Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Elevation:||1,025 feet (312.4 metres)|
|Latitude:||33° 29′ 12″ N|
|Longitude:||86° 48′ 23″ W|
|Topo map:||USGSBirmingham South|
Red Mountain is a long ridge running southwest-northeast and dividing Jones Valley from Shades Valley south of Birmingham, Alabama,United States. The formation of hard Silurian rock strata lies exposed in several long crests, several of which have been called "Red Mountain" because of the rust-stained rock faces and prominent seams of red hematite iron ore. The best displays of the mountain's geological strata occur at the Twentieth Street cut near the Vulcan statue and at the US 31 highway cut leading into the suburb of Homewood.
- At Birmingham the lower 100 feet is predominantly shaly and there is a 20-foot bed of thick-layered sandstone 34 feet above the bottom. Above this shaly part lies the Irondale ore bed, which is separated from the Big seam of iron ore by a few feet of shale and of sandstone layers that carry large and small waterworn pebbles. Next above lies the Big seam, approximately 17 feet thick, above which these is about 38 feet of red sandstone that carries small quartz pebbles, the lower 14 feet of which has yellow shale about equal in amount to sandstone. About 30 feet still higher is the "Pentamerus"-bearing bed (Hickory Nut seam), a ferruginous sandstone full of casts of the interiors of the big brachiopod "Pentamerus oblongus." There is still about 70 feet more of sandstone, largely reddish, and shale to the top of the Red Mountain formation, making a total thickness in this part of Red Mountain of about 260 feet.
- [...]The most interesting and valuable feature of the Red Mountain formation is its iron ore, which is the chief cornerstone of Alabama's industrial structure. Although ore of good quality and of workable thickness occurs elsewhere, as at Attalla and on the Red Mountain along the west side of Murphrees Valley, the main deposit, the Big seam, lies under Shades Valley and the part of the Cahaba coal field southeast of that part of Red Mountain which extends from a point a mile or two southwest of Bessemer to Morrow Gap about 8 miles northeast of Birmingham.
- [...]The Red Mountain ores are known as a red fossil ore, because originally the iron accumulated in extensive beds of fragments of fossils, principally the hard parts of crinoids, bryozoans, and brachiopods. The iron, from solution in some form, was precipitated upon and within these beds of fossil fragments and thus the ore beds are simply a particular kind of sedimentary layers inclosed [sic] in ordinary sediments, shales and sandstones, composing the bulk of the Red Mountain formation. As the fossil fragments were composed of calcium carbonate, which is the mineral that forms limestone, the iron ore beds at depth, where they are unweathered and where there has been no condition that permitted leaching of the lime content, carry a considerable percentage of lime, so that the ore is self-fluxing. Another type of ore is oolite ore, in which the iron oxide occurs in the form of small lenticular pellets. The precipitation of the iron that forms this ore started around some minute particle like a small grain of sand or fragment of fossil and built up a small lenticular body. The two kinds of ore are more or less mixed or one or the other may predominate in a particular layer of ore. - Geology of Alabama (1926)
The proximity of Red Mountain's ore to nearby sources of coal and limestone was the impetus to develop and promote Birmingham as an industrial site. The mountain developed a symbolic place as the source of wealth in the region and was even portrayed as a character in pageants sponsored by the steel companies in their company towns. It slopes served as the site for large estates and upper-class developments which offered cool breezes and a panoramic view of the growing industrial city from above the constant layer of thick black smoke.
As the steel furnaces modernized, it became more economical to purchase pelletized ore from distant sources than to continue mining ore from Red Mountain.
Red Mountain served as a natural promontory for Birmingham's radio and television stations, and a setting for noteworthy nightspots "The Club" and "Baby Doe's Matchless Mine."
Adams, George I.; Butts, Charles; Stephenson, L. W.; & Cooke, Wythe (1926). Geology of Alabama. Geological Survey of Alabama, Special Report No. 14. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press.
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