Addressing Mine-Scarred land in th Upper Mississippi River Mining District
PI: Geoffrey Siemering (University of Wisconsin)
Co-PIs: Kevin McSweeney (University of Illinois) and Troy Maggied (SW Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission)
The Upper Mississippi River Valley zinc-lead mining district comprises an area of approximately 4000 square miles covering southwestern Wisconsin, the northwest corner if Illinois and a small sliver of Iowa along the west bank of the Mississippi River. Over the past almost 200 years it is estimated that there have been over 1500 lead and zinc mining operations in the region. While most mining operations ceased by the early 1950s, their environmental legacies remain. These mines impacted the environment through disturbance at the site, ore smelting operations, and ore tailings disposal. Mine operation and decommissioning regulations during this time period were negligible to non-existent. These mines and mining materials continue to impact both the small towns and agricultural lands in this area. State and county agricultural extension specialists are frequently called upon to help area farmers deal with fields (clearly mine-impacted) where corn and soybean crops, “just don’t grow well.” In towns, it is not uncommon for mine shafts to extend underneath housing and for sinkholes to open up as the shaft supports collapse. Mine wastes may also compromise the safety of food for human consumption and animal feed due to elevated contaminant levels in plant tissue.