Mineral Rights, The Old Copper Plant, and the Tennessee Copper Company

Our MLS includes the adjacent area of Polk County, Tennessee including Copperhill, Ducktown, and Turtletown. Our buyers often ask about this area, because prices are relatively low there and Tennessee currently has no state income tax. There is some very attractive property there, particularly around Campbell Cove Lake and in the more outlying areas.

The Tennessee Copper Company operated for a number of years in Copperhill (copper was actually discovered in the area before the Civil War). You pass the site on Highway 68, just north of Copperhill. The company, as it is known locally, stopped smelting copper around the year I came, 1986. They kept making sulphuric acid until a few years ago, when the acid plant was sold to a Brazilian firm. It is my understanding that the successor company is currently operating under a consent decree from the EPA, which in effect allows them to continue to make some product or products while cleaning up the site. A great deal of progress has been made in cleaning up the site to date, and fish are returning to the once barren Ocoee River. But I still think that buyers who are interested in this area need to inform themselves and make a personal decision as to whether they feel comfortable buying in the immediate vicinity.

Along with the environmental issues is the fact that the sale of most of the property in this area does not include the mineral rights. This information should be disclosed on the seller’s disclosure for the property, but there will not be a disclosure in the case of a foreclosure sale. (Sellers are aware that this is a negative, and they are not be overly eager to make sure that buyers understand the situation.) It is my understanding that the mineral rights for the affected properties are held by an outfit called Cities Services. To the best of my current knowledge, for the payment of a fee, they will release all of the rights except the hydrocarbons, which in this case means coal.

Prospective buyers of affected Tennessee property should inform themselves and decide whether they are concerned or not. Many people who have bought or built homes in this area are not concerned, but each buyer should make that decision for him or herself.

12/10/12

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