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River Restoration Project To Begin In Mo. Lead Mining District

St. Francis River in Mark Twain National Forest, Madison County, Mo.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources are beginning the task to restore wetland, riparian and floodplain areas in southeast Missouri. An informational meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 15 in Park Hill, Mo., to discuss a request for proposals for the restoration project in the Big and Black River.

The two agencies are working together, as a board of Trustees for Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration, to restore natural resources injured by Asarco, a mining company that mainly processes and mines copper in the southeast region.

The Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District, which is one of the largest lead-producing regions in the world, spans 40 to 90 miles south and southwest of St. Louis. Watersheds in the district include Black River, Big River/Meramec River and St. Francois River.

In 2008, a $194 settlement was made with Asarco for damages in more than a dozen sites throughout the United States. Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ director Sara Parker Pauley said the southeast Missouri mining district received about $35 million settlement for damages of natural resources in St. Francois, Washington, Madison, Iron, Reynolds and Crawford counties.

“When there is  injury to these public resources as a result of a hazardous substance release then federal law allows for government to access that injury and determine a monetary value for that injury, in order to restore that injury for the benefit of the public at large,” Pauley said.  

The company’s waste affected more than 100 miles of streams in the southeast region including groundwater, surface water and soils.

“We look at what the water should be and how it has been impacted by the mining activities in this case,” Pauley said.


According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources website, a natural resource is considered injured if it is exposed to concentrations of substances that cause specific adverse effects.

Asarco injured fish, crayfish and migratory songbirds. The endangered species of freshwater mussels and their ecosystems were also harmed.

An informational meeting will be held Oct. 15 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Mineral Area College in the North College Center.

“We want to engage partners in these restorative activities and that could be communities, it could be nonprofits, it could be a host of entities who want to partner in these restoration activities,” Pauley said.

Jen Gradl was a student reporter at KRCU in 2014.