Frequently asked questions
Is it possible to go into the mines today?
No. Traditionally, the groundwater was pumped out of the mines in the Basin, but now all of them have been allowed to flood. In addition to removing access to the mines, this practice actually helps support the mine voids beneath the surface.
How deep is the mine collapse that can be seen from the museum’s overlook?
The collapse, which occurred when an open space inside the mine (commonly known as a stope) caved in, is 350 feet deep.
Why is the water in the collapse green?
The water comes in contact with the ore remaining in the mine and picks up traces of copper.
How deep were the mines?
They varied in depth. The two deepest mines were the Calloway and Tennessee shafts, which were both 3200 feet deep. Incidentally, contrary to the impression once created by the eroded hills of the Basin, there was no strip mining here. All the mines were underground.
How much copper was found in the ore?
The ore averaged 2% copper. It also contained 25% sulfur, 28% iron and 1.5% zinc.
How many people were killed during active mining in the Basin?
We don’t have a definitive number, since not all the early records have survived, but in general the companies in the Basin had an excellent safety record by comparison with other mining districts. The largest single accident was at Boyd Mine in 1943, when nine men were killed.
What were the health risks for the miners?
In any form of hard rock mining, the primary risk is silicosis, which can be caused by breathing the rock dust.
What were the uses of the the sulfuric acid processed at the Copperhill plant?
Sulfuric acid is the most widely used chemical in the world. The local companies sold the acid primarily to companies that made fertilizers/agricultural chemicals, explosives, textiles and detergents, and to oil refineries.
What is the large pot next to the museum building?
It’s a ladle that was used in the smelter for handling the molten copper. It weighs 17,000 pounds.
What was the purpose of the two large brick buildings located on the lower level of the museum grounds?
These were the Hoist House and Boiler House for Burra Burra Mine. The larger building housed the hoisting engines for raising or lowering men and equipment into the mine and for hoisting ore to the surface. The smaller one housed the boilers for making steam to power the hoist.
How is the museum organized and funded?
The Ducktown Basin Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We administer the Burra Burra Mine site for the State of Tennessee. The state owns the buildings and allows us to use the property to house our operations. In return, we look after the property. Although the state is responsible for major maintenance, day-to-day operating costs are the responsibility of the nonprofit. We do receive operating funds from the state, but the bulk of our budget funds are raised by the local nonprofit through admissions, gift shop sales, membership dues, donations and fundraisers.