Mining has been a major industrial cornerstone in Arizona since the Gadsden Purchase of 1853.
The 1910 census showed that mining employed 18,094 of Arizona’s territorial workforce, 25 percent of its working population. Today, Arizona ranks second in the United States in production of mineral non-fuel commodities valued at over $2 billion, including copper, molybdenum concentrates, sand & gravel, Portland cement, and silver.
Efforts to document, preserve and enhance Arizona’s rich mining heritage in the past, present and future include notable organizations, museums, and like-minded individuals.
Renowned mid-19-century explorers and mining engineers provided positive accounts of mineral wealth in Arizona crucial to building the territory’s industry.
Charles D. Poston, organizer of the Sonora Exploring and Mining Co. in Tubac, was responsible for establishing some of the earliest mining laws in Southern Arizona in 1856, providing commercial script using the region’s earliest printing press. Sylvester Mowry developed mines in the Patagonia Mountains, expounding upon Arizona’s mineral wealth in his memoirs.
Writings of explorer J.Ross Browne, the reminisces of Raphael Pumpelly and J.R. Bartlett‘s “Personal Narrative” also documented Arizona’s early mining history while enticing new prospectors to seek out and exploit Arizona’s vast mineral riches.
Credited with early reports on Arizona mineral deposits and their localities was William Phipps Blake, director of the Arizona School of Mines from 1895 through 1905 and Arizona Territorial geologist from 1898 until 1910. Many of Blake’s mineral samples are held by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the University of Arizona Mineral Museum and the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum.
The Mining Foundation of the Southwest recognizes the contributions all these people made to Arizona’s mining history and mineral wealth. The origin of the foundation began with the Mining Club of the Southwest, established on February 22, 1971.
Governed by a group of 24 board members, it met at the Sheraton Pueblo Inn. Sold to the club’s charter members at a casting cost of $8 was a medallion designed by artist Ted De Grazia and cast in antique copper-bronze. It depicted a prospector and his burro under the desert sun. By the end of 1971, the club had 534 members and was publishing its current events in a newsletter titled, “Concentrates,” that is still in production today.
During the fall of 1981, the club sponsored a two-week guided tour known as the Second Mexican Mining Rail Excursion. Members visited mines, mills and smelters on route between Nogales and Mexico City, following the original 1901 excursion of the American Institute of Mining Engineers. Many of the mines visited dated to the Spanish era prior to Mexico’s declaration of independence in 1821 and yielded high-grade ore including gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc. Among them were the Parral Fluorite Mine, Santa Eulalia Mine, Naica Mine, San Francisco Del Oro, Fresnillo Mine, Guanajuato Mine, Taxco Mine, Santa Barbara, and the Torreon smelter.
In 1983, the American Mining Hall of Fame initiated by the club honored individuals who have made significant contribution in the field of mining including recent inductees Laurence Golborne Riveros, Greg Boyce, James Toole and Fred Banfield.
A non-profit organization committed to public education of the mining industry, the foundation has also published a three-volume collection of mining articles about the history of mining in Arizona. Education is a major hallmark of the foundation, providing high school students a comprehensive understanding of the fundamentals of mining and the uses of minerals, both metallic and industrial, that are essential to the world economy.