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Tri-state Mining Area

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Description of Mining Areas

For the purposes of this study, the Kansas Tri-State district is divided into the following seven areas: Galena, Badger-Peacock, Crestline, Lawton, Waco, Baxter Springs, and Treece. These mining areas are shown in Figure 1 adjacent to the town or mining camp after which they are named.

Galena Area

The Galena area includes all the mining in T.34S., R.25E. This area contains the oldest mining in the study area dating back to the 1870's. The character of the mining and mine hazards in Galena is unique to the study area. This is due to the geologic occurrence of the lead and zinc ore and methods used to search for and extract it. In Galena and surrounding areas the Mississippian cherty limestones, which contained the ore, occurred at the surface; thus, ore was mined "from the grass roots down" (7, p. 108). The shallow nature of the deposits allowed small mining operations to prosper, and from the beginning this portion of the Tri-State was known as a "poor man's camp" (6, p. 68). The method of leasing and developing the deposits in the Galena vicinity is best described in the following portion of an article appearing in the Carterville Republican and Galena Republican newspapers of the time and quoted in Hay's (8, p. 27) report on the "Geology and Mineral Resources in Kansas."

"In response to numerous inquiries from Eastern men who are not familiar with lead and zinc mining, leasing of mining lands, etc., we here give the modus operandi pursued by most of the companies at work in this district. An individual, or company of men, will lease a tract of land--40, 80 or 160 acres--that they wish to mine for a term of 10, 15 or 20 years, binding themselves to pay to the land-owner 5, 8, 10 or 12 percent, or any other percent agreed upon, of the gross product from said land as royalty. The company then, generally speaking, plat the ground that they have leased; that is, they lay it off into lots 200 feet square, which they sublease to miners, at a royalty of 20 to 25 per cent. of the gross product of zinc ore that is mined off of said lots by the miner, and a royalty ranging from 25 to 55 per cent. of the lead mined."

The 61 meter (200 feet) square lots were mined by small crews, often only two men, using hand tools and a simple hoisting device that was either man- or animal-powered. Exploration was conducted by sinking a shaft usually 1.2 meter (4 feet) square and generally not more than 15 meters (50 feet) deep (6, p. 41-42). Shafts were sunk until traces of ore were found, then the miners continued their exploration efforts by drifting outward. If a body of ore was found, the miners began stopping to recover the ore (4, p. 197-199). Pillars were left for support while the mine was being worked; however, if any ore was visible on their sides, they were generally robbed (4, p. 183). If drifts reached 91 meters (300 feet) in length or if ventilation became difficult, additional shafts were sunk, thus 3 or 4 mining lots often had 6 to 8 mine shafts (6, p. 77-78).

If ore was not encountered when an exploratory shaft was sunk, the miners moved to new ground and sunk another shaft. This was the primary means of exploration until the churn drill became popular about 1900 (6, p. 41). Drilling was easier, less costly, and able to reach deeper levels than shafting and was widely used in exploring the Kansas mining areas outside of Galena.

The use of shafting as a means of exploration and the subdivision of leases into small subleased mining plots results in a high density of mine shafts in Galena when compared with outlying areas. The shallow workings, the habit of robbing pillars, and the brecciated nature of the overburden resulted in a large number of mine cave-ins in Galena as well. As a result, Galena has an appearance and an attendant set of problems that differ from the remainder of the Kansas Tri-State.

Badger-Peacock Area

The Badger-Peacock area is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Galena near the Missouri state line in sections 13, 23, and 24 in T.33S., R.25E. This area was developed in 1889 (2, p. 403) in Mississippian rocks which crop out at the surface in the valley of the Spring River. In 1913 deep drilling discovered ore at a depth of 91 meters (300 feet) 6, p. 47). Mining occurs on both sides of the Spring River in this area with workings extending beneath the river as well. Although once a mining camp, Badger-Peacock is removed from any densely populated areas today.

Crestline Area

The Crestline area is centered 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) east of the village of Crestline in sections 15, 16, and 22 of T.33S., R.25E. and is just west of Badger-Peacock. In this area, Cherokee shales provide a thin cover over the ore-bearing Mississippian rocks below.

Lawton Area

The Lawton mining area is located just to the south of the village of Lawton in section 35, T.32S., R.25E. with a small mine occurring in the next section to the south (section 2, T.33S., R.25E.). Cherokee rocks occur at the surface in this area. This area was prospected in 1900, but it did not become prominent as a producing area until 1910 (9, p. 9).

