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The St. Francois Mountains in southeast Missouri are a range of Precambrian igneous mountains rising over the Ozark Plateau. This range is one of the oldest exposures of igneous rock in North America. The St. Francois Mountains were formed by volcanic and intrusive activity 1.485 billion years ago. By comparison, the Appalachians started forming about 460 million years ago, and the Rockies a mere 140 million years ago. When the Appalachians started forming, the St. Francois range was already twice as old as the Appalachians are today.

These ancient mountains may be the only area in the American Midwest never to have been submerged, (as evidenced by the lack of marine fossils) existing as an island archipelago in the Paleozoic seas. Fossilized coral, the remains of ancient reefs, can be found among the rocks around the flanks of the mountains. These ancient reef complexes formed the localizing structures for the mineralizing fluids that resulted in the rich ore deposits of the area.

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