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Roger Weller, geology instructor

Phelps Dodge
by Robert Hardy
Physical Geology
Fall 2007

Phelps Dodge Corporation

            Phelps Dodge Corporation got its start from trading cotton for metal with England.  This trading arrangement came about because the United States was in need of metal to supply the revolutions of the time.  The company started around 1834 and grew during the industrial and information technology revolutions.  Phelps Dodge started to expand and when they did they found greater revenue possible through mining natural resources directly in the United States instead of having to rely on trading with Europe for minerals.  Their first major money making mineral was copper mined primarily in Arizona and New Mexico.  This resource was used to provide companies with copper wire and cables for the Industrial Revolution.  Once they realized that they needed to move the minerals they were mining in the west to customers in the east and northeast they started to build their own railways in order to make a profit.  As Phelps Dodge was growing and expanding they staked a claim in the lumber and lumber products industry which furthered their expansion.  Phelps Dodge is still a large contender in today’s mineral and metal market with mines not only in the United States but expansion in South America; they also have a division of the company which provides the largest amount of Molybdenum in the world.


Mines in Bisbee

            There may not be many tourists who visit Bisbee, but that is not because it is not a beautiful or interesting place to visit it just is too far out of the way of the Grand Canyon.  It is much recommended to visit though if any tourists are in the general area because of the significance it has had over the years and because it is just the place to see.  Not only copper came out of the mines in Bisbee, however, that was just the most prominent resource.  Along with the massive amounts of copper were gold, silver, zinc and lead.  In pounds, though, copper far exceeded these minerals coming to about one billion pounds.  If you had that much copper you would be rich! The Copper Queen mine is just used as a visitation site so that people can go through and see what miners experienced while the mine was still active.  This is because it closed down in 1975 since it no longer produced the copper it once did.  The tour is very interesting to go through, try to bring someone who is not afraid of the dark if you ever get a chance to visit.


The Owners of the Copper Queen

            The actual prospectors who discovered the copper in Bisbee were Hugh Jones, Joseph Halcro, and Harry McCoy.  They noticed a residue on the rocks that looked almost like rust and this was literally how Bisbee was put on the map because before this there was no reasons to even acknowledge this small town.  These prospectors made a claim and a year later another pair of young men staked a claim.  After that more and more claims were made to this mine but the name Copper Queen stuck which was given to the site by Marcus Herring.  Once more people found out about the mine, a mining camp came about and was named Mule Gulch.  The mine went back and forth between new owners.  Phelps Dodge first checked out the mine and rejected the offer made to them to buy the mine at a cost of one million dollars.  Once the mine hit a rough patch they reoffered and this time it was more to Phelps Dodge’s liking and they bought out most of the shares.  Once they had this mine they continued to buy more and more mines in the district and by 1889 the railroad had finally made its way into Bisbee.   The Bisbee mines kept producing and turned this small town into a company town which was much in part to the influence of Phelps Dodge.  They helped get the railroads there and provided many jobs for the residents, which is why more people came to Bisbee. 



Miners in Bisbee

Factors of the Past

            In 1853 Phelps died and left 15 percent of the company to a son-in-law and 25 percent to two older son-in-laws.  After some reorganization the company increased its capitalization and focused on improving some of its departments like mining and lumber industries.  In 1917 there was a strike that the miners had conducted due to working conditions and salary concerns.  This was during the depression when a lot of ore was needed for bullets and copper was needed for communication lines.  The miners’ issues were resolved and they went back to work.  By the end of World War 1 the demand for copper was reduced.  Phelps Dodge started research and development for new uses of the minerals they were mining as well as started to export some of the ore they had mined.  Even though there was a lack in purchases of copper in comparison to days past, Arizona Mining Company was still purchased to join the Phelps Dodge family.  With prices being down on copper the company really took a financial hit in 1929.  The year after the chief executive of the company, Walter Douglas, resigned.  Louis S. Cates next took over the helm and revamped much of the company.  Cates expanded and consolidated the companies under Phelps Dodge and created a better image for the future.


Bisbee Mines



            Phelps Dodge helped develop many southwestern towns like Bisbee, Arizona by creating needed jobs for miners.  They provided also much of the copper and other metals needed for our nation to progress and thrive through the Industrial Revolution.  Their influence helped develop railways throughout the United States.  Phelps Dodge had some rough patches but evolved with the times and survived a changing market and economy.  During this time it overall seems to have been a great company and still is considered so today.  Phelps Dodge Corporation was purchased by Freeport-McMoRan on March 19, 2007 for 25.9 billion in cash and stocks making it a great investment and testimony to their diversity in changing times.  They still provide wanted jobs and are finding new ways to use the products they are generating.  I enjoyed learning about how much this company has done and I hope that this information is helpful to anyone who may read it. 


When Phelps dodge took over they increased profits.


Works Cited, Phelps Dodge, November 30, 2007,

Gary Speck, The Copper Queen of Southeast Arizona, Bisbee, AZ, March 19, 2005, ~gtusa/usa/az/bisbee.htm

Phelps Dodge, Phelps Dodge Mining, December 1, 2007, /AboutUs/OurCompanies/Mining


Queen Mine Tours, Bisbee Arizona, November 30, 2007,


UA press, Vision and Enterprise, 2005,  http://www.uapress.arizona.   edu/BOOKS/bid1349.htm


Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, December 1, 2007