Picher, Oklahoma

Picher is a ghost town and former city in Ottawa County, Oklahoma. Formerly a major national center of lead and zinc mining at the heart of the Tri-State Mining District, over a century of unrestricted subsurface excavation dangerously undermined most of Picher’s town buildings and left giant piles of toxic metal-contaminated mine tailings heaped throughout the area. The discovery of the cave-in risks, groundwater contamination and health effects associated with the tailings piles and subsurface shafts—particularly an alarming 1996 study which showed lead poisoning in 34% of the children in Picher—eventually prompted a mandatory evacuation and buyout of the entire township by the State of Oklahoma. 

St. Nicholas Coal Breaker
Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania

The old St. Nicholas Coal Breaker was once the largest and most productive coal breaker in the world, and was divided into two separate halves that could be operated independently. Each halve produced 12,500 tons of coal per day; the entire plant, when running at full capacity, produced 25,000 tons of coal per day. It last operated in 1972; less than half a mile away stands the new St. Nicholas Coal Breaker, built in 1972, as a modern successor system to the original breakers that once towered 12 stories above the ground.