John Bennett

Historian John Bennett will be speaking at 6 p.m., Thursday, at the Fredericktown branch of the Ozark Regional Library. Bennett's talk is titled "Cobalt Mining Part II: The National Lead Company Operations."

Ever since the April 11, 2018 announcement that Missouri Cobalt, LLC, had acquired land and operational control of 1,800 acres of a former mine operation in Madison County, cobalt mining has been a hot topic in the area.

With the backdrop of this increased interest, the Fredericktown branch of the Ozark Regional Library has announced its next speaker in the Summer Speaker Series will be John Bennett. Bennett's talk is titled "Cobalt Mining part II: The National Lead Company Operations." He will be speaking at 6 p.m., July 18 at the library at 115 S. Main St. in Fredericktown.

Part one of Bennett's discussion on Cobalt Mining was one of the highest attended summer speaker series events in 2018, and part two is set to be just as interesting.

Bennett said he will take the first fifteen minutes of his presentation to review what he went over last year.

"It includes a description of what cobalt is and the current uses of this strategic metal," Bennett said. "The review will also cover where the Madison Mine is located, when it was discovered, who developed the mine and its operational history up until Missouri Cobalt Company closed in 1922."

Bennett said at the close of last year's presentation, he indicated that the St. Louis Smelting and Refining Company obtained options on 1,179 acres of land south of the Missouri Cobalt Company property and after performing exploration drilling, purchased this land and later leased the Missouri Cobalt land and production facilities renaming the mine as the Madison Mine.

"I also indicated a willingness to review the National Lead Company's operations at a future date," Bennett said. "The bulk of the July 18 presentation will be dedicated to the history of the Madison Mine during the years 1943 until it closed in 1961."

Bennett said he enjoyed the chance to share his experiences and recent research during his past six years at last year's presentation.

"After my semi-retirement in 2013, I have devoted considerable time to preserving Madison County's Mining History through the Historic Madison County Society," Bennett said. "In accordance with the historical society's mission to share this history, I have worked on an informational display at the 'Old Jail Museum' and spent many hours discussing history."

Bennett said the Summer Speaker Series gives him an excellent platform to share important aspects of Madison County History with residents and other people interested in the subject.

"Those attending the 2019 presentation will hopefully come away with a better understanding of the importance of the Madison Mine during World War II, the Korean War and the Cold War until the mine closing in 1961," Bennett said. "The summary review of the mine's early history will give those attending for the first time, the important background information."

Bennett said while the bulk of the presentation will be a historical chronology he will also discuss the mining methods and processes used to refine the metals obtained from the complex ores.

"Cobalt is an important resource to be mined because it is currently an important component of lithium ion battery cathodes accounting for more than half of today's cobalt demand," Bennett said. "Besides batteries, the most important use of cobalt today is the manufacture of super-alloys. These super-alloys are, in turn, used in turbine blades for jet aircraft engines and gas turbines."

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Bennett said a cobalt mine in Fredericktown could mean a period of prosperity locally as well as improving the U.S. cobalt supply.

"The main thing that excites me most about this topic is the prospect of renewed activity at this important mine," Bennett said. "The demand for electric car batteries and other lithium ion batteries that require around 10 per cent cobalt has caused global consumption of cobalt to rise in recent years. This demand is expected to rise exponentially in the next decade primarily due to an increase in the number of electric powered cars that will be produced."

Bennett said, unless a technology to replace the lithium ion battery is developed, the demand for cobalt could skyrocket.

Bennett has been interested in the mines of Madison County since he was a child in the 1950s visiting construction projects at the mines with his father.

"My dad was very good at explaining not only the work he was doing, but also mining, milling and refining processes used by the mining companies," Bennett said. "As Fredericktown's first City Administrator in 1977-1979, I was very involved with Anschutz Mining Corporation that purchased the Madison Mine in 1979."

Bennett has been involved with mining in some way until his recent retirement and continues his work but now for the love of the research.

"It is a lifetime of experiences and recent research into the history of Madison County mining that makes me believe I am qualified to lecture on Cobalt Mining in Fredericktown," Bennett said. 

Other speakers lined up include author and historian Brooks Blevins, archaeologist Russel Weissman, and Historian Jesse Francis. 

Blevins will travel to town from Springfield where he is a professor specializing in Ozark studies and has recently had published "History of the Ozarks: Volume I." He will give a presentation titled "Ozark Myths," July 25.

The topic of the Trail of Tears always tears at heart and conscience. Weissman will fill in some of the blanks of what happened locally during "The Cherokee Trail of Tears in Southeast Missouri: The Hildebrand Detachment Route," Aug. 1.

Francis will rap up the series with "Travel, Trails and Railroad: Moving Around in Old Missouri," Aug. 8.

All programs are at 6 p.m. and are free and open to the public at the Ozark Regional Library in Fredericktown. 

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