Valles Mines, Missouri, U S A

Founded in 1749 by Francois Valle years before he became Don Francois Valle.
The Valle Mining Company's 4500 acre property every year absorbs 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide and puts out 14,000 tons of oxygen.
This is enough to meet the needs of 63,000 people. [USDA Forest Facts] Site Map

You Are Here:  Home : Our Mining Heritage : The Chat Pile

The Chat Pile, now a 3-acre parking lot that looks north at the new Valles Mines Post Office, had formerly looked before that for years at the old Post Office formerly in the A.P. Rowe General Store. But let's not stir up trouble about how that PO got moved after decades being across the street from the General Store in Valles Mines (14117 Valles Mines School Road) so we can get on with how the Chat Pile came to be...

 

The Chat Pile Ore-Dressing and Beneficiation Mill

came about as an answer to World War II's need for materials to fight a war (see "PRELIMINARY WAR MINERALS REPORT"). The Bureau of Mines in 1942, reporting to Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes, thought it worthwhile to send mine tailings left behind from two centuries of mining through a concentration process to get lead and zinc for the war. Where? On what thereafter would be called "The Chat Pile". Dumps from mines all over the area were hauled here for concentration even though they had been left behind for decades because the nuggets and particles were too small for human hands to pick out. Lead and barite in principle are simple to separate when they come from a Valles Mines deposit, you just wash the clay off and what is left is the ore. Unfortunately, in doing that in 1942, not only were fine lead particles lost, depositing in the stream bed downstream from the Chat Pile for miles but also the zinc component called "smithsonite"(see "Valles Mines Ore Washer" report, page 2 of 6).

Because it resembled red clay, was very similar in weight, and bonded when wet to the rust-colored goethite, also weighing and looking the same. Things did not go well, as all three ingredients got washed downstream together, mistaken as huge amounts of waste mud. Little zinc got recovered because it "glued" to the goethite, an iron compound, when it came in contact with water in their washer on the Chat Pile. Oops! The operation was finally abandoned. To this day, those washings can be detected in nooks and crannies of the creek bed and that century old technology was never used again at Valles Mines.

On a brighter side, the lead from the Chat Pile Mill supplied during WWII helped win another war just like Valles Mines lead had helped win the Revolutionary War (see the Battle For St. Louis, Fort San Carlos), AND the Civil War AND WW I.

A lot has happened to mining technology since WWII. Valles Miners never saw modern technology like electric lights in the mines. Miners were thrilled when they could wear the then-new carbide lamps on their heads instead of using candles. To this day, no one ever drilled horizontally to prospect when their current mine played out. Who could have imagined in 1942 how the invention of the hydrocone, the centrifuge, the teeter-bed separator, or chip wringer, pneumatic, or electrostatic separator would change our world today? What would have those old miners have done with these modern rock tools? 

Who would have figured that the goethite separation problem which kept the Mining Company from success in 1942 and also reopening its zinc operation in 2010 would be solved by a magnetic separator from the Chinese mining industry? there's lots of shopping to do for new stuff. If the goverment wanted to stimulate the economy of the Lead Belt and SE Missouri, maybe they could start at Valles Mines. With zinc reaching a dollar/lb. recently (up from $28/ton back then), everybody would be better off.