Ducktown Basin Museum

Burra Burra Mine - Copperhill - Copper Basin

Useful Information

Location: 212 Burra Burra Street, Ducktown, TN 37326
Open: JAN to MAR Tue-Sat 9:30-16.
APR to OCT Mon-Sat 10-16:30.
NOV to DEC MON-Sat 9:30-16.
Fee: Adults USD 4, Children (13-17) USD 1, Children (0-12) USD 0.50, Seniors (65+) USD 3.
Classification: MineCopper Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Address: Ducktown Basin Museum, 212 Burra Burra Street, Ducktown, TN 37326, Tel: +1-423-496-5778. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1843 copper discovered.
1850 beginning of mining.
1899 headquarters of the Tennessee Copper Company.
1958 Burra Burra Mine closed.
1975 Tennessee Copper Company closed.
1978 Ducktown Basin Museum opened on Main Street in Ducktown.
1982 Ducktown Basin Museum moved into Burra Burra Mine.
1983 Burra Burra Mine Historic District placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
1987 last mine closed.
1988 Ducktown Basin Museum and Burra Burra Mine purchased by the state of Tennessee.
2000 sulfuric acid plant at Copperhill closed.


During the Ordovician intruding igneous rocks brough some of the economically important minerals with them. But most ores were deposited during the early Permian. The sedimentary deposit contains sulfur rich copper minerals which were formed by sulfur rich hydrothermal sprigs at the sea floor, similar to todays black smokers.

The ore contained in average 29% copper, 25% sulfur, 28% iron and 1.5% zinc. The copper was the most important product of the mine, but the sulfur was also used to produce sulfuric acid.


The Ducktown Basin Museum is located in the Copper Basin, on the mine site of the Burra Burra Mine. Here was the headquarters of the Tennessee Copper Company between 1899 and 1975. Burra Burra Mine is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with 16 mine buildings remaining. Only the headframe was demolished after the mine was closed in 1958.

The museum is located in the former mine office and has an exhibition of historic photos, documents and tools from the abandoned mine. An audiovisual presentation gives an insight into more than a century of copper mining and the resulting nature destruction. Around the museum several larger exhibits can be seen in a small outdoor exhibition. Most popular is the former mine elevator on the parking lot which is used as an observation platform for the huge water filled hole of the Burra Burra Mine. This is not an open cast, but the result of a partly collapsed stope. The hole is more than 100 m deep.

The mine, except for the museum, is closed for the public, but tours are available after appointment. Those tours show the hoist house, boiler building, powder house, and machine shops.

The copper was discovered 1843, and as the story goes the prospector was disappointed that the shining red crystals he had found were not gold, but merely copper. The mining started in 1850 and lasted 137 years. The wood of the area was cut and used to fuel open-air smelters. The clear-cutting and the acid rain from the sufuric exhaust fumes converted the landscape into a red desert. The so-called red hills soon covered 50 square miles around Coppertown and became rather famous. They were featured in national magazines, including the National Geographic Magazine, and were fotographed by the NASA astronauts.

The most important mine of the area is the Burra Burra Mine in Ducktown. It was named after the MineBurra Monster Mine in Australia. During its operation between 1899 and 1958 the mine produced more than 14 million metric tons of copper ore.

The desert like hills around Ducktown and Copperhill are green again. An intensive re-greening effort included the planting of 16 million trees and the seeding of acid-tolerant grass. The reclamation efforts worked rather well, but still numerous remains of the destruction can be seen. There are sulfuric deposits in the brooks, infertile patches of land, and strange colours in the water and the plants.