Friday, April 13, 2007

Copper Is Hot Again!

That's the big story in today's AzRepublic business section. When Phelps Dodge and BHP closed their mines over in the Miami-Globe area of the state at the recent turn of the century, copper was selling for a mere 65 cents/pound. Thanks to big demand primarily from China, the price has risen as high as $4 and is currently at $3.25. Time to reopen some mines, say the big companies. So what does this have to do with Prescott, you might ask. Let me count the ways, starting with the simple fact that we do live in copper country.

#1. There's Bagdad (above), only 60 miles west of town, which never closed, even during the bleakest days for mining. #2. There's the Zonia, south of town in Peeples Valley east of SR89; this smaller open pit was still being maintained when we moved into the area back in the early 80s. It's changed hands a couple of times; the current Canadian owners are considering reopening.

Before I continue with speculation (#3 & #4), let's pause for a moment in Bagdad. That house-sized machine above is just one of the sights you might see if the annual mine tour is offered this year. Take a careful look at the open pit at the top of this page; you'll see tiny vehicles on the roads; they are the size of this behemouth! If you don't get the opportunity to visit the mine, go to this site for a picture tour (BTW, it's the source for the picture above.)

How serious is mining in Yavapai County? Answer: the ad above ran in today's Courier; I've seen help wanted ads for Bagdad several Sundays. And these just happen to be probably the best paying jobs in the county for skilled workers.

But I said I'd speculate. PD owns more than the Bagdad mine complex. Remember Jerome, #3? As far as I've heard, the huge mining company has never relinquished ownership of the mine(s) or the entire town, for that matter. I'm sure that this is not for sentimental reasons.

And #4? Well, Copper Basin Road is named that for a reason. Travel the road west over the ridge and you're right there, in the Copper Basin. Also owned by PD; in fact, this is where Phelps Dodge got its start. Back in the early 80s, there was more than a bit of a kerfluffle when PD and the Forest Service proposed a land trade which would have upped PD's local holdings. The trade didn't happen. Instead of a compact open-pit, out-of-sight eyesore offering hi-pay jobs, we've lost thousands of square miles to development and gained who knows how many bottom-of-the-barrel retail "positions." But that property is still in PD's hands; who knows what the future will bring.

Note: To learn more about mining in Yavapai County, here are some sites to visit. Sharlot Hall Museum has an archive of mining photographs as well as an article about the history of Bagdad. Another collection of info about Bagdad is here. A quick review of Jerome history will be found at this site. And The Google sent me to Amazon for a book, After the Boom in Tombstone and Jerome.


Anonymous said...

The price of copper has caused a lot of things with coper wire inside to go missing. I recall something about the copper in a penny being worth more if it was melted down. But that is against the law.

Granny J said...

We're hearing about copper theft all over the USA. Some foolish thieves have died trying to steal the copper at power installations.

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