Mining is interesting to me, click the pics and you also might find it interesting .
The new Cornelia open pit copper mine. 800 feet deep, and three quarters of a mile across. Unlike more modern open pit mines where gigantic trucks carry the ore from the bottom of the pit to the processing area on top. The new Cornelia pit had a train carrying the ore to the top. I don't know what they paid the train engineer, but looking at that pit, it probably wasn't enough.
Ajo Arizona has always been about mining and was literally its only reason for existing. From the Indians that lived here breaking up rocks to make colored paint from the heavily mineralized soil in the area, to the Spanish trying to make a go of it hauling ore back to Mexico in ox carts. The first business partnership in the 1850s naming the mine "Cornelia" after a partners wife, trying to make money digging the ore by hand, hauling it to the West Coast, putting it on a sailing ship, and sailing around Cape Horn to Wales to process the ore. Needless to say, there was no profit left by the end of that convoluted process.
Eventually, one of the world's largest mining companies, Phelps Dodge, bought the whole shebang and extracted the majority of the 3 million tons of copper taken from the ground since the beginning of mining in Ajo. Ajo has always been a mining town, and now it's trying to maintain some level of prosperity without the benefits of mining.
Phelps Dodge never actually shut the mine down, but merely suspended the New Cornelia mine operations in the mid-1980s because the price of copper had fallen so low it was no longer economically feasible to extract it. And if you shut down a mine completely the EPA requires that you clean the mess up. But if you "suspend" operations you're in limbo and the EPA mostly leaves you alone.
Just like most mining towns that have seen better days, the locals always feel like the mine will open back up someday, and happy days will return once again. That seldom happens, but it gives people something to hang on to while they find other ways to make a living, while they're waiting for the return of better times.
In the natural progression of things, history dictates that if mines don't open back up relatively soon, the town either becomes a ghost town, becomes a ghost town and then a tourist town, or finds another way to stay alive, which appears to be the way Ajo is going.
Just by looking at the town and not knowing anything official, I would say. Ajo is surviving on being the gateway to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. A bedroom community for all the Border Patrol people working in the area. And us old geezers living in RVs in the winter buying propane, diesel fuel, and even a chicken dinner at the grocery store every once in a while. It's not as good as union mine worker's wages, but it keeps Ajo alive, so it doesn't become a ghost town.
Geologists can tell you all kinds of things by looking at the color of rocks, especially mining geologists, because tens of millions of dollars are riding on their determinations. To me it all just looks like rocks, which probably explains my lack of success in my prospecting hobby.
The area around the pit itself is full of old workings, mining company buildings, and tailing piles, mostly tailing piles. A lot of rock came out of that hole, and most of it had to be put off to the side somewhere to keep it out of the way.
The tailing piles stretch for miles and miles around Ajo, that's the long piles of gray dirt in the middle of the picture.
See the big brown building on the left? That's the old closed up hospital. Tomorrow's blog is going to be about that building.
There's basically three kinds of waste left over from mining. The first would be overburden, which is the useless dirt covering the rock you need to get to. The next is waste rock, which is the rock with no mineral in it you have to get out of the way to get to whatever mineral your looking for. And the third is the "tailings" which is the most dangerous waste, and unfortunately quite often the most prolific.
When you crush up the ore, only a tiny percent of that rock you crushed has any valuable mineral in it and often times that tiny amount of mineral can only be removed chemically. So chemicals, likely as not dangerous, are mixed with the crushed rock, which now has the consistency of sand, and the chemicals absorb the valuable minerals.
The now mineral rich chemicals are removed from the crushed rock and processed to remove the valuable minerals from the chemical solution. After all that you're left with "tailings" which have the consistency of mud and have to be put someplace out of the way where it won't interfere with the rest of the mining operation.