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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin Guidelines for Identifying, Evaluating and Registering Historic Mining Sites

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U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service




Mining activity comprises an important component of our nation's heritage. Native Americans engaged in the extraction and processing of precious metals long before initial contact with Europeans. Stories of abundant mineral wealth ranked high on the list of factors that first attracted Europeans to the North American continent. The quest for mineral wealth continues in contemporary America. Many centuries of mining activity have left a legacy of historic mining sites that now exist throughout the United States.

The opulent Victorian architecture characteristic of some successful nineteenth-century mining towns has galvanized interest in preserving and restoring communities. The decaying industrial sites where the actual mining occurred have received considerably less attention. However, the industrial mining sites often face the greatest threats today. Massive earth moving efforts associated with modern mining, along with programs to reclaim abandoned mine lands, can harm the remnants of historic mining activity. In addition, many mining sites have fallen victim to the combined effects of neglect, abandonment, vandalism, and severe weather.

The threats faced by these properties, along with the complex task of understanding the significance of deteriorated sites associated with our industrial heritage, suggest the timeliness of a bulletin on evaluating and nominating historic mining properties to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register evaluation process offers a framework for assessing the significance of mining sites, while listing in the National Register will help assure that significant mining sites are recognized and protected when possible. The ultimate goal of this bulletin is to provide a body of information to suppport Federal, State, and local efforts to manage historic mining properties with a sense of stewardship predicated upon recognition of the importance of these properties in our nation's history.

Lawrence E. Aten
Chief, Interagency Resources Division
National Park Service
Department of the Interior


The authors wish to offer special thanks for the assistance of the Mining and Inventory and Monitoring Program, Division of Cultural Resources, Alaska Regional Office, National Park Service (NPS) and Don L. Hardesty of the University of Nevada-Reno. Representatives of the Mining Inventory and Monitoring Program, especially Logan Hovis and Ann Kain, provided extensive material regarding placer mining that has been used throughout the bulletin. Don L. Hardesty authored material relating to the evaluation of mining properties under Criterion D and provided additional important information concerning the archeological dimensions of mining properties. We are grateful for these valuable contributions.

Helpful written comments were provided by many individuals. These include Douglas H. Scovill, Anthropology Division, NPS; Edwin Bearss, History Division, NPS; Blaine Cliver and Kay Weeks, Preservation Assistance Division, NPS; Patricia L. Parker and Donna Seifert, Interagency Resources Division, NPS; Kathy McCraney and Ann Johnson, Rocky Moutain Region, NPS; Ann E. Huston, Western Region, NPS; Gretchen Luxenberg, Pacific Northwest Region, NPS; Dana E. Supernowicz, Eldorado National Forest; Pamela A. Conners, Stanislaus National Forest; William T. Civish, Division of Recreation, Cultural and Wilderness Resources, Bureau of Land Management; Jay C. Ziemann, Arizona State Parks; Katherine M. Huppe and Chere Jiusto, Montana State Historic Preservation Office; Dan Deibler and Bill Sisson, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Jeffrey A. Twining, Texas Historic Commission; Joan M. Antonson, Alaska Office of History and Archeology; Barbara Norgren, Colorado Historical Society; Loretta E. Pineda, Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Division; and Patrick E. Martin, Michigan Technological University. Interns Nicole Warren and Tanya Velt provided photographic research assistance. Kira Ramakrishna wrote several photo captions. The contributions of all the individuals listed above provided a tremendous boost to efforts to compile and clarify the final draft of the bulletin.

This publication has been prepared pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, which directs the Secretary of the Interior to develop and make available information concerning historic properties. Guidelines for Identifying, Evaluating, and Registering Historic Mining Properties was developed under the editorship of Carol D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. Antoinette Lee, historian, coordinated publication and Patty Sackett Chrisman, historian, provided technical support. Comments on this publication may be directed to Keeper, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, 1849 C Street, NW, #2280, Washington, DC 20240.


