PICHER, OKLAHOMA

3/3/2022  

On Google Earth, up in the northeast corner of Oklahoma, is a terrain that looks like a series of white bomb craters. It is, in reality, a reverse image of such destruction. You are observing huge piles of chat that encompass the whole area. This chat is a mine tailing that consists of siliceous rock sized between sand and pea gravel. Its contents are limestone, dolomite, and, depending on the extraction methods, small percentages of lead, zinc, cadmium, and other heavy metals. There are mountains of this neurological damaging material interspersed throughout the town as a tribute to all the money made procuring these ASS-sets of lead and zinc. The mines were opened in the early part of the 1900’s for lead as an ingredient in paint and bullet manufacturing. Mines opened like crazy in 1913 with anticipation of rising conflicts, which coincidentally started as the Great War in 1914. These mines supplied 40% of all bullets for this conflict. Lead poisoning is much more effective when propelled down a rifled barrel to administer the toxic element directly to damaged tissue. These mines grew with demand and so did the population in order to produce these functional elements that keep steel from rusting (zinc) and keep humans in line (lead). As the piles became bigger, science started to see connections between the tailings and birth defects. As the mine’s lawyers started nudging the owners under the table, production shut down in the late 1960’s. This created an even bigger problem as the dewatering pumps were shut off. This put ground water in direct contact with the toxic minerals, prompting a U.S. Superfund site in the 80’s. It took 30 more years and a F4 class tornado to completely remove a former 20,000-person city in the 1920’s to a mining ghost town by 2015. With government, NO TRESPASSING signs and wire fences sealing off this former Indian Reservation of environmental rape, those white chat mountains stand as a monument to another human folly.

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