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Lavender Pit


gray and brown dirt cut out of a valley in an open mine pit
Lavender Pit

Bisbee, Arizona is home to a significant historical landmark, the Lavender Pit. Located along State Route 80, the pit is visible from the road and is one of the stops on the Big Jeep Tours. The geographical sequence of the area consists of Bucky O'Neil Hill, Holbrook Extension, Sacramento Pit, and the Lavender Pit.

The Lavender Pit is an open-pit copper mine that was once home to rich underground copper mines with high-grade copper ore. However, by 1950, the high-grade copper was depleted, and the mine was left with low-grade copper ore, which made mining unprofitable. The low-grade copper ore in Bisbee had only 2% copper, which was not enough to sustain mining operations.​

The mine was brought back to life thanks to Carl Trischka, the chief engineer for Phelps Dodge Corporation in Bisbee, Arizona, and Harrison Lavender, the Vice President of Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation. The two developed a mining method that made the Bisbee East Ore Body profitable. The mining operations required the removal of entire communities such as Jiggerville, Johnson Addition, Mason Addition, and Upper Lowell. These communities were relocated within the city limits to new locations called Saginaw, Bakerville, and the east part of Galena.​

The mining operations also gave birth to Galena, which was built in 1942 by Phelps Dodge as housing for the miners and soldiers. One street in Galena is lined with the Mason Addition houses and is named Mason Addition Road in honor of the old community. It is the only road in Galena that is not named after a former mine.​

Open-pit mining in Bisbee, Arizona started in 1951 with the removal of the overburden of the East Ore Body. Notable underground mines that were 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 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.​

The Lavender Pit is now a tourist attraction and a significant stop on the Big Jeep Tours. The parking lot along the pit was initially used by locals to watch the dynamite explosions at 3:15 pm during mining operations. Tourists can now stop by to view the pit and learn about the mining history, Lavender Pit overlook, Lavender Pit geology, Lavender Pit mining operations, Lavender Pit copper mining, and the Bisbee mining district of the area.​

Dump 7 is a complex part of the area. The east side of the tailings is the purple overburden that holds Bisbee Blue Turquoise. The west side of the tailing is the waste dirt from deeper in the open pits and still holds some copper ore or malachite. The top of Dump 7 has more than 50 leaching ponds on its top surface, and the local mining company harvests 0.05% copper, generating approximately $1,000,000 annually.​

In conclusion, the Lavender Pit is a historical landmark that tells the story of the rich copper mining history of Bisbee, Arizona. The attraction is now a popular tourist stop on the Big Jeep Tours, where visitors can learn about the mining history, Lavender Pit history, Lavender Pit overlook, Lavender Pit geology, Lavender Pit mining operations, Lavender Pit copper mining, and view the open-pit mine.

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