World War II - The Chat Pile Ore-Dressing and Beneficiation Mill
14101 Valles Mines School Road
Once 4 stories high with pulverized red clay left over from the WW II war effort, now appears as a
3-acre parking lot. So how did a parking lot get the name "The Chat Pile"?
World War II: America and The Allied Forces needed materials to fight a war
"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.
On what thereafter would be called "The Chat Pile". Dumps from mines all over the area were hauled here and piled
high 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 but they were deposited in the stream bed downstream from the Chat Pile for
miles including the zinc component called “smithsonite”
(see “Valles Mines Ore Washer” report, page 2 of 6).
Because smithsonite resembled red clay, was very similar in weight, and bonded when wet to the
goethite (iron oxide) which also weighed and looked the same, things did not go well and a local uproar followed.
All three ingredients got washed downstream together, mistaken as huge amounts of waste mud. Little zinc got
recovered from the 4 story piles loaded onto the Chat Pile. 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 u
sed again at Valles Mines.
On a brighter side, just like Valles Mines lead had helped win the Revolutionary War, the
Battle For St. Louis, Fort San Carlos), the Civil War and WW I, the lead supplied from the Chat Pile Mill during WWII
helped win another war.
INNOVATION - When is the Future going to get here?
What has happened to mining technology since WWII? A whole lot. Valles miners never saw modern technology like electric
lights in the mines. Miners were thrilled when they could wear their then-new carbide lamps on their heads instead
of using candles. Amazingly, to this day, seeing that it is a commonplace technology for fiber-optic cable, still no
one has to thi s day prospected by drilling horizontally to chase lead ore veins in their mineral horizons.
When mining stopped horizontal drilling would not be discovered for another 50 years.
In 1942 a miner could only have imagined the invention of
Would that change mining in 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 from reopening its zinc operation in 2010 could be solved by a magnetic separator?
lots of shopping to do for new stuff. If the goverment wanted to stimulate the economy of the
Lead Belt and SE Missouri, they could have started at Valles Mines when zinc went up to $2000/ton, up from $28/ton.