Tar Creek Superfund Site

The Tar Creek Superfund Site is located in the former Tri-State Mining District, in northeast Oklahoma, within Tulsa District boundaries.  The Tri-State Mining District extends from Oklahoma, into Missouri and Kansas, and was a source of lead and zinc for nearly 70 years.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Program addressed mine tailings in residential areas, and groundwater contamination.  The Corps of Engineers, through the Support for Others Authority was involved in the Emergency Removal and Remedial Actions in the mid to late 1990s.  The Corps of Engineers, Restoration of Abandoned Mine Sites (RAMS) Program addressed a minimal amount of open mine shafts in the area of Picher and Cardin, Oklahoma.  Historical mining maps and field surveys indicated that nearly 1,200 mine shafts existed.  In 1983, there were reportedly 511 open mine shafts remaining in the Tar Creek area.  The vertical shafts were reported to extend from between 90 and 350 feet below ground surface.  Many shaft closure attempts were made by local governments and private land owners.  Some closure techniques used were capping with large boulders or providing a concrete seal, while some shafts were closed using surface materials that degraded or collapsed after years in place.  Many of the mine shafts were used for dumping of household waste, or filled with debris, tree limbs, rock and other locally available materials.  In approximately 2006, a RAMS project demonstrated closure utilizing a polyurethane foam fill and fencing to remediate physical hazards open to the general public.

It was recently reported that appropriated funds allowed for permanent closure of approximately 64 open shafts, using the demonstrated technology.

Project Goals

The local Corps of Engineers District recommends an effort to close approximately 25 shafts per year.  Since the RAMS program does not have authority to undertake physical closures, funding will need to be provided by other Federal, State or local agencies.

Current Status

The RAMS program demonstrated a cost affective means of closing physical and environmental hazards, which was expanded upon by others for successful closure of approximately 60 open mine shafts.

Significant Milestones

  • 2006 – RAMS Demonstration Project
  • Subsequent closures