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 trailer, had looked before that at the old Post Office formerly inside the A.P. Rowe General Store. The Valles Mines Post Office for decades stood across the street from the General Store (14117 Valles Mines School Road) downtown dead center in the original town but we digress... So how did a parking lot get the name "The Chat Pile"?


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 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, 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 smithsonite resembled red clay, was very similar in weight, and bonded when wet to the goethite (iron oxide), 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 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 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 has ever drilled horizontally to chase lead ore veins in the mineral horizon. When mining stopped horizontal drilling would not be discovered for 50 years. A miner could only 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 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 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, they could have started at Valles Mines when zinc reached a dollar/lb. up from $28/ton.