The tar creek mining site originally was owned by a Native American tribe, the Quapaw. The Quapaw wanted to keep these lands, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs deemed members opposing a transaction to mining companies “incompetent” (1). In such a case the business could continue and the Bureau of Indian Affairs sold the lands to mining companies. In essence these lands were stolen from the Quapaw because they were ripe for mining. These mines were then used from approximately 1891 to 1970. In the 79 years the mines were open 1.7 million metric tons (~3.75 billion pounds) of lead and 8.8 million metric tons (~19.4 billion pounds) of zinc were withdrawn from the mine (2). The entire area around Tar Creek is known as the tri-state mining area. This tri-state area was a massive source of metals. This area accounted for 35% of the all worldwide metal for a decade. It also provided the majority of metals the United States used in World wars I and II (3).
Throughout this mining process a byproduct is created called chat. The chat is leftover rock and waste from mining that did not contained the desired materials. The chat was left on the site because the Bureau of Indian Affairs thought it could be of value to the Quapaw tribe (1). This chat contained high levels of toxic lead and other harmful chemicals. It is estimated that there are 75 Million tons (150 billion pounds) of chat piles remaining exposed to the environment as well as numerous flotation ponds that haven’t been taken into account (4).
The chat wasn’t the only lasting result of the mining; left in this corner of Oklahoma was also 300 miles of mining tunnels (5). These tunnels were created by a method known as room-and-pillar (1). Large rooms were mined to get access to ...
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...fund Site. EPA Cooperative Agreement #V-006449-01-N. U Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 2006.
13. Fourth Five Year Review Tar Creek Superfund Site Ottawa County, Oklahoma; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6: Dallas, TX, 2010.
14. "Lead." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Mar. 2004. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/
15. Saulny, Susan. Welcome to Our Town. Wish We Weren't Here. The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Sept. 2009. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/14/us/14kansas.html?hp
16. Wright, Matthew C. A Tainted Mining Town Dies as Residents Are Paid to Leave. Washington Post. The Washington Post, 18 Jan. 2007. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/12/AR2007011201692.html
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