Smith Mine: Deadliest Coal Mine Disaster in Montana

Smith Mine: Deadliest Coal Mine Disaster in Montana

The Smith Mine is near Bearcreek, Montana, in Carbon County, not far from Red Lodge, and it’s the site of the deadliest coal mine explosion and fire in Montana history. At 9:37 on a Saturday morning,¬†February 27, 1943, there was an explosion of methane gas in the mine. 74 of 77 miners died, either from the blast itself, or from suffocation in the ensuing fire. One rescue worker succumbed days later as well, bringing the death toll to 75.

Smith Mine, Bearcreek, Montana
Photo by Zachary Hargrove, Furious Skies

After the disaster, the Smith Mine was closed down and became an abandoned curiosity. In 2017, our friend Zachary Hargrove, adventure photographer and meteorologist from Bismarck, visited Smith Mine, contributed many of the photos in this post and gave us the idea to make a post about this place.

Above, a shot from Zachary taken in 2017 shows the former coal processing plant standing in an advanced state of decay. Below, a shot taken from a similar angle in 1986 by Paul Anderson for the Historic American Engineering Record.

Smith Mine, Bearcreek, Montana
photo by Paul Anderson, 1986
Smith Mine, Bearcreek, Montana
Photo by Zachary Hargrove, Furious Skies

Above, the former Blacksmith and mine car repair building, 2017. Below, the same building from a different angle, 1986.

Smith Mine, Bearcreek, Montana

Smith Mine, Bearcreek, Montana

Above, the former electrical transfer building, 2017, below, the same building from a different angle, 1986.

Smith Mine, Bearcreek, Montana



Smith Mine, Bearcreek, Montana

Zachary told us there are plenty of places where a person could fall or otherwise hurt themselves at Smith Mine, and portions of the site are privately owned and marked, so be careful and get permission if you decide to go.

Smith Mine, Bearcreek, Montana

Above, the processing plant in 1986, below in 2017.

Smith Mine, Bearcreek, Montana

See the rest of Zachary Hargroves’ photos in the gallery:

As recently as a few years ago there was some talk about building a new mine on the site of Smith Mine, but nothing has come of it thus far.

Follow Zachary Hargroves and see more of his photography at Furious Skies.

What do you know about the Smith Mine Disaster? Leave a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Smith Mine: Deadliest Coal Mine Disaster in Montana

    1. Oh, and good point about being careful. I once stepped on a heavy timber (8×8 or so) outside an abandoned sawmill. The thing crumbled into dust! Fortunately, it was only a couple of feet above the ground. Other hazards include snakes and irate locals, but those are posts for another day.

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