With the end of the silver and gold mining boom in southwestern Montana, the emphasis switched to a search for non-precious metals. Increasing demand for metals such as lead, zinc, copper and tungsten resulted in the development of mines of non-precious metals in the Pioneers and the surrounding regions. Work on mining properties of this type has been undertaken since the turn of the century, although usually on a small-scale, intermittent basis. The Wise River district mines are examples of this pattern.

The area around the community of Wise River had a few small mines but it usually is not a recognized mining district [one exception is Krohn and Weist (1977) who do list a Wise River district]. None of the mines were significant producers although a few of the mines did produce small amounts of gold or tungsten ore. Most of the mining activity in the Wise River district occurred since 1920. It is not known if any mines in the area were active during the 1800s.

The country rock in the Wise River district consists of argillites and quartzites of the Precambrian Missoula Group. This underlies dolomitic limestone of the Hasmark Formation. The tungsten mines generally tap tactite ore bodies at the contact zone between quartz monzonite and the limestone while the gold-silver deposits of the North Star mine, for instance, are in a quartzite vein (Geach 1972).


Since Wise River was not a generally recognized mining district there are no clear boundaries. Most of the mines are south of the Big Hole River and west of Wise River.


The North Star mine in sections 9 and 10, T1N, R12W, on the south side of the Big Hole River was mined in 1931 and 1932 and from 1937 to 1941. During this period it produced a total of 424 tons of ore which yielded 164 ounces of gold, 813 ounces of silver (Geach 1972).

To the south of the North Star mine was the Star and Star Extension in Section 36, T1N, R12W. The mine consisted of an open cut, shaft and a tunnel. The mine was worked intermittently from 1932 to 1959 and produced a total of 664 tons of ore (Geach 1972).

The Star Mine was located at Meadow Creek about three miles west of the town of Wise River. The mine consisted of an open cut, a shaft and a tunnel. In 1940 it was reported to have employed seven men and was producing some gold ore (Trauerman 1940).

The Atlas mine was located near the head of Clifford Creek, a tributary of Sheep Creek which flows into the Wise River about seven miles southwest of the town of Wise River. The small mine consisted of an adit which was driven into black limestone with an associated waste dump, four log structures, and a cluster of five dozer cuts . Although there is no record of production from the mine, the dump contains about 150 tons of material which indicates a moderate amount of development work was done at the site The mine was unpatented (Geach 1972).

One of the more recent mines to be established in the Wise River area is the Calvert (or Red Button) tungsten mine. The deposit, located in Section 12, T1N, R13W, was found by W. I. Ferguson and George Henderson. In 1956, the Minerals Engineering Company of Grand Junction, Colorado began operations at the site under the government's strategic mineral purchasing program. The mine produced 102,800 tons of tungsten ore in the period from 1956 to August 1957 when the purchasing program was terminated. The ore was mined from an open pit and then was trucked to the company's mill near Glen. In 1959, operations were restarted and about 10,000 tons of ore was mined and activity at the mine continued until 1966. During its lifetime, the mine produced a total of 113,000 tons of ore which yielded 2,550,000 pounds of 1.1% tungsten concentrate (Geach 1972; Krohn and Weist 1977).


Geach, R. D.

1972 Mines and Mineral Deposits (Except Fuels) Beaverhead County, Montana.

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Bulletin 85

. Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology, Butte.

Krohn, Douglas H. and Margaret Mlynarczyk Weist

1977 Principal Information on Montana Mines.

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 75

. Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology, Butte.

Trauerman, Carl J. (Supervisor)

1940 Directory of Montana Mining Properties.

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir No. 20

. (Compiled by Work Projects Administration Mineral Resources Survey). Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Winchell, Alexander N.

1914 Mining Districts of the Dillon Quadrangle, Montana and Adjacent Areas.

United States Geological Survey Bulletin 674

. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.