Sunday, June 3, 2012

World's First Two Open-Pit Copper Mines

   This 1909 photo shows the Boston Con Open-Pit Mine on the top of the Copper Hill and the Utah Copper Open-Pit Mine at the bottom with an unmined area between the two open-pit mines. The Utah Copper can't, for much longer, continue to mine without undermining the overlying levels of the Boston Con. In 1910 the two companies merged and retained the name of the "Utah Copper Company". The Utah Copper, from 1910 on, could rightfully claim the title of the world's first open-pit copper mine. After the merger the Utah Copper steam shovels quickly dug levels across the previously unmined area so that "The Hill" soon had levels from top to bottom.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Utah Copper Startup of Open-Pit Mine - August 1906

     This picture shows the August 1906 startup of the Utah Copper’s large-scale open-pit copper mine operation at the bottom of “The Copper Hill”. The Boston Con had started their operation near the top of “The Hill” five months earlier. Two steam shovels can be seen. Note the narrow levels away from the shovels – they had been dug by smaller equipment; the shovels themselves had excavated wider levels and higher banks in their immediate vicinity.
     The entry to the Utah Copper’s underground test mine is near the canyon bottom below the steam shovel operations. Ore from the test mine was sent to the 300-ton-per-day Copperton test mill that was just below the mouth of Dry Fork.The results of the ore grade and tonnage and of the milling tests from the test mine were positive; they led to the development of the open-pit mine.
     The roadway along the canyon bottom connected the main part of Bingham with Upper Bingham (Copperfield).
     The Utah Copper open-pit mine rapidly expanded from this relatively small operation. Additional levels were developed from which waste rock was stripped and ore was mined. Other levels were constructed in all directions for the transport and dumping of waste rock; several bridges (or trestles) were built to provide access to the East side of the canyon.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Boston Con First Steam Shovel On the Bingham Copper Mine - March 1906

This picture shows the March 16, 1906 startup of the world's first large-scale open-pit copper mine -- the Boston Con's Bingham Canyon, Utah mine. The Boston Con started its operation as an underground mine from which ore was extracted to prove the grade and tonnage of the orebody and also for determine the best methods for milling the ore. Note the area near the center of the picture that caved in to the older underground workings. This mine level was partially dug by horse-drawn scrapers and manpower to make room for the tracks and for the steam shovel to begin the large-scale mining operation.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Boston Con - 2012 Calendar - Cover

