Building True Pigments: Acid Mine Drainage to Pigment Project

Project led by Rural Action

About the project.

The legacy of coal mining runs deep here in Southeast Ohio. Abandoned coal mines dot the landscape here and drainage from those mines affects thousands of stream miles throughout Ohio and the rest of Central Appalachia. Although most of the mines that caused this drainage were long ago abandoned, water flowing from these mines pollutes local streams with metals like iron and aluminum and high acidity that make it almost impossible for fish and aquatic bugs to survive. These orange streams flow through old mining towns that have struggled to find new economic opportunities since the coal companies left. True Pigments has created a proprietary technology that cleans these streams by transforming the pollutants into vibrant pigments for paint and other products through a process that neutralizes the acidity in the water and collects iron oxide. We’re actually able to turn the pollutant – generally considered a waste product – into a valuable commodity that we can sell in multiple market sectors! At True Pigments we’re committed to creating colors for a cleaner world. Our first full-scale facility will be built at the Truetown Discharge and will clean up more than seven miles of Sunday Creek!

Our work rests on a strong foundation of more than 25 years of partnership between Rural Action, Ohio University, state and federal agencies, and local foundations. Through this public/private partnership, our team blends our unique experiences and expertise to create an enterprise that sits at the confluence of watershed restoration, environmental engineering, social enterprise, and art. Currently we can make three distinct colors of iron oxide pigment — yellow ochre, rusty red, and a lovely earth violet — for use as artist-grade paints, and adding value to products including concrete, bricks, ceramic glazes, and even agricultural fertilizers and cosmetics.

FAO staff comments.

True Pigments is a perfect example of what social enterprise – entities deriving earned revenue while creating social and environmental good – can do for Appalachian Ohio. Uniting the expertise of Ohio University faculty members and Rural Action’s decades of experience to build a more just economy by developing the region’s assets in environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways, True Pigments is turning the legacy of acid mine drainage into a new story and area of opportunity for the region. The technology developed by this team is turning iron oxide into a value-added product, painting a new canvas of what is possible in the region.

Project Status
Areas of Investment
Environmental Stewardship
Funds Raised

Dollars will support Rural Action and the Building True Pigments: Acid Mine Drainage to Pigment Project.

Every $500 raised through Cause Connector will activate a $500 bonus for the project from the Flournoy family, up to a goal of $10,000!

Benefits 5 counties
  • Athens
  • Hocking
  • Meigs
  • Morgan
  • Washington

Want to learn more?

Connect with Rural Action:

Contact FAO at 740.753.1111 or with any questions.

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