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Belt, Montana, in Cascade County, is part of t he Great Falls metropolitan area. The town was founded as a coal mining town in the late 1800s. John Castner staked the first coal claims in the area in 1877. Coming to Montana from Pennsylvania, he operated a horse-drawn freight operation on the Mullan Road; then, when rail traffic changed the nature of commerce in the Montana, he diversified. Apart from the coal claims, he opened a hotel in Belt, and became a partner in a local grocery store. In 1895, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company bought most of the mining claims to provide coke for its smelters in Great Falls and Anaconda. Belt became a company town overnight. Its population grew rapidly but the company owned nearly everything. Belt was incorporated as a city in 1907. The railroad extended its tracks to Belt in 1895, primarily to carry coke to Great Falls, where the Anaconda Company operated a smelter, and to the town of Anaconda. Large-scale coal production ceased in 1899 because alternative sources of coke were more readily available elsewhere, and the Anaconda Copper Mining Company was purchased by Amalgamated Copper Company, a subsidiary of Standard Oil. By 1936, commercial production ended completely, although individuals continued to mine a small quantity of coal for personal use up until 1963. With the financial benefits ended, Belt has felt the downside to coal production in recent years. Due to coal operations, rust colored rocks can be found in local streams, and silver mining upstream dumped arsenic into Belt Creek near its headwaters. A mountain of slag remained just south of town for decades, finally reclaimed in the 1990s. Belt is located along Montana Highway 331, just north of US Highway 87 and 89, north of Armington and southeast of Wayne.



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