Guidebook Editor: Lauck W. Ward
Contributors: Lauck W. Ward and Ivan K. Gilmore
Lee Creek Mine
Aurora, North Carolina
History, Mining Operations, Geology, Stratigraphy, and Paleontology
Carolina Geological Society Annual Field Trip
November 9-11, 2007
The Phosphate deposits in Beaufort County North Carolina were first discovered in the early 1950’s. Many companies confuted exploration programs and attempted to initiate mining operations in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. PCS Phosphate and its predecessors have mined and processed phosphate ore at the Aurora Phosphate Mine in Aurora, North Carolina since 1965. The open-pit mine is located in the central coastal plain, near the Pamlico River. The history of the mining operation is one of continuous change, expansion and improvement.
The current mining sequence includes the removal of forty feet of unconsolidated overburden using bucket wheel excavators followed by the removal of seventy-five feet of overburden and thirty-five feet of phosphate ore by three large walking draglines (77, 72 and 50 cubic-yard bucket capacities). The large draglines re-handle and stockpile the mined ore for further processing. The stockpiled ore is slurried and pumped to the mill for concentration.
Mining began in December of 1965. From 1965 to 1979, one 17 cubic-yard dragline and two 19 cubic-yard draglines were utilized to remove the unconsolidated overburden ahead of the draglines and to re-handle and stockpile the mined ore for pumping. One large (72 cubic-yard) dragline was used by the mining operation for the production requirements. A second large (50 cubic-yard) dragline was added to the mining operation in 1976 to increase production capacity.
From 1979 to 1990, two thirty-inch dredges were utilized to remove the unconsolidated burden. A third large (77 cubic-yard) dragline was added to the mining operation in 1986 to increase production capacity.
From 1990 to present, two bucket wheel excavators are utilized to remove the unconsolidated overburden ahead of the draglines. The current mining operation handles approximately 38 million tons of total overburden, 11 million tons of phosphate ore and process 5 million tons of phosphate concentrate.