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EPA Halts Sale of Toxic “Bag o’ Slag” Montana Mining Souvenirs

Posted on November 27, 2019 by Lauren Scott

On November 18, EPA Inspector General Charles Sheehan notified regional environmental agencies of a Montana visitor center selling toxic copper smelting waste in resealable, plastic sandwich bags to tourists.

For several years, the Anaconda Chamber of Commerce has been marketing the mining waste as “bag ‘o slag”, a token from Anaconda’s mining history.

“From Anaconda, the tourist can leave with a token of the smelter—small bags of slag (much easier to obtain than trying to take a sample from one of the slag piles),” the 2019 Anaconda Tourism Guide reads.

What the guide doesn’t say is that the hazardous waste was illegally obtained from the Anaconda Co. Superfund Site, according to EPA investigators.

Although slag is mostly iron and silica left over from separating metal from its ore, it also contains small amounts of lead and arsenic, both of which are Federally regulated hazardous substances.

Federal officials ordered the Chamber of Commerce to pull the $2 bags of hazardous waste from its visitor center and inform past purchasers of the related health risks and how to safely dispose of the bags.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality was notified and will work with EPA to find out what individuals or business may have been involved in the illegal waste collection and sale of the bags. 

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