Mine Tales: Mules aided Grand Canyon's Grandview site

2014-07-21T00:00:00Z 2014-07-21T10:02:02Z Mine Tales: Mules aided Grand Canyon's Grandview siteBy William Ascarza Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Grandview Mine is one of the more renowned mining localities in the history of the Grand Canyon.

Also known as the Last Chance mine, the Grandview was staked in 1890 by homesteader Pete Berry. It evolved from two copper claims 3,000 feet below the South Rim on the southern end of Horseshoe Mesa. The ore originated in a breccia pipe, a “vertical pipeline column of broken rock,” encased in Redwall Limestone containing copper and uranium minerals.

The Canyon Copper Co., acquired by Vermont investors in 1900, further developed the Grandview property, constructing crosscuts from two drifts connected by a main shaft. In all, the mine consisted of seven levels and more than 3,000 feet of tunnel.

The small operation included wheelbarrow and narrow-gauge ore car transport, and picks, shovels and explosives.

Ore was transported from the drifts to the top of Horseshoe Mesa using a mule-powered hoist, then taken by pack train on the four-mile long Grandview Trail. Berry and business associate Ralph Cameron built the trail in 1893 to the mill at Grand View Point near the canyon rim.

The mules carried 200 pounds of ore per trip, averaging a trip and a half a day. Afterwards, the concentrate was hauled by wagon to Apex Junction and shipped by rail to the El Paso smelter. These days the Grandview Trail is unmaintained and used by Grand Canyon hikers; the trail maintenance cost during the mine’s operation was $12,000.

Early production reports of the mine included several hundred tons of high-grade copper ore, the best produced in the Grand Canyon. An ore sample in excess of 700 pounds was analyzed and found to be so pure — at 70 percent copper — that it won acclaim at the 1893 Columbian Exposition World’s Fair in Chicago. On average, the ore was 30 percent copper, reports say. A decrease in copper prices, spurred by innovative new practices in large-scale extraction of Arizona’s low-grade ore, and rising operating costs, forced the mine to close in 1907. The mine was acquired by the federal government in 1939 through eminent domain against its last owner, William Randolph Hearst, who had the property since 1913.

The mine’s legacy lives on today with more than 30 scarce copper, and uranium ore minerals produced there, including one — found only at the site — that was named after the mine: “Grandviewite,” a light blue-green mineral with acicular crystals.

Discovered in 1971, it was authenticated by the International Mineralogical Association in 2007. It occurs with the copper aluminum sulfate minerals such as chalcoalumite and cyanotrichite. The Grandview Mine is the only known locality in North America for the mineral Philipsbornite. Today, the National Park Service has erected bat gates to seal off access to the mine in conjunction with the Bat Conservation International. The gates are intended to keep visitors safe while maintaining accessibility to roosting sites for Townsend’s big eared bats. Several structures remain at the site, including a stone cook’s cabin.

During its two-decade operation, the Grandview Mine is credited with producing 500,000 pounds of copper valued at $75,000. A small amount of gold was mined there, too, as was exceedingly rich uranium deposits as a byproduct. But the mine’s uranium’s value was nonexistent because no financial sustainable uses for it existed at the time of production.

William Ascarza is an archivist, historian and author. His latest book, “The Chiricahua Mountains: History and Nature,” is available at Barnes and Noble online. Email him at mining@azstarnet.com

Sources: Arizona Geological Society Newsletter, August 2010, “Geology and Mineralogy of the Grandview Copper mine, Grand Canyon, Arizona” by Ray Grant.

Morris J. Elsing and Robert E. S. Heineman, Arizona Metal Production, Arizona Bureau of Mines, Economic Series No. 19 Bulletin No. 140, University of Arizona, 1936.

Grandviewite, CU3Al9(SO4)2(OH)29, “A New Mineral from the Grandview Mine,” Arizona, USAVolume 14, Issue 2, pp. 3-6 of Australian Journal of Mineralogy

R. H. Waesche, The Grand View copper prospect: Grand Canyon Nature Notes, Vol. 8, no. 12, pp. 250-258, 1934.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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