The Picher area became the most productive lead-zinc mining field in Oklahoma, producing over $20 billion worth of ore between 1917 and 1947.
More than fifty percent of the lead and zinc metal used during World War I were produced by the Picher district. Mining ceased in 1967 and water pumping from the mines ceased. The contaminated water from some 14,000 abandoned mine shafts, 70 million tons of mine tailings, and 36 million tons of mill sand and sludge remained as a huge environmental cleanup problem.
As a result of national legislation to identify and remediate such environmentally hazardous sites, in 1980 the area was designated a Superfund site by the U.S. government.
On April 24, 2006 the U.S. government decided to close Picher and relocate its residents. The contamination and other environmental hazards were found to be so severe that the evacuation was mandatory. This was now the most dangerous city in America.
The years of mining and the removal of large amounts of subsurface material during mining operations, many of the city’s structures have been deemed in imminent danger of caving in now sits an eerie ghost town.