The Pepper Group

5845 N Calle Tiburon Tucson
Tucson, AZ 85704

(520) 977-0003



ASARCO Copper Mining Tour

Arizona is nicknamed "The Copper State" because of the great deposits of copper that Nature has placed here. Two-thirds of the Nation's copper production comes from Arizona. If Arizona was a country, it would be the second largest producer of copper in the entire world. Only Chile produces more copper than Arizona. The star on the Arizona state flag is copper-colored because the red metal is so important to the state's economy. A miner is even depicted on the state seal.

The first stop on your mine tour is the Open-Pit Viewpoint on the south rim of the Mission Mine, near the upper left end of the pit shown in the picture at the right. The viewpoint is securely fenced for your safety, and it has four binocular telescopes to provide a close-up view of the trucks and shovels working in the mine.

A three-foot-thick, eleven-foot-diameter truck tire from a 240-ton capacity haul truck is on display along with a cutaway of a shovel tooth. The mine also provides typical run-of-the-mill ore samples here for you to pick up as a souvenir. The Mission Mine is a quarter-mile deep, two miles long, and a mile-and-three-quarters wide. About six times the amount of earth moved to dig the Panama Canal has been mined here, and there is about that much more material yet to be mined.

The Mission open-pit copper mine was at one time five separate mining properties, but over the years, Asarco has combined them into one integrated mining operation. The mine occupies around 20,000 acres of private, State leased, and Native American land. There are about 700 employees working three shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with an annual payroll of $40 Million.

Each year the mine produces about 500,000 tons of copper concentrates which yields 150,000 tons of copper and 2 million ounces of silver. The mine annually pays $8 million in royalties and $10 million in taxes to the State of Arizona and over a million dollars in royalties to the Tohono O'odham Indian nation.

The next stop on your tour is the Mission South Mill where copper ore from the mine is ground into a fine powder and the copper minerals are separated by the froth flotation process. The South Mill Observation Deck puts you right at the center of this high-technology operation. This air-conditioned, soundproofed platform provides an excellent view of the grinding and flotation processes.

The return trip to the Mineral Discovery Center will take you alongside current reclamation areas that have been worked by the now-famous ASARCows. The mine tailings are nothing more than ground-up rock with the copper minerals removed. Tailings need to be amended with some sort of organic material to produce a sustainable soil. That's where the ASARCows come in.

Feed for a small herd of cattle is spread