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Roger Weller, geology instructor

Copper Mining
by Caitlyn Chavez
Physical Geology
Spring 2016



     Being born and raised into a family of miners, the topic of mining and the production of copper was always very interesting to me.  Born in Morenci Arizona, where if not all but most of my family at least once in their life were miners and have spent most of their time mining for copper.  Morenci is a small town nestled away in between ruby red hills and has a small population of a little over 3,000.  In 1874, Metcalf was the first copper industry to take place in Morenci.  The company was operated by having steep inclines where donkeys and mules would haul carts lugged down with ore from the mine to Chase Creek. The Morenci mine is one the biggest copper operations in the U.S..   


     Copper is a reddish brown nonferrous mineral which has been used for thousands of years by many cultures. The metal is closely related with silver and gold, with many properties being shared among these metals.  Modern life has a number of applications for copper, ranging from coins to pigments, and demand for the metal remains high, especially in industrialized nations. (

     Not long after the mine was using donkeys, smelters and trains were introduced to the operation.  Smelters burned the copper concentrated to get pure copper. With the new equipment business was being ran at a much faster and productive rate.  The railroads continue to operate until 1937, when overburden stripping began. “Discover Mining History with the Mining History Association,” (


     Throughout the operation of copper mining the price of copper has always fluctuated.  In January of 1889 copper prices were up $1.50 per pound by 1994 copper prices were less than a dollar.  In 2008 copper was hitting an all-time high at a rate at right under $4.00.  Less than a year later in 2009 copper dropped way down to right under $1.50 a pound.  In the years to follow prices went back up and then steadily decreased in 2012.  Today copper is selling right around $2.50 a pound. (

     With the pricing in copper always going up and down it is hard to determine how well the mine will do during that year.  Working in a copper mine has its pros and cons right along with any other job.   When copper is up high, workers can expect a big bonus coming their way, but when copper is down miners start to fear of losing their job. 


     The Morenci mine alone has over fifteen different career paths that people can choose from.  They range from electrical engineers, mining engineers, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, geologist, shaft miners, production miners, mechanics, safety advisors, environmental technicians, and many more.

     Copper can be processed in multiple ways, but the most common way is leaching.  “Sulphuric ores of copper are insoluble in dilute sulphuric acid leaching solution, but a very high extraction can be obtained if the copper ore is in the oxidized condition. Copper sulphate is soluble in water, so acid will be saved in the leaching process if copper sulphide is present.” (Greenough, Jack S., "The Recovery of Copper in Sulphide Ores by Roasting, Leaching, and Electrolysis" (1932).Bachelors Theses and Reports, 1928 - 1970.Paper 21.)



     In conclusion, copper mining is one of the biggest corporations.  It has helped out our economy tremendously.  Supplying countless jobs and a product that will always be in demand.  It has endured highs and lows such as the Great Depression and many other times the economy was not at its best.  Copper mining has been the heart and passion of so many people my family included.  The mine has supported my family for generations and has never failed to provide a future for so many peers of mine. The mine has changed my mind set on hard work to a whole new level.  The mine is a nonstop operation.  That means every day and every minute copper is being pulled out of the earth.  There are no days off somebody is constantly mining, day and night.






"What Is Copper?" WiseGEEK. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016. 

Greenough, Jack S., "The Recovery of Copper in Sulphide Ores by Roasting, Leaching, and Electrolysis" (1932).Bachelors Theses and Reports, 1928 - 1970.Paper 21.)

"Arizona Mine Tour." Arizona Mine Tour. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016. 

“Copper Pricing.”