|Today we traveled to Bisbee, AZ. Bisbee is 23 miles south of Tombstone. It was and still is a mining town – Copper. Back in the early 1900s (its hey day) it was the largest town between New Orleans and San Francisco. Today, it is a very artsy town with lots of galleries and shops, although the word depressed does come to mind.
The highlight of our visit was our tour into the Queen Mine. The Queen Mine was operated between 1915 and 1943. As we waited for the tour, we learned about the mining and processing of copper. Wow, what a complicated process – at least back in the 40s & 50s. Basically, ore that is only 10% concentrated with copper is refined and processed to become 90% pure upon completion.
The tour was an hour long. We got dolled up in rain jackets, hard hats and battery operated mining lamps. We rode a train 1500ft straight into the mine. Our tour director was a retired miner, so his experience and insight added to the information he shared on the tour. We learned about the operations inside the mine and we viewed the tools that the miners used. We even learned how to load dynamite into the walls of the mine for the safest most efficient blast. It was hard work. The thing that disturbed us the most was what we were told about the mules they once used in the mine. Once they were brought in, they were never allowed out to see the daylight – they would have never gotten them back in. These mules spent 10+ years working in the dark and they eventually became blind. It’s a good thing they don’t use mules now because I am sure the Humane Society would have something to say about this!
We were also told that they are continuing to dig deeper into a local mine. It is expected to hit 7,000 ft. At that depth, temperatures are well over 100 degrees. Thankfully, the miners will have a cooling system and will earn as much as $57/hr.
This tour was excellent and worth a ½ day trip to Bisbee, AZ.