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Friday, February 24 2023

Whether it’s mining for gold, silver, lead, zinc or other precious metals, it’s always fun to follow in the historic footsteps of the old timeQueen Mine Bisbee Arizona miners. To do exactly that and learn how copper and other ore was first mined in Bisbee, Arizona, take the underground Queen Mine tour. Outfitted with hard hat, miner’s headlamp and a neon vest, visitors ride 1,500 feet into the mine and learn about equipment, techniques, dangers and a century worth of history. Tour guides are actual retired miners, so you know you’ll get the real highlights of working underground.  You’ll learn about blasting with dynamite, the role of mules, and even how miners went to the bathroom while working in the mines!

Electricity changed the world from a predominantly rural society to the industrial age, and copper wire was needed to carry that electricity— and lots of it. Thanks to the insatiable demand for electricity, Bisbee was one of the greatest copper camps in the world. In nearly 100 years of continuous production (late 1880s until the mine closed in 1975), the local mines produced metals valued at $6.1 billion (at 1975 prices). This staggering amount of wealth came from the estimated production of 8,032,352,000 pounds of copper, 2,871,786 ounces of gold, 77,162,986 ounces of silver, 304,627,600 pounds of lead and 371,945,900  pounds of zinc.

The story of Bisbee mining began in the late 1870s when Lt. Dunn, in charge of a cavalry detail from the frontier Army post of Fort Queen Mine Bisbee ArizonaHuachuca, was on a scouting mission against the Apache Indians. Lt. Dunn and his men camped on a spot that is now occupied by Old Bisbee, only several hundred yards from the beginning of today’s mine tour. On a walk after dinner, Lt. Dunn picked up an interesting rock. He found a few more pieces along the slope of the south wall of the canyon. Unable to do anything about it because of military duties, Dunn took a prospector by the name of George Warren into his confidence and struck up a deal by which Warren would locate claims and work the property with Dunn as a partner. But on his way to the site, prospector Warren stopped to  enjoy his favorite pastime—drinking whiskey with friends. Warren soon had new partners and staked a group of claims with them, leaving Dunn completely out of the deal.

Copper production began on a limited basis around 1880. At the time, those who toiled in subterranean tunnels beneath the Mule Mountains were mostly immigrant miners from Europe.  Individuals and then companies with capital gradually became involved and took over individual claims and brought them into production. Phelps Dodge Corporation, through a subsidiary the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company, became the dominant force and eventually the sole operator of the mining district. Building on its base in Bisbee, Phelps Dodge had long been one of the largest copper producers in the United States. Although mining was closed in 1975, the Queen Mine Tour was officially opened in 1976 to keep the story of mining alive in Bisbee. Since then, millions of visitors from around the world have enjoyed the trip into the mountain on the underground mine tour train.

Hour long tours depart each day, seven days a week, from the Queen Mine Tour Building, located immediately south of Old Bisbee’s business district, off the U.S. 80 interchange. Reservations are required for underground tours. Closed toed and low heel shoes are mandatory.  For information, reservations, and group rates call 866-432-2071 or visit Be sure to arrive 30 minutes before tour time. Interesting mineral displays, gift shop, and Bisbee Visitor Center are also found in the tour building.

Posted by: Denise AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email

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