Waco Area

The town of Waco is in Missouri, however, the Waco mining area extends west across the state line into Kansas in sections 24 and 25, T.,32S., R.25E. just to the northeast of the village of Lawton. Cherokee rocks also occur at the surface in this area which became productive in 1917.

Baxter Springs Area

This area contains all the mining north, south, and west of Baxter Springs from the Spring River to the west about 6.4 kilometers (4 miles). This area occurs in T.34S. and T.35S., R.24E. and is the northeastern-most extension of the Picher field of the Tri-State district. Although some of the mining is old, much occurred in the 1930's and 1940's when the sheet ground southwest of Baxter Springs was developed. The most recent mining in the Kansas Tri-State occurred in this area at the Swalley Mine 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) west of Baxter Springs. The Cherokee rocks cover most of this area, gradually increasing in thickness to the west.

Treece Area

The Treece area includes all the mining from about 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) east of the city of Treece to the west. This area is in the northwestern portion of the Picher field and surrounds the city of Treece on the east, north, and west. The Miami trough, a combination syncline and graben, trends northeasterly through this area down-dropping the ore-bearing Mississippian rocks as much as 91 meters (300 feet) in its center beneath a thick section of Cherokee rocks (10, p. 74). As a result, the deepest mines in the Tri-State district are found in this area. Production in the Picher field began in Oklahoma and moved north reaching Kansas in 1917 (10, p. 94). The years following World War I saw rapid expansion of the Picher field of Oklahoma and Kansas, when it became the dominant producing area of the Tri-State district.

The Baxter Springs and Treece areas in the Picher field, as well as the other mining areas lying outside of Galena, differ from it significantly in the manner in which the ore deposits were developed which, in turn, affects the appearance of these areas today and the type of hazards they contain. Most of the area outside of Galena was originally privately-owned farmland with ownership patterns following public-land subdivisions, that is, composed of square or rectangular portions of a mile-square section. The most common unit of land ownership was the quarter section or 65 hectares (160 acres). The mineral rights to mine underlying ore were leased by the landowners who were paid a percentage royalty of the gross mineral sales from the tract. The mining tracts that were leased generally paralleled the original land-ownership pattern with the most common unit being one-quarter mile square or 16 hectares (40 acres). These mining tracts were originally mined by numerous small mining companies who not only mined the tract, but also milled their own ore in small mills also located on the mining tract. This pattern continued until the 1930's when centralized milling became popular due to its greater efficiency, and because miners in low-grade ores or small deposits could no longer afford to operate their own mills. Centralized milling, decreasing ore grades, and rising mining costs in the 1930's accelerated the emergence of large mining companies at the expense of the small operators (10, p. 13, 99).

The l6-hectare (40-acre) tracts mined in the Picher field and other areas outside of Galena, though small, are much larger than the 61-meter (200 feet) square plots mined in the Galena area. Not only were the properties larger, but the ore was generally found at deeper levels. As a result, mining outside of Galena was usually on a larger scale, working larger deposits at greater depths with newer mining techniques and equipment. The latter-day miners, like their predecessors, "followed the ore" and in many areas mined out huge rooms such as in the West Side Mine near Treece where one room reached 38 meters (125 feet) in height at a level 130 meters (428 feet) beneath the surface (6, p. 95).

On the surface, the most common feature of the Picher field and other areas outside of Galena are huge chat piles or, more commonly, the remnants of huge chat piles that mark the locations of the abandoned mills. Chat is a local term for the cherty waste rock resulting from the milling of Tri-State ore. Orphaned tailings ponds are also a feature of the landscape outside of the Galena area. Surface collapses are found here also; however, since the scale of the mining is larger in these areas, the dimensions of the collapses are correspondingly larger. The density of mine shafts is lower outside of Galena because of the larger mining tracts and because most of the areas were explored after drilling had replaced shafting as the primary means of searching for ore. Fewer hazardous shafts likewise occur outside of Galena; however, the ones that are present, both open and collapsed shafts, are invariably larger in cross-section and deeper than their counterparts in Galena. In addition, these shafts, because they are more isolated and often overgrown with vegetation, are more insidious.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Tri-state Mining Area
Comments to
Web version May 2004. Report from January 1983.