The “Four-States”area, made up of Southeast Kansas, Southwest Missouri, Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma, has a long history of mining. Many different types of mining were done all over the Four-States, both surface mining and deep mining.
The BIGGEST and most memorable bit of history has to be Big Brutus. With statistics like these you can see why!
Dubbed “Big Brutus,” the enormous power shovel took a year to assemble on site in Cherokee County Kansas. Completed in June 1963; Big Brutus was an electric shovel, and actually had a giant ‘extension cord’ supplying it’s power.
Designed to mine coal for at least 25 years, the giant shovel worked for only a decade due to a combination of environmental problems and falling coal prices. By 1973 Big Brutus was obsolete. Deeming the shovel too big to move and too expensive to dismantle, its owners stripped Brutus of its electrical and auxiliary equipment, leaving it to rust, a dinosaur of the technological age.
Today, much of the area that Brutus worked in Southeast Kansas is still left as it was, with miles and miles of unreclaimed land. This landscape is known locally as “The Strip Pits”, as there are mounds of over-burden seperated by deep long pits, filled with water. Some of this land has been reclaimed, basically the topsoil has been pushed back into the pits it was removed from. This leaves a nice ‘rolling’ landscape, not quite flat like the land was before. Much of the areas that are not reclaimed have now become the Mined Land Wildlife Area, providing hunting and fishing, as well as refuge for game.
Big Brutus’ past legacy has proved to be a good one. That same thing may not be said of the mining industry’s impact on Picher Oklahoma. Polluted to the point of “Superfund” status and then flattened by a tornado, the town has actually CLOSED. The school, post office, town hall, everything. – more about Picher here