By R. Eldon Bray – July 2011

            The Boston Consolidated Mining Co’s Bingham Canyon, Utah mine was the world’s first large-scale open-pit copper mining operation. It utilized steam shovels to produce 3,000 tons of copper ore each day.
The Boston Con was also the highest-in-elevation community in Bingham Canyon. In the early days of underground mining in the canyon, prior to the widespread use of automobiles, the movement of people (and delivery of groceries) was limited to walking or riding horses or wagons. The workers at individual mines that were far from the main part of town were forced by necessity to live adjacent to the mine, usually in buildings that were constructed and owned by the mining company. The name of the community was generally known by the name of the mine; hence the title of “The Boston Con” was used for both the mine and for the adjacent community.
The Boston Con began open-pit mining with a steam shovel on the upper part of the “Copper Hill” in Bingham Canyon on March 16, 1906. Five months later, in August of 1906, the Utah Copper Company began its first steam shovel operations on the bottom of the Copper Hill. The mining operations of both companies successfully demonstrated the economic feasibility of open-pit steam shovel mining of low-grade copper ores.
The portion of The Hill below the levels of the Boston Con and above the mine levels of the Utah Copper remained relatively untouched for several years but it was obvious that, if the Utah Copper operations continued, they would soon undermine the levels of the Boston Con. In 1910 the problem was resolved by the merger of the two companies. The merged company retained the name of the Utah Copper Company. After the merger the Utah Copper steam shovels quickly dug levels across the previously unmined area so that The Hill soon had levels from top to bottom. After the merger the title of “The first large-scale open-pit copper mining operation in the world” was attributed to the Utah Copper but the Boston Con undoubtedly held that title for the first few years of its operations.
Both the Boston Con and the Utah Copper first started their operations on The Copper Hill with underground mines through which they proved out the tonnage and grade of the immense copper orebody and from which they extracted ore for their test mills. The Boston Con had two mines – one a high-grade sulphide mine and the other a lower-grade porphyry mine. The high-grade sulphide ore was shipped directly to the Garfield Smelting Company. The porphyry mine became a commercial high-tonnage underground mine that shipped ore to the 3000 tons-per-day Arthur mill, construction of which was started in 1907. After the advent of its large-scale open-cut operations the Boston Con’s underground operations were phased out. The Utah Copper also phased out its underground mine and increased the capacity of its Copperton test mill (just below Dry Fork) from 300 tpd to 900 tpd and then replaced it with a 6000 tpd mill in Magna, construction of which was started in 1906. The Utah Copper’s Magna mill, with an earlier construction start, was completed before the Boston Con’s Arthur mill. In later years the output of the mine and the capacity of the Arthur and Magna mills were both increased considerably.
The Boston Con community, at an elevation of about 7300 feet, was the uppermost community of any size in Bingham Canyon. It was built on the northwest side of The Copper Hill near the underground (and later open-pit) mine and was accessed by a road from Highland Boy. It provided housing for the miners and for many of their families. The open-pit mining activities of the Utah Copper, as the years passed, either dug away the community or covered it over with waste dumps. Few people living today (2011) can remember seeing the Boston Con community or even know where it used to be. A 1929 photo and maps show bunk houses, shops, and other buildings of the Boston Con on the eastern slope of Log Fork several hundred feet above the Highland Boy mine and the south end of J-Bridge.
Another Boston Con landmark was the 110-foot high, 3000-ton-capacity, cylindrical ore bin at the foot of the 2100-foot long double tramway down which the sulphide ore from high on the mountain was lowered 900 feet vertically. The top of the tramway was nearly a mile around The Hill to the east of the Boston Con town and a shorter distance to the northeast of the Boston Con mine. The foot of the tramway and the ore bin were located at approximately the elevation of the Utah Copper’s A-level (about 6350 feet) on the southeast side of Carr Fork down the canyon from the Apex mine, almost across from the B&G-to-Apex trestle. Construction of the tram and ore bin was completed in 1907. The Boston Con Company also had an underground mine adit and small sample mill near the bottom of the main Bingham Canyon.
            Eldon’s forthcoming book about Bingham will, as his previous book, include numerous photos. Some of the photos regarding this article about The Boston Con will be available on his website and on the Bingham High School alumni website Donations of special photos, memories, or human interest stories about The Boston Con or other areas of Bingham are welcome. Please telephone Eldon Bray at 970-245-8209 or e-mail       THE BOSTON CON-THE WORLD’S FIRST.doc

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Small Towns In Bingham Canyon

