True Pigments, LLC, a social enterprise of Rural Action, and Gamblin Artists Colors have released a set of paints called Reclaimed Earth Colors. The paints are made with pigment that was derived from iron oxide extracted from Sunday Creek in a process that cleans the waterway of acid mine drainage.

The set costs $39 plus tax and shipping, and you’ll know your money is helping to clean our waterways.

Each box set includes three colors made from acid mine drainage: Brown Ochre, Rust Red, and Iron Violet. It comes with a ready-to-use primed painting surface crafted from sustainably harvested North American birch. Learn more about this special oil set here.

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At True Pigments, we are utilizing innovative technology to revitalize streams devastated by historic coal mining in Central Appalachia, taking a waste product and turning it into a commodity that will pay for the restoration of streams that have long been impacted by acid mine drainage (AMD). Our goal is to bring life back to these impacted streams while making the U.S. iron pigment supply chain more sustainable. Our technology and process can curb carbon emissions by creating a source of domestic iron oxide pigment production, decreasing the amount of iron needing to be mined or created through synthetic processes around the world. True Pigments was founded as a social enterprise of Rural Action in 2019, after years of research and collaboration with public institutions. Through our efforts, we are turning the environmental destruction of yesterday’s extractive industries into vibrant and regenerative environments and economies for the future, creating colors for a cleaner world. Rural Action is a regional community development organization working on a range of quality of life, environmental, and economic projects across rural Appalachian Ohio. Its mission is to build a more just economy by developing the region’s assets in socially, financially, and environmentally sustainable ways.


Three pigments are currently being produced in small batches. These pigments were developed in partnership with Gamblin Artists Colors and used in oil paints for fine art. The three shades include yellow (Goethite), red (Hematite), and violet (Hematite II). As we continue building more relationships with product manufacturers, we may produce additional shades using our natural, sustainable process. Our natural methods of color creation include harvesting the pigment in an environmentally friendly manner, air drying, and in some cases heating the pigment to produce various shades with the consistency necessary for industrial applications.


The United States iron oxide pigments industry is valued at $335 million, and the U.S. uses about 240,000 tons of pigment each year, much of it imported from China. With our first plant, we will produce 1% of that consumption with a natural, sustainable process. Within three years, we anticipate being engaged in a region-wide marketing campaign to replace imported, mined iron oxide pigment with our U.S. produced pigments in the paint, concrete, and construction industries.

Drastic changes in industrial supply chains need to be made to avoid the most severe climate change scenarios. The location of our first plant in southern Ohio positions us close to many major metropolitan markets including New York City, Boston, Washington DC, Nashville, Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Louisville, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, reducing the overall carbon footprint of manufactured goods in these areas.

With success, our efforts will result in increased demand for our domestic pigment, supporting the expansion of new facilities at additional sites. Crucially, this shift will decrease environmental impacts associated with mining iron oxide, lowering GHG emissions, and will create jobs in rural communities in Central Appalachia.



Acid mine drainage (AMD) impacts thousands of miles of streams across Appalachia. Approximately 6,650 stream miles are affected in Central Appalachia including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Although most of the mines that caused this drainage were long ago abandoned, this legacy of pollution is expected to continue for decades, creating polluted streams throughout economically depressed communities with few career opportunities for the current generation of families living in this region.

The Truetown Discharge, located in the Sunday Creek watershed in Athens County, is the largest single AMD discharge in the state of Ohio with a flow rate of nearly 1,000 gallons per minute. Approximately 2.2 million pounds of iron is deposited into Sunday Creek each year. Through an engineered biochemical process, this polluted water yields a commercial grade iron pigment, producing a valuable commodity that will pay for the stream restoration, create jobs in rural communities and fund additional watershed restoration projects throughout the Central Appalachian region.

This iron load reduction, along with improvements in pH from the treatment process, would mitigate nearly all the impact of the Truetown Discharge on Sunday Creek. Currently, seven miles of Sunday Creek is severely impaired from the site of the Truetown Discharge to the confluence with the Hocking River. The impact of the Truetown Discharge on Sunday Creek is evident in the lack of high-quality biological communities and diversity. Because this stretch of stream is connected to the Hocking River, this will likely increase the rate of recovery, as the Hocking River supports a diverse community of fish species that would be able to migrate up into Sunday Creek once the water quality improves.


True Pigments uses a patent-pending technology that is superior to other options for treating highly concentrated acid mine drainage (AMD) from mine seeps. Currently, the most common treatment options in Ohio are steel slag leach beds and lime dosers. These systems provide alkalinity to neutralize acidity from the pollution, however, due to prohibitive space requirements and high long-term costs of storing and disposing of treatment sludge, most traditional AMD treatment options are unable to remove the metals from the sludge.

Neutralization of the acid can provide significant benefits to streams, but in the immediate vicinity of the treatment, large quantities of metals accumulate, smothering habitat and leaving a localized, heavily polluted area of no recovery. Currently, the cost of collecting and disposing of those metals is cost-prohibitive. The greatest benefit of our pigment technology is enabling the removal of iron pollution, so not only is the acid neutralized, but the tons of metal precipitates are kept out of the streams. Through the sale of the iron oxide, water treatment costs are offset, leaving the stream with a neutral pH which is beneficial to aquatic life and our ultimate goal of stream restoration that pays for itself.

Additionally, our process utilizes native iron-oxidizing bacteria that accelerate the process of removing the iron oxide pigment from the stream water, increasing the efficiency of the treatment process. The technology we have developed can be replicated at facilities across Central Appalachia or other AMD impacted communities in the Western United States, with the potential to create additional profitable business ventures. Other companies use passive systems such as settling ponds to precipitate iron out of mine water, then harvest the iron oxide. Our technology is much different, operating more like a wastewater treatment system than a traditional acid mine drainage treatment system. Using our technology, we can harvest large amounts of iron and treat large amounts of water with relatively small space requirements when compared with passive systems.


In three years, the first full-scale True Pigments facility will be operational and cash-flow positive. Based on projections and previous pilot studies, the plant will treat approximately 1.4 million gallons of AMD per day and will produce 2.2 million pounds of sustainable iron oxide pigment per year. We plan to employ at least five people with living wages and full benefits. This project alone will double the annual payroll of the Millfi eld zip code, creating a noticeable positive impact on the local economy.

Once the first full-scale True Pigments facility is operational, we will begin researching the next top 10 mine discharges from abandoned coal mines where the AMD has similar chemistry, making them feasible sites for additional facilities. This technology will be able to be replicated at other large mine discharge sites across the country, specifically in coal-bearing regions like Central Appalachia, Wyoming, and other areas across the United States. Once the business is stable and repaying its start-up debt, we aim to use the surplus from operations (net income) to fund additional stream restoration projects previously considered not feasible by the State of Ohio due to cost and limited budgets.

These projects will be within the Ohio River Basin in Appalachian Ohio and will help us on our path to fulfilling our ultimate goal of stream restoration.



The efforts that led to the creation of True Pigments would not have been possible without the support and collaboration of many entities over the years. Our collaborators include Ohio University, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Sugar Bush Foundation, Richard Dickerson, and the Village of Corning, Ohio.


If you would like to discuss investing in True Pigments, purchasing our product, our patent-pending technology, or our stream restoration efforts, call us at 740-767-4938 or email Michelle Shively at to get started.