Missouri Water Science Center

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LEAD MINING HISTORY

Buick Mine

  Photograph of Buick Mine

Lead mining exploration in Missouri began with French explorations along the Meramec River and in the rugged St. Francois Mountains of southeastern Missouri in about 1700. In 1720, Philip Renault led an expedition that resulted in the opening of Mine La Motte in Madison County. The first mines were mostly surface diggings done by manual labor with pick and shovel. By 1725, Old Mines and Mine Renault were opened in Washington County. In subsequent years, lead mining was conducted on a small scale in St. Francois County (beginning about 1742) and Mine a' Burton (1763) at present day Potosi in Washington County. It was not until 1842 that the Valle Mines were opened in northern St. Francois County. The Civil War fueled an increased need for lead. St. Joe Lead Company was formed in 1864 to open and operate the Bonne Terre Mine and Flat River Mine in St. Francois County. The mines throughout this Old Lead Belt area ranged from surface mines to mines that extended several hundred feet below the ground surface. Production of these early mines was sufficient to meet needs for about next 100 years. The only mine of significance to be opened during this period was the Annapolis Mine, which opened in 1915.

By the 1940s, lead reserves in the Old Lead Belt on the eastern side of the St. Francois Mountains were seriously depleted and the exploration for new lead reserves moved to the western side of the St. Francois Mountains. Economic ore bodies are not near the ground surface in this area, but are present at depths ranging from about 500 feet to 1,500 feet below the ground surface. Lead ore was discovered near Eminence in the late 1950s, and in the Viburnum Trend area in the 1960s. The Viburnum Trend discoveries were shallower and were, therefore, developed first. Ten mines were eventually opened in the Viburnum Trend from the extreme southern edge of Crawford and Washington Counties to west central Reynolds County. The mines include Viburnum 27, Viburnum 28, Viburnum 29, Casteel, Magmont, Buick, Brushy Creek, West Fork, Fletcher, and Sweetwater.

In anticipation of future declining reserves of lead ore in the Viburnum Trend, mining companies continued to explore the area south of Winona and north of the Eleven Point River in the 1970s. More than 300 exploration boreholes have been drilled in this new exploration area.


For more information contact:

David C. Smith, Hydrologist

U.S. Geological Survey

Missouri Water Science Center

1400 Independence Rd., MS 100

Rolla, MO 65401

Telephone: (573) 308-3675

Fax:(573) 308-3645


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