AMAX Coal Company operates the Chinook Mine near Staunton, Indiana, formerly, Ayrshire and, previously owned by Peabody Coal Company.
The landscape it created is one of the last legacies of the flatland strip mining that once shaped the area’s culture. It brought in thousands of European immigrants and an influx of American migrants from Appalachia. The Bobolink Mine was just south of Seelyville, Indiana, a young town of German, Czech and Polish Catholics, who came here to dig coal.
The Chinook Mine, being a strip mine, was about a mile south of the interurban rail line that ran from Brazil to Terre Haute. At first, this land had been a mixture of forest and tall prairie grass, that of a wilderness. There had been some short-lived farms up through the 1920s; then that was dramatically changed with the coming of the mine. The mine equipment ripped at the earth, destroying every bit of prairie and forest to turn up the coal that lay underneath.
Chinook is the oldest surface mine still in operation in Indiana. It opened in 1928. The tipple presently in use, was also constructed in 1928. Raw coal is cleaned, graded, and processed for final sale at the tipple. The early Chinook surface mining operation has the average mining depth of about thirty feet. As machines improved, deeper coals could be uncovered and the mine was reaching a depth of about sixty feet in the 1950s.
A new tipple is being constructed at an approximate cost of $2.5 million. The new tipple will feature continuous train loading from a storage silo. Coal ready for shipment will be placed in a final holding silo, whose capacity is 15,000 tons. The railroad track forms a loop so that the entire train can enter the loop, pass through the silo to load the cars, and return from the loop onto the main track without needing to stop or switch cars onto a siding track. The rail cars will not stop in the silo to be loaded.
AMAX or the company’s subsidiary, Meadowlark Farms, owns about 100,000 acres in the Indiana vicinity. Of this, about 35,000 acres have been mined and about 4,000 are now being actively surface mined.
The company did declare, that after mining, the land looks terrible! But they do not leave it that way. At the mining operation a team of four bulldozers work twenty-four hours a day leveling and grading the earth. Through the AMAX reclamation program, the land is returned to the highest level of production consistent with the soil type and quality. Presently this means either pasture and hay land or the highest use, farm row crops. No longer can the unleveled spoil banks be planted with trees and termed, reclaimed.
AMAX feels at least some portion of the strip-mined land should be planted in trees. In Indiana fifteen per cent of the land surface is covered by forests, and they feel that at least that percentage of mined land should be planted to trees.
AMAX is the fifth largest coal producing company in the United States.
Source: Chinook Mine – Field of Vision: Spirit & Place and The Brazil Times Submitted by: Jo Ann Pell – Clay County Genealogical Library in Center Point, Indiana