The gray substance that you see surrounding the tipple, and upon which this sign is located, is coal waste known as "coal slack". Coal slack provides a unique site for land surface healing by natural life processes (bioremediation). Interaction of an unusual fungus, Pisolitus timctorius, with the very specific environmental conditions created by the coal slack are responsible for the bioremediation occurring at this site. Pisolitus timctorius, was discovered on this site in 1980, and is being closely monitored by Black Hills State University located in nearby Spearfish, South Dakota.
Pisolitus timctorius, is a "mycorrhizal fungi", which forms close mutually beneficial relationships with plant partners. The fungi is rare to the commonly low acids soils of the Black Hills region, and occurs at this site because of the highly acidic condition of the coal slack. Nutrient levels in the coal slack range from 60 to 70 percent less than normal for soils in this region. This is far below nutrient levels necessary for the survival and growth of Ponderosa pine and bur oak. However, the growing strands of the fungi (mycelium), grow in and around the roots of Ponderosa pine and bur oak that occur on the coal slack. The mycelium aids these trees by absorbing nutrients from the coal slack, especially phosphorus, and making
these nutrients available to the trees.
The trees, in return, furnish beneficial nutrients produced by photosynthesis to the fungi. Through this "partnership" the trees are able to survive in the nutrient-poor soils of the Aladdin Mine site coal slack. Growth of the trees results in leaf and other organic litter. This allows the soil environment to become less acidic and more favorable for the growth of other plant species.
As the soil becomes less acidic, another mycorrhizal fungi, Scleroderma, will replace Pisolitus and continue the partnership. Native grasses will eventually become established on the site, and with enough time and absence of new disturbance, the Aladdin Mine site should appear much the same as other unmined areas typifying the region. A natural healing will have occured (sic) as a result of very specific organisms whose life processes are mutually beneficial.
The Aladdin Mine site provides the visitor an opportunity to view not only the site of a historic mining operation, but also the natural process of disturbed land reclamation. Future generations will be able to study and observe the effects of bioremediation on this abandon mine site. PLEASE, step lightly, stay on the pave pathways, and do not disturb the site's vegetation.