Virginia City Historic District
This photo of Virginia City, Nevada illustrates characteristic features of mining towns such as headframes, tailings piles, and exploration pits. Representing one of the United States' most successful mining operations, the Virginia City Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. (Jim Reinheiler)

The United States has ranked among the world's leading nations in the production of gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, coal, oil, zinc, molybdenum, uranium, and other metals. These treasures from the earth have also made major impacts on the settlement and development of many regions, from Appalachia to Alaska. Precious metals have created unimaginable fortunes, while unwise investment has caused the loss of millions of dollars. Large segments of the population have been influenced by the work of prying ore, rock, or coal from the bowels of the earth. The purpose of this bulletin is to assist in the recognition of significant mining properties worthy of listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Some of this country's spectacularly successful mining operations have already been documented and recognized. For example, Virginia City, Nevada; the Sloss blast furnaces at Birmingham, Alabama; Butte, Montana; the Elkins coke works at Bretz, West Virginia; Kennecott, Alaska; and the Calumet and Hecla Mine in Calumet, Michigan, are designated National Historic Landmarks. Many additional mining properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. However, throughout the nation, many significant mining properties have yet to be documented, evaluated, and listed in the National Register. Many of these remaining resources are small, but important, elements of historic mining activity such as a ditch, a shaft opening, a road, or a collection of prospect pits. As a result, this bulletin will not focus on mining camps and their architecture, but instead will emphasize the identification, evaluation, and registration of the frequently overlooked mining properties and industrial tracts.

Mines and industrial tracts encompass a range of types of historical and cultural properties. They vary from iron works, to precious metal mills, to dredges and their associated outbuildings. They include mercury furnaces from the Mexican-era in the West; an early twentieth century nickel refinery in Perth Amboy, New Jersey; Russian coal mines in Alaska; the expansive open pits of the Iron Range of Minnesota; coal tipples in Appalachia; and copper mines of the Southwest. Although the various metals require different technologies to extract economically valuable metal from ore, there are many similarities in extraction, beneficiation (the initial process of upgrading ore), and refining. Oil and gas fields, however, require unique technologies developed for the extraction of fossil fuels. This difference means that the extractive industries of oil and gas are not examined in detail, although this bulletin will give general direction for their evaluation.

The transient nature of mining activity has left a legacy of historic properties that pose challenges to our traditional rules for evaluating significance and integrity. Many mining structures were built for temporary use and quickly abandoned once the minerals had been exhausted. The resources have subsequently experienced decades of neglect, aggravated by vandalism and severe weather. In other cases, mining activities were short-lived. Hamilton, Nevada, for example, witnessed a whirlwind of silver rush activity in 1869, but the mines failed and the town faded to a ghost town within a decade (Jackson, 1963). The significance of such properties will have to be based on their archeological potential and not on their present lack of standing structures.

The need for guidance in evaluating mining resources is pressing because of a marked increase in activities that threaten historic mining resources. These activities include the recent upswing in coal mining and precious metal mining which can impact historic mining areas. In addition, mine reclamation and clean-up efforts often threaten historically significant mines. Although well-intended, these clean-up activities can contribute to the loss of significant resources.

The National Register of Historic Places provides an important tool for evaluating and protecting mining properties. Utilizing uniform criteria to evaluate significance and employing established integrity standards, the National Register process provides a valuable yardstick for measuring the historical significance of mining properties. Thus, the National Register is the best means for determining the significance of historic mining properties in the United States. In addition to providing an incentive for preservation by recognizing resources that warrant preservation, listing affords a measure of protection from Federal undertakings and can help to identify properties worthy of Historic Preservation Fund grant assistance, tax incentives, and other forms of assistance. The bulletin will also provide an approach for complying with Federal laws such as the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 that help protect properties listed in the National Register.

National Register listing also gives credibility to State and local efforts to preserve mining resources based on their continuing contribution to a community's identity. The documentation contained in surveys and nominations of these historic mining properties especially those that are neglected or threatened is the key to their better protection and management. This information has a variety of uses, including public education; planning by local, State, or Federal agencies; or publication. The purpose of this bulletin is to guide Federal agencies, State historic preservation offices, Certified Local Governments, preservation professionals, and interested groups and individuals through the process of identifying, evaluating, and registering historic mining properties to the National Register.

This bulletin outlines a general approach to the identification, evaluation, and registration of historic mining properties throughout the United States. A broad range of mining activities were conducted in different regions of the country. Although this bulletin may not provide specific details about every form of mining and every type of mining property, the general process discussed in this bulletin will assist with the nomination of a great diversity of mining properties.

The focus of this bulletin is historic mines or associated properties constructed specifically for the extraction of minerals or to support the extraction, benefication, and refining of minerals. In addition, this bulletin may also assist with the identification, evaluation, and registration of properties associated with non-metallic mining. Examples include clay mining (associated with brick making), salt mining, salt petre mining, and rock and gravel quarrying. For the purposes of this bulletin, the word "mineral," when used in the context of extracted matter, includes coal.

General instructions for preparing National Register nominations are available in two National Register bulletins How to Complete the National Register Registration Form, and How to Complete the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form.

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