Effort to save giant mining shovel for museum fails

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The world's last operating stripping shovel will be sold for scrap after a group of citizens and public officials failed to raise enough money to preserve the massive machine for a coal mining heritage museum.

Tim Revell, Columbus Dispatch
The Silver Spade, taller than a 12-story building, was capable of digging 155 tons in one bite and had a top speed of one-quarter mile per hour.
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Largest strip mining shovel in existence, Silver Spade may become park centerpiece, Sept. 17, 2006

The 7,000-ton Silver Spade has sat dormant in rural Harrison County near Cadiz since April, after its rotating base was disabled. When the machinery's owner, Upper St. Clair-based Consol Energy Inc., decided it was too costly to repair, the Harrison Coal and Reclamation Historical Park began a fund-raising campaign to save the Silver Spade.

Earlier this month, the group received the bad news from Consol. The company told the group the financial commitment from donations and pledges, coupled with the county's agreement to maintain dozens of roads through Consol property, still would not be enough to offset the $2.5 million cost for reclamation of the property and the salvage cost of the Silver Spade, said Marilyn Monzula, secretary of the nonprofit group.

"It's just so sad," Ms. Monzula said. "The thing is, there will never be another one like [the Silver Spade]. It would have been important to preserve it for the future."

The Silver Spade, taller than a 12-story building, was capable of digging 155 tons in one bite and had a top speed of one-quarter mile per hour.

The group hoped to raise $800,000 to cover the estimated salvage cost of the metal from the Silver Spade, but raised only a fraction of the goal. The bigger issue apparently was the prohibitive cost of reclaiming the land under the Silver Spade if the machinery remained intact and the area was used for the outdoor mining museum, Ms. Monzula said. Consol estimated the cost at $1.7 million.

In a statement, Consol spokesman Joe Cerenzia said the company has begun to dismantle the Silver Spade as the first step to reclaim the property at the shuttered Mahoning Valley Mine.

"Consol Energy acknowledges the hard work and dedication of county and association officials who tried diligently to acquire the Silver Spade," Mr. Cerenzia said in the statement. "However, various circumstances prevented this from occurring. What we are left with are good memories of what the Silver Spade meant to the area and Consol Energy, most especially the generations of our employees who worked for the operations in eastern Ohio."

The Silver Spade was one of two giant coal mining shovels of its type built by the Bucyrus Erie company for $6.5 million in the 1960s. It was the last stripping shovel in operation and the last remnant of the dozens of giant shovels built, including 37 by Bucyrus Erie.

Harrison County officials hoped to use the Silver Spade as the centerpiece of an outdoor coal mining museum that would also include large drag lines and other equipment now stored nearby. Consol has agreed to donate land to house the remaining equipment, along with the Silver Spade's 105-cubic-yard bucket and operating controls, Ms. Monzula said.


Mike Bucsko can be reached at mbucsko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1732.


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