SOLDIERS DISCOVER BINGHAM WEALTH
Soldiers who laid aside their rifles and attacked the terrain with miner’s picks are responsible for Bingham Canyon and its fabulous mining operation.
Those were men of the Third California Infantry stationed at Ft. Douglas and under command of Col. (later Gen.) Patrick E. Connor, hailed as the “father of Utah Mining,” who encouraged his troopers to spend their spare time prospecting.
Gold Spurs Activity
Discovery of gold in 1864 spurred activity, and some $1 million in yellow metal was taken from the canyon’s gravel beds. More of it came from lodes. Copper ores, because of their low grade, were ignored, and it was not until 1896 that the first important copper shipment was made by the Highland Boy, which started as a gold mining venture by Samuel Newhouse and Thomas Weir. The mill they built to recover gold was unsuccessful because of the amount of copper contained in the ore.
So until after 1900 Bingham remained a lead-silver camp, with 15 to 20 comparatively small mines shipping their ores to smelters which were built at Murray and Midvale.
Copper crept into the picture in 1887 when Col. Enos A. Wall, investigating green stains on rocks, took samples from an abandoned tunnel. They assayed 2.4 per cent copper. Indications pointed to a great mass of low grade copper and, as much of the area then was open to relocation. Col Wall staked 12 claims. In the next ten years he added to his holdings, and by 1900 his property consisted of all or part of 19 claims covering 200 acres.
Between 1895 and 1900 various deals resulted in Capt. Joseph DeLamar securing an interest in the property. At this time Robert C. Gemmell was mining engineer at the Golden Gate Mine in Mercur for Capt. DeLamar, and D.C. Jackling was mettalurgist in charge of building a cyanide mill there. DeLamar assigned Gemmell to take charge of sampling the Bingham property and estimating the tonnage, and Jackling was placed in charge of the concentrating tests.
The joint report of Jackling and Gemmell was the first comprehensive analysis of a mining enterprise based on exploitation of ore containing as little as two per cent copper, and envisioned radical developments in mining procedures that are still in use today.
It can be said that Utah Copper was born in this Jackling-Gemmell report, but there were many difficulties to be overcome in the ensuing years. These, chiefly, concerned financing and the “selling” to the mining world of Jackling’s revolutionary plan of applying mass mining methods, to production of copper from low grade ores. His ideas were such a departure from the then accepted mining methods that no one desired to risk either money or reputation in supporting such an untried plan.
In his work in various mining caps of the west Jackling pushed his ideas for the Bingham operation at every opportunity. Late in 1902 however an option calling for an “undivided twofourths interest” in Bingham Hill was obtained from Col. Wall, and Jackling, with Charles M. MacNeill, Spencer Penrose, and K.R. Babbit, legal counsel, made an inspection of the Bingham property.
On June 1, 1903, they held a conference on the hillside and decided to exercise the option. Three days later Utah Copper Co. was organized under the laws of Colorado. An experimental mill of 300 tons a day capacity was built in Copperton, Completed in April 1904. Its capacity had increased to 1,000 tons daily when it was closed in 1910.
In 1904 the Utah Copper Co. was reorganized under a New Jersey charter, and capitalization was increased from $500,000 to $4,500,000 in stock of $10 par value.
The entire enterprise was launched with $250,00 cash.
The need now was for working capital to buy equipment, build mills and a railroad. The General Electric Co. was about to furnish this capital when one of its directors observed he did not believe the figures estimating five million tons of 1.98 per cent copper, with a prospective profit of 70 cents a ton, was accurate. That ended the deal.
Guggenheims Come In
However mine and mill made such an effective showing during 1904 that the Guggenheim brothers became interested. After exhaustive examination of the property the Guggenheim Exploration Co. underwrote the $3 million bond issue, the American Smelters Securities Co. bought 232,000 shares of Utah Copper stock at $20, and the American Smelting and Refining Co. got a long-term contract to smelt Utah Copper concentrates. It was finally a going concern.
The 6,000-ton concentrator at Garfield was started in 1906, and put in operation in August 1907. Mining was confined to underground as finances to begin a stripping operation were not yet available. In 1906 Gemmell became general superintendent and the same year the first small seam shovel went into operation. By 1908 eight steam shovels and 17 steam locomotives were furnishing two thirds of the ore from open-cut operations. Underground work on the west side stopped, but continued on the east side until the summer of 1910.
Next step of major importance was the merger with Boston Consolidated, and at the same time Utah Copper obtained control of the Nevada Consolidated Copper Co. The Magna mill capacity was increased to 10,000 tons a day. The Arthur mill was remodeled.
Today the Arthur and Magna mills are rated at 40,000 tons capacity daily, although during World War II up to 50,000 tons daily was treated at each. Equipment included 44 electric shovels with dippers ranging from 4-1/2 to 7 yard capacity, 71 electric locomotives from 85-ton to 125-ton size; 19 bulldozers; nine mobile drill units equipped with compressors; 825 ore cars of 30 and 40-yard capacity, plus much miscellaneous equipment.
And with the completion in 1950 of the $17 million electrolytic refinery, Utah Copper not only is the major producing mine but is furnishing almost 400 million pounds of refined copper direct to American markets.
There is about 20 miles of railway to connect the mine with the mills and smelter. Larger steel dump cars replaced the early wooden ones. In 1925 the shovels converted from steam to electricity.
Mining of 11/2 billion tons of ore and waste has left a large amphitheater like pit at the mine, the sides of which are cut into giant steps or benches.