One of the greater producing zinc mines in southeastern Arizona was the Abril Mine, also known as the Dos Hermanos or Two Brothers Mine.
Developed by Manuel S. and James Abril, along with H.W. Smith, what became known as the Abril Mine in the Middle Pass District was first staked by Frederick Herrera on the western slope of the Dragoon Mountains, 21 miles northeast of Tombstone.
Herrera operated a ranch in the San Pedro Valley near Charleston, owning six claims in the Dragoon Mountains later acquired by the Abril brothers in 1915.
Though the Abrils were seasoned miners in Tombstone and around Gleeson, the Abril-Herrera claims remained relatively undeveloped until Hal W. Smith acquired a vested interest in them in the 1930s. Smith inspired confidence in the claims based upon a positive mineralization report conducted by California geologist Henry Wills. Further development of the Abril Mine was undertaken from 1945 through 1948 by Bargain Mines Inc., operated by the Shattuck-Denn Mining Corp., with extensive core drilling. About 20,000 tons of lead-zinc-copper ore was shipped to their flotation mill in Bisbee for processing. This high-grade ore assayed at 49 percent zinc and 4.5 percent copper. Also, 188,162 pounds of copper, 12,725 pounds of lead, 3,508 ounces of silver and 26 ounces of gold were recovered.
Sherwood Owens worked the mine in 1951, shipping 5,000 tons of zinc by 1953. A drop in zinc prices forced the mine’s closure. Howard Birchfield acquired both the Abril Mine and nearby San Juan properties in 1964, extracting 40 tons of copper and zinc ore and shipping it to Silver City, New Mexico, for processing by the New Jersey Zinc Corp. By 1970, Basic Metals Inc., of Salt Lake City worked the Abril claims.
Transportation proved challenging, with poor road conditions from Sorin Camp to the Abril Mine and other nearby mines, in the steep, rugged, granitic slopes of the Dragoon Mountains.
Although 7-mile Middle Pass on the eastern flank of the Dragoons near Pearce was graded and widened for freight wagons in 1898, the western flank of the mountains remained a mule trail. At this point, Middle Pass was changed to Middlemarch Pass after the Middlemarch Copper Co.
During World War II, mine owners successfully acquired federal funding for road improvements from Tombstone to the top of 5,900-foot Middlemarch Pass. Forest Service Road 345A was established to ease ore transport from the Abril Mine.
Forward-thinking action on behalf of the Shattuck Denn Corp. necessitated that ore be transported from the Abril Mine by inclined tramway several hundred feet down the mountain to ore bins in lower Slavin Gulch, where it would prove more accessible for truck transport via Middlemarch Road.
Composed of five adit levels at successive lower elevations, the Abril Mine contained ore deposits embedded in limestone, including chalcopyrite, galena and sphalerite. Samples of ore and tactite (rock containing a complex mineral composition formed by contact metamorphism), have been tested positive, containing percentages less than 0.02 of beryllium and tungsten. The area was known for eclarite, a lead copper iron bismuth sulfide, and an uncommon hydrothermal mineral.
Although the Abril Mine is no longer in operation today, the formidable terrain includes wooden pylons that at one time supported an inclined tramway, a wooden ore shoot and the remnants of a structure that may have been used to record ore shipments. The old haul road from the ore shoot in Slavin Gulch is accessible by a trailhead off Forest Road 687A.