Pyrite Mining

Louisa's contribution to the Industrial Revolution

Pyrite Mining began in the Mineral area as early as 1834.  The mines were successfully and intermittently worked for iron, copper and pyrite.  During the period of most intensive development, 1882-1905, the mines were operated for pyrite although some lead and zinc was recovered.  At the turn of the 20th Century, Louisa and Price William County, Virginia provided nearly 50 percent of the total pyrite production in the United States.   Millions of dollars of pyrite were mined in Virginia.  Pyrite was mined as a source of sulfur and was processed in furnaces to produce sulfuric acid.  The acid was used in the production of explosives, fertilizer and many other products.   The mines were instrumental to the US war effort in World War I and the army kept soldiers on site for security.  

In 1956 Robert S. Young from the Virginia Division of Geology described the pyrite mines located around Mineral as being perhaps the most famous mines in Virginia.  The average price of pyrite was $3.77 per ton.  One of the mines alone, the Sulfur Mine,  was producing $26 thousand per month, $316, 680 per year in 1917.

The larger mines were completely self-sufficient and even had a commissary where the miners used mine script to buy the necessities of life.  There was also a blacksmith shop where repairs were made to the machinery and a carpentry shop complete with a wood lathe capable of producing any round parts needed.  

Mining companies employed steam engines which were at the time the only source of mechanical power available.  Electricity was later generated by the same steam engines which supplied mechanical power throughout the mine and processing plant. Electricity allowed the mine and processing plant to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Steam engines were produced in many different sizes ranging from small shop engines to those capable of producing more than 3,000 horse power.

Photo of the Arminius Mine