By Eldon Bray   6-24-2010

Bingham Canyon was settled in 1848 by Sanford and Thomas Bingham. They had, through a drawing, been allocated this area for herding cattle. From 1848 to 1863 cattle grazing and logging were the primary activities in the canyon.
In 1863 lead-silver (galena) mineralization, with some gold, was discovered in bedrock in the upper reaches of the main canyon (which became known as Galena Gulch). Placer gold was discovered shortly afterward in the creek beds. The bedrock deposits were generally unprofitable in the first decade of mining. Placer gold was easier to mine and could be immediately sold so during the early years it was the economic basis for the several small mining communities which had sprung up in the canyon.
After the Transcontinental Railroad was completed at Promontory Summit in 1869 the railroad was extended southward to Salt Lake City and then to Bingham Canyon in 1873. The railroad greatly reduced the costs associated with mining and ushered in an era of profitable underground mining in the canyon.
The underground mines were generally located in a zone that encircled “The Copper Hill” which was composed of unprofitable low-grade copper-bearing rock. Small communities were often built near these underground mines and many of them assumed the name of the mine at which they were located. The Galena, Old Jordan, Silver Shield, and Niagara were among the mines and communities in Galena Gulch. Copperfield (Upper Bingham) and Telegraph were in the upper part of the main canyon; Terrace Heights, Dinkeyville, Jap Camp and Greek Camp were sections of Copperfield. The Frisco, Boston Con, Highland Boy, Yampa, Phoenix, and Apex were among the communities up Carr Fork. Other areas farther down in the main canyon included Markham, Freeman, and Frog Town (Lower Bingham).
As the near-surface orebodies were exhausted the small mines were often consolidated and then, as larger companies with larger orebodies and more capital, pursued the veins to greater depths. The small mines in Galena Gulch were consolidated by the USSR&M Co and the community became known as the U.S.. The small mines in upper Carr Fork were similarly consolidated and the town in the area was known as Highland Boy. The Mascotte Tunnel was driven from the foothills in the Salt Lake Valley to enable mining at greater depths; the town at the mouth of the tunnel was named Lark. The Dalton and Lark, Yosemite, Butterfield, and Queen were also small communities associated with mines at lower elevations immediately to the east and south of Bingham Canyon.
Copper had been a nuisance in the early decades of underground mining and The Copper Hill could not be profitably mined. In the late 1890s copper became more valuable and the exploration and exploitation of The Copper Hill began. The Commercial and Boston Con mines and their adjoining communities were located on The Hill.
In March of 1906 the Boston Consolidated Co began open-cut mining of the upper part of The Hill with steam shovels. Five months later, in August of 1906, the Utah Copper Co also began open-cut mining with steam shovels -- on the lower part of The Hill. The Boston Con and the Utah Copper merged in 1910. The Utah Copper mine, as it expanded laterally, began to gnaw away at the small communities around its edges and its waste dumps threatened to cover several communities. The first three communities to be destroyed by the open-cut mine were the Commercial and the Boston Con (mined away), and the Niagara (covered by waste dumps in Galena Gulch). As the bottom of the mine was dug deeper and deeper it became a pit below the bottom of the canyon and "The Hill" began to be referred to as "The Pit".
A few new communities were built in Bingham Canyon as a result of the Utah Copper’s operations; these included Dry Fork, Lead Mine, and Copperton (constructed and entirely owned by the Utah Copper).
In 1958 Copperfield, (which had already been mostly mined away) ceased to exist as a community; the U.S. had done so even earlier. Highland Boy, Carr Fork, main Bingham (including Markham, Freeman, and Frog Town) soon followed. On November 22, 1971 the town of Bingham Canyon expired. Copperton (and Lead Mine) at the mouth of the canyon, are the only survivors of all the communities in Bingham Canyon.
Eldon Bray grew up in Copperfield and graduated from BHS and from the U of U. He is author of the book “Copperfield Remembered” and will gladly donate one book to each BHS class reunion. He can be reached at or at 970-245-8209. He is currently working on a second Bingham book and would welcome donations of human interest stories or unusual photos to include in it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Bingham Copper Mine

This Blog will primarily relate to the history of Bingham Canyon where the first mining claim in what is now the State of Utah was recorded in 1863. Lead-silver and gold minerals were discovered at the surface but miners were frustrated by the high costs of equipment and supplies and of shipping the ore to distant smelters.

Placer gold was found in the stream beds soon after the first discovery of mineral. Placer gold mining was far less expensive than underground mining and the gold could be immediately sold; so placer gold mining was the main and almost only activity for about a decade. It kept the new mining town alive through some very lean times.

After the railroad was extended to Bingham in 1872 the mining costs were greatly reduced so that small, shallow, underground mines became profitable and there were soon dozens of them in all reaches of the canyon. As mining progressed to greater depths, however, mining costs increased and, also, water was encountered.

Considerably larger expenditures were required to develop the orebodies to the increasing depths and individual small mines were unable to generate sufficient funds. It was therefore necessary to consolidate many small mines in order to provide larger orebodies and enough financial capital to drive long adits beneath the orebodies or to sink large shafts for hundreds of feet.

In the late 1890s a nationwide demand for copper arose. High-grade copper deposits had been encountered during the underground mining of lead-silver-gold ore in the Highland Boy area of Bingham. Mining of copper ore was immediately begun.

The "Copper Hill" was a huge but very low-grade deposit of copper-bearing rock. It was thought to be of uneconomical grade. No mining operation in the world had yet been able to derive a profit from such material. The "Hill" remained largely undisturbed for almost forty years after the discovery of mineral in Bingham Canyon.

After the ascent of copper as a valuable mineral, however, several companies became interested in the possibility of mining copper from the Copper Hill by large-scale mining methods. Drilling and underground mining to obtain samples of the copper deposit was undertaken. Finally, in March of 1906, the Boston Consolidated Mining Company began large-scale mining of copper ore with steam shovels on the upper part of the Hill. Five months later, in August of 1906, the Utah Copper Company also began large-scale mining of copper ore with steam shovels -- on the lower part of the Hill.

In 1910 the Boston Con and the Utah Copper companies merged under the name of the Utah Copper Co. The Utah Copper thus assumed the title of "The World's First Large-Scale Open-Cut Copper Mine". The Utah Copper orebody is still being mined today by the Rio Tinto Corporation. The mine is generally known as The Bingham Copper Mine.