee isn't just "capitalism" — entrance fees are used for maintenance, and to keep crowds down. Without it, more people would come, and nobody could maintain the wear and tear on the facility. Capitalism, as always, is a good thing.

  21. Rectum of the Rockies and we've got the hole to prove it!!! My house is only 10 blocks from this shithole. I helped build that viewing stand…

  22. "So we've got this problem with wildlife conservation; what should we do about it?"
    "I don't know. Can we use guns and fireworks?"
    "Well, I don't see why we can't use them."

  23. The evils of capitalism on display: extract, poison the earth, move on – and the people who live there have to deal with it for centuries.

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