The Importance of Mining in Missouri’s History

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Article Tags:

historic , educational museum , museums , Museums
How Mining Helped Shape a State
Author: Missouri Department of Labor
With more than 300 mines, Missouri owes much of its historical growth and prosperity as a state to the success of the mining industry. It currently draws in more than $8 billion a year for our state’s economy and provides jobs to more than 30,000 men and women.

Other than the actual harvesting of the mineral resources, production and development play a vital role in shaping Missouri’s economic health and stability.

Mining practices in Missouri originated with American Indians as they dug for arrowheads, clay, and other necessary components used to in their day-to-day civilization. Eventually, French settlers made Missouri their home in the mid 1600s, followed by generations of other settlers.

Upon the discovery of lead and other valuable minerals housed beneath Missouri’s rich topsoil, the mining industry found the difficulty was not unearthing the materials, but rather getting them to market and essentially conducting business. This is why Missouri mining is closely tied with the development of the railroad system, as coal was needed to fuel the train engines, and railroads were essential to the transportation of mined materials to processing plants and to market.

For the past 100 years, Missouri has ranked No. 1 with more than 90 percent of the nation’s lead production. Most of the lead produced (80 percent) is used in car batteries – an essential component to our everyday lives – and is otherwise used as a protective barrier against radiation in television and computer screens.

Missouri is No. 1 in the production of lime, third in zinc, fifth in copper and sixth in silver. Missouri zinc is used to provide a rust-resistant coating on steel; copper is used to make water pipes and electrical wire; fire-clay is made into refractory brick for steel manufacturing and coats NASA’s launch pads to withstand the heat generated from rockets; lime is used in paper and cement production.

Because mining has such a huge economic impact on not only Missouri, but the nation as a whole, the Missouri Department of Labor takes every step it can to protect this precious industry. Mining can be a dangerous occupation, so rigorous safety and training standards are in place. The Department’s Division of Labor Standards is proud that its Mine and Cave Safety and Health Section has a nationally recognized program to protect the mining industry and improve safety in Missouri and across the country.

Around Missouri, attractions showcase the state's mining heritage, giving visitors a glimpse into this important industry, while points of interest offer tribute to Missouri miners. Sites include:


  21st Annual Missouri Mines Rock Swap at Missouri Mines State Historic Site
Rock hobbyists from all over the United States will set up outdoors and under tents to sell or swap ...

  Bonne Terre Mine
National Geographic calls Bonne Terre Mine: "One of America's Top 10 Greatest Adventures." One ...

  Missouri Mines State Historic Site
The site consists of the milling complex used by St. Joe Minerals Corporation in the days when Missouri’s ...

  Novinger Coal Miners Museum
Visitors to the Coal Miners Museum can trace the history of coal mining in northern Missouri from its ...

  University of Science and Technology Experimental Mine
This limestone mine was founded in 1921. It is used for research, rescue practice, study of mining practices ...

  Joplin History and Mineral Museum
The museums focus on the history of Joplin, the heritage of southwest Missouri and the story of lead ...

  Granby Miners Museum
The Miners Museum building was originally a mercantile store; it is the oldest standing building on ...