Burra Burra Mine - Ducktown, Tennessee
If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, then this is it. Located where Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia meet, the Burra Burra Mine (named after the famous mine in Australia) extracted over 15 million tons of copper between 1899 and 1959. The mine was one of many mining operations located throughout the area known as the “Copper Basin” between 1850 and 1987. And while the mine itself may not seem particularly interesting, the story is.
Basin as it appeared in the early 1900s.
Basin as it appeared in the early 1960s.
In order to produce large amounts of copper and other ore-based products, they needed massive amounts of coal for the smelting process. And where did they get the coal? They used the trees nearby. Almost all of them. In fact, they cut down over 32,000 acres of trees, creating a desert that only recently began to sustain life. Note that there are NO TREES in the photos above - not even on the mountains in the background!
Basin as it appears today.
Mining ceased in the Copper Basin in 1987. Since then, 16 million trees have been planted and the basin has been seeded with acid-tolerant grass. However, a 300-acre spot of land near the center of the basin was left alone to serve as a reminder of how the basin once appeared. Today, that spot has caved in and has partially filled with toxic water.
Today, the Ducktown Museum and Burra Burra Mine are open to visitors. Ten of the structures on the site are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They include a hoist house, boiler building, powder house, and machine shops. The old engineers’ office building houses the Ducktown Basin Museum, and various machine parts, tools, and other artifacts used in the basin’s mining operations are displayed there.
For more information about the Mine and the Museum, click here.
Photos are © Trevor Beemon