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Bisbee Tours - Things To Do In Bisbee AZ - Bisbee Mine Tour - Bisbee History Tour

The edge of the Holbrook Extension and the Lavender Pit is seen upon entering Bisbee on US Highway 80. The geographical sequence is Bucky ONeil Hill, Holbrook Extension, Sacramento Pit, and the Lavender Pit.

red hills by the lavender pit seen past chihuahua hill and the green bucky oneil hill with gray us highway 80 running between them

The rich underground copper mines with high-grade copper ore were depleted by 1950 but they were surrounded by huge amounts of low-grade copper ore. At that time, ore with 5% copper was needed to make mining profitable. The low-grade copper ore in Bisbee was only 2% copper.

The silver or gray dirt is the low-grade copper ore that's visible today in the open pits.

gray copper ore dirt with orange red overburdern above it with some yellow rocks

Carl Trischka was the chief engineer for Phelps Dodge Corporation in Bisbee AZ and with Harrison Lavender's support and direction, created the mining method that made the Bisbee East Ore Body profitable. Harrison Lavender, the Vice President of Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation was the driving force behind the development of the Bisbee East Ore Body.

bronze harrison lavender plaque mounted on square piece of copper ore with chain link fence and lavender pit in the background

The houses in the communities of Jiggerville, Johnson Addition, Mason Addition, and Upper Lowell were removed from the foundations and relocated to other locations within city limits. The new locations are called Saginaw, Bakerville, and the east part of Galena. 

Galena's development started in 1942 with mining and soldier housing built by Phelps Dodge. The transplanted houses from Mason Addition were built around 1900 and were much older than Galena's other structures. A visitor might think the older houses were the start of Galena when in fact, they arrived 9 years later.

The street next to all of the Mason Addition houses is named Mason Addition Road in the old communities honor. It's the only road in Galena not named after a former mine.

white map with animated streets in gray lines and thick yellow line for us highway 92 for galena az

Your tour guide's family moved from Central Texas to Upper Lowell in 1913 to work for the Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation at the Lowell Mine.

The overburden removal of the East Ore Body started and open pit mining in Bisbee was underway in 1951. In fact, the southeastern overburden removed next to Erie street in Lowell AZ is the only place where Bisbee Blue Turquoise was discovered. The miners didn't know what the blue ore was so they sent most of it to the tailing pile called Dump 7.

One of your tour guide's high school buddies would jump the fence of Dump 7 at midnight which was Phelps Dodge's Security Shift Change hour. He spent one year collecting as much turquoise as he could find and sold it to buy a brand-new Mustang in 1981.

US Highway 80 started to sink on the soft turquoise ore so the road was secured with gravel and a small landslide can be seen on the edge of the Lavender Pit by Erie Street because of the soft turquoise ore.. 

Notable underground mines removed by the open pits include the Lowell Mine, the Hoatson Mine, the Oliver Mine, the Sacramento Mine, the Gardner Mine, the Irish Mag Mine, the Spray Mine, the Holbrook Mines, and the Czar Mine.

The parking lot along the pit is known as a tourist stop for viewing today but it was intended and used by locals to watch the dynamite explosions at 3:15 pm during mining operations. In fact, your tour guide watched a few explosions as a kid but mostly watched the windows rattle at Lowell School when the blasts went off. The blasts were preceded by a 3:05 pm honk that was the ten-minute warning.

The tailings on the edge of the open pits are from the rich underground mines that populated the valley and would be a treasure if rock hounds could get to them.

brown tailings sitting on the top of the lavender pit

The mining process involved clearing the overburden, blasting the ore with dynamite, and delivering the ore to the concrete conveyor belt area.  The base of the conveyor had a pre-crusher for the ore and ore cars on a railway. The conveyor delivered pre-crushed ore to the concentrator across US Highway 80, and the ore cars delivered the waste rock to Dump 7.

The concentrator crushed the ore into a powder where it was mixed with a recipe of chemicals or oxygen designed to extract the copper. The copper sludge was transferred between thickening ponds before being sent to the Douglas Smelter.

On April 5, 1917, the Sacramento Pit started and reached a depth of 770 ft. The Sacramento Pit sits between the other two open pits. It is known for untimely dynamite explosions, deaths, and the discovery of multiple glory holes near its base. The glory holes produced 358,144,662 pounds of copper, 1,365,191 ounces of silver, and 54,234 ounces of gold.

The foundations from the community of Jiggerville are still present on the east side of US Highway 80. The houses of Jiggerville, Johnson Addition, Mason Addition, and Upper Lowell were picked off the foundations and moved to different parts of Bisbee AZ.

The houses were easy to move because all the water pipes into the home were in the attic. Earl Hindman, also known as "Wilson" in the sitcom Home Improvement, grew up in Jiggerville AZ.