Valles Mines, Missouri, U S A
Founded in 1749 by Francois Valle years before he became Commandante of the Fort of Sainte Genevieve and The King of Spain made him Don Francois Valle for saving their Fort San Carlos (now St. Louis).
270 years later as The Valle Mining Company, his 4000+ acre property every year absorbs 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide and puts out 14,000 tons of oxygen, enough to meet the needs of 63,000 people. [USDA Forest Facts]
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"Sure it's a big discovery but..."

To be of any real worth, how big is Big? Proving the 'Lateral Extent' of this mountain top...


Grade so far: FAIL. Two months of drilling on 19 sites over 500 acres so far had brought disappointment and a bill of almost $100,000. But this time today, for the first time in 75 years, we 'strike paydirt'.

Minimal distance to top-of-rock. Check!
No vertical limit.Drills solid as deep as you can drill. Check!

At last, the desired dolomite and no end to it. A minute before we were bust but now we had a new problem:

The Big Question: how far does this rock extend horizontally?

On site, we call on DNR geologist and limestone expert Ardel Rueff. His Rule of Thumb: "A 30 foot highwall produces 100,000 tons per acre". So now we drill out from the center to measure the boundaries of the deposit.

Fortunately for us, the previous miners of the Big Lode had left a network of hillside haul roads ringing our hilltop discovery. The roads encircle acres of potential reserves. With those roads already built, we can move fast, not needing a bulldozer to push a road through dense hardwood forest we had been struggling with for two months. Below the dump from the Big Bill's twin shafts we drill down the center of an existing haul road. And hit solid stone.

But wait! Not every drill hole will hit consolidated stone, right?. But it seems to here. How far could this go on? I call a conference of Clayton Francois, driller/blaster, and Ardel Rueff, DNR geologist. If we go downhill and it proves to be stone, we get the option of quarrying from that drill hole back to where we started. Each hole that proves consolidated rock extends the reserve.

Verdict: Drill on, until we run out of reserves.

We never do. We drill around the mountain top and prove an 8 acre reserve. We stop because, at $6/ton for retail, say, we just proved  $4,800,000 of rock. Not a bad day. But will this end our 75 year 'dry spell'?

Reserves proven by drilling