Originally Posted by Backcountry
Btw, stay far away from Butte.
Vermiculite, an ore found in the area in 1881, had been mined in the area since 1919. In 1919, E.N. Alley bought the Rainy Creek claims and started the Zonolite Company. Zonolite is a branded trademark product made from vermiculite. W. R. Grace and Company bought the Zonolite mine in 1963. Previously, logging was the leading source of employment in Libby. W.R. Grace closed the mine in 1990. Federal government investigators subsequently found that air samples from the area had elevated levels of fibrous tremolite asbestos, which is suspected to have caused asbestos related ailments among current and former Zonolite employees, along with non-mine employees.  More than 274 area deaths in the past 60 years are suspected to have been caused by asbestos contaminated vermiculite. In the following years, only 17% of the residents who participated in the ATSDR screening study in Libby were found to have pleural abnormalities, which may be asbestos related.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been overseeing the removal of asbestos-contaminated soils and other suspect materials in and near Libby since May 2000, and has spent $370 million in Superfund money on cleanup.
On June 11, 2008, the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services launched an $8 million investigation into the effects of asbestos exposure on the people of Libby.