Aladdin Tipple - Bioremediation - Aladdin, WY
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member QuarrellaDeVil
N 44° 38.347 W 104° 09.726
13T E 566452 N 4943202
A sign in front of the tipple at the Aladdin Tipple Historical Interpretive Park, Aladdin, WY, provides some background on the work that Mother Nature is doing to clean up after the miners packed up their tools and abandoned the mine.
Waymark Code: WM12VA1
Location: Wyoming, United States
Date Posted: 07/18/2020
Published By:Groundspeak Regular Member jhuoni
Views: 1

There were once signs at the gate, one simply identifying this as "Aladdin Tipple Historical Interpretive Park", and the other reading "Crook County State of Wyoming". For whatever reason -- probably related to the precipitous nature of the tipple, but maybe it was just vandals -- those signs are missing, although the gates are open to the public, with barbed wire fences to protect both the tipple and visitors. There are multiple signs warning of the tipple's instability, so see this one safely while you still can. The county probably placed the interpretive signs that can be see throughout the park, both in front of the tipple and at the end of the trail at the top of the hill.

This sign is one of several behind the fence at the top of the hill, but it is not difficult to photograph or read from outside. It reads:

The gray substance that you see surrounding the tipple, and upon which this sign is located, is coal waste known as "coal slack". Coal slack provides a unique site for land surface healing by natural life processes (bioremediation). Interaction of an unusual fungus, Pisolithus tinctorius, with the very specific environmental conditions created by the coal slack are responsible for the bioremediation occuring [sic] at this site. Pisolithus tinctorius, was discovered on this site in 1980, and is being closely monitored by Black Hills State University located in nearby Spearfish, South Dakota.

Pisolithus tinctorius, is a "mycorrhizal fungi", which forms close mutually beneficial relationships with plant partners. The fungi is rare to the commonly low acids soils of the Black Hills region, and occurs at this site because of the highly acidic condition of the coal slack. Nutrient levels in the coal slack range from 60 to 70 percent less than normal for soils in this region. This is far below nutrient levels necessary for the survival and growth of Ponderosa pine and bur oak. However, the growing strands of the fungi (mycelium), grow in and around the roots of Ponderosa pine and bur oak that occur on the coal slack. The mycelium aids these trees by absorbing nutrients from the coal slack, especially phosphorus, and making these nutrients available to the trees.

The trees, in return, furnish beneficial nutrients produced by photosynthesis to the fungi. Through this "partnership" the trees are able to survive in the nutrient-poor soils of the Aladdin Mine site coal slack. Growth of the trees results in leaf and other organic litter. This allows the soil environment to become less acidic and more favorable for the growth of other plant species.

As the soil becomes less acidic, another mycorrhizal fungi, Scleroderma, will replace Pisolithus and continue the partnership. Native grasses will eventually become established on the site, and with enough time and absence of new disturbance, the Aladdin Mine site should appear much the same as other unmined areas typifying the region. A natural healing will have occured [sic] as a result of very specific organisms whose life processes are mutually beneficial.

The Aladdin Mine site provides the visitor an opportunity to view not only the site of a historic mining operation, but also the natural process of disturbed land reclamation. Future generations will be able to study and observe the effects of bioremediation on this abandoned mine site. PLEASE, step lightly, stay on the paved pathways, and do not disturb the site's vegetation.

Marker Name: Bioremediation

Marker Type: Rural Roadside

Addtional Information:
There are a total of eight signs that provide information about the tipple. All but one are protected by the fence that protects the tipple -- and you -- but all are readable. Together, they include some vintage photos and provide enough information for a narrative:

The coal tipple is at the site of old Bakertown, and Aladdin is the last coal mining settlement of those that included Barrett Town and Hay Creek. This was "Aladdin No. 1", which began operation in 1898, operated by the Black Hills Coal Co. A train line carried coal from Aladdin to nearby Belle Fourche, SD and then to parts elsewhere.

Of course, it was common to use immigrants from all over as labor, not only because they worked cheaply, but also because language was often a barrier to communication, which impeded their banding together and unionizing. An 1899 report indicated that the average number of men employed was 35, but that year, they had 80. Coal Mining 101 is basically that a miner would "soften up" a coal face with a pick, plant charges, blast, and then shovel the coal into cars for transport out of the mine.

The tipple consists of two parts: The coal bin is the large gable-roofed structure, where coal was received and sorted, while the chutes would further sort and carry the coal, using gravity, to the bottom. The remains of a catwalk are visible on the east side of the tipple, and an operator on the catwalk would help to guide the coal as it made its progress downwards. You can get a peek at the entrance and hoist house by following the path up to the top of the hill. You'll also pass the old fan housing, which was installed in later years to improve ventilation.

The mine had its peak year in 1901 when it produced 40,000 tons of coal, but by 1911, it was down to 1,000 tons. Focus had shifted away from industrial production by 1911, and later efforts were for domestic use such as heating and cooking. By the 1940s, operations had ceased, and the mine entrance was blown shut by the end of the decade over obvious concerns about an open adit. Besides Mother Nature's normal wear and tear as she attempts to pull down the tipple, there is an interesting sign at the top of the hill about bioremediation and how the coal waste ("slack"), fungus, and trees on the site are all working together to clean up the mess that mankind left behind when the mine was closed.

Group Responsible for Placement: Crook County, WY

Web link(s) for additional information: [Web Link]

Date Dedicated: Not listed

Marker Number: Not listed

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