Saturday, July 16, 2011


By R. Eldon Bray – July 15, 2011

Boston Con. Town is on the hill on the left.  Mined away top and bottom
            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.
My Uncle with Highland Boy Stage at Boston Con.

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.

Boston Con. is gone
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.
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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 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 July

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