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]
Site Map

You Are Here:  Home : Our Mining Heritage : Tiff Washing Ponds

The Tiff Ponds

Two 10-acre lakes
support largemouth bass and pan fish. Both lakes are manmade and their dams came from rock hauled in from mine sites after the era when trucks and internal combustion engines began. While miners of all eras found our metallic ores often attached to cave walls or to quartz geodes which usually range in size from bowling balls to beach balls in size, automating the ore-cleaning process came with electricity and trucking.
Crushing & Washing: Our ore-dressing operations at the upper lake first separated lead and barite ("tiff") by down-sizing the raw material which could arrive as pieces as big as 24" x 36" in size or whatever miners could get up a mineshaft, but usually wrapped in thick, red, 'greasy', as they called it, clay. In the first step, crushing reduces everything down to a hand-held size.
This crusher design (shown left), virtually identical to our stationery operation75 years ago, is still used to this day all over the world.
What came out the conveyor belt would be hand sorted and the galena nuggets, the "low hanging fruit", pulled out first. At 80 lbs per cubic foot, it was heavy work. Then that feed would go to a log washer, like spinning telephone poles, that got flooded with water and washed the red clay off. That water may have taken away the clay but it also contained tiny pieces of ore too small to pick out and they went into the lake and sank to the bottom of the lake's floor. Waste was estimated at 25%.
The common sense approach in this era used a lot of water but all the fines, considered pollutants today, were contained by the process in the upper lake. It was not until WW II that the huge crushing operation of the War Department on the Chat Pile re-mined our mine dumps. The entire flow of Valles Mines Creek was used to wash out clay and tiny ore particles directly into the creek. Too small to concentrate, this ore washed downstream for miles. The environmental consequences are measurable to this day but it was a world at war and winning the war over the Axix powers was the priority.
(NOTE: Zinc was processed at the 'Zinc Burner' near Tunnel Station on the MR_BT Railroad, called the Missouri-Illinois, or the "Mike and Ike" Railroad during WW II.)
The Lower Lake [aka "Beaver Lake", shown on the left of the road] has a huge natural artesian spring flowing out of the bottom of the lake. If you check the spillways you can see how much water is coming out. Of course the lake has been adopted by local beaver colonies where they build shallow 'kiddie pools', like 6" deep, for their new arrivals to train in. Because the Lower Lake enjoys both a spring-water supply at 39 degrees and a gravel bottom, it is capable of supporting trout. In the near future we hope those released grow into a native population.
The Upper Lake has been characterized by Conservation as "Marginal Wetland Habitat" and gets visited by Canada geese annually. Recently when the Upper Lake was drained and the dam maintained, an island was added in the middle of the lake for the visiting geese. Upper And Lower Lakes
With almost 8 sq. miles and ruins of several former villages we are still mapping the abandoned county roads, graveyards, and schoolhouses where the old villages stood. Since many trails were built with generous amounts of crushed rock from the crusher and tiff mills at this site, they are still quite usable today. We have over 16 miles of trails if you really want a hike. GPS encouraged.