A very unique project was completed on the Mark Twain National Forest earlier this month. Four entrances to the abandoned and unstable Einstein Silver Mine were closed to ensure public safety.
The project area is located across the St. Francis River from the Silver Mines Recreation Area, near Fredericktown, Mo.
Prospecting along this stretch of the St. Francis River began in 1877, according to the 1895 Mine La Motte Sheet report by Charles Rollin Keyes. He wrote that the Einstein Mining Company was formed in 1879 and mining for silver and lead immediately began in earnest, but these operations ceased after only a couple years.
The mine changed owners a few times and minor attempts to remove minerals occurred until 1946. Only 50 tons of lead and 3,000 ounces of silver were reportedly mined from the site. The Forest Service acquired the mining lands and developed the recreation area.
Visitors to Mark Twain National Forest’s Silver Mines Recreation Area have routinely explored the hills around the campgrounds, and many have found the mine openings and investigated them.
Periodic monitoring of the mine entrances by the Forest Service showed the mine openings were becoming more and more unstable. New rock falls were occurring at and around entrances, and the quality of the air in the mine was not known. Allowing visitors to continue accessing the mine was no longer an option — it was a safety hazard.