By Richard I. Gibson
Until the early 1900s there were many mining companies in Butte, with the Amalgamated (later the Anaconda Company) owning the lion’s share of mines. F. Augustus Heinze challenged that ownership by using the “law of the apex,” which said wherever a vein reached the surface, that surface owner owned the vein wherever it ran in the subsurface.
The case of the Minnie Healey Mine was settled in Heinze’s favor in late October 1903, with Judge William Clancy essentially declaring Amalgamated’s operations illegal. The Company’s response was to shut down all its businesses in Montana, especially the Butte mines. At least 15,000 workers were out of work, with winter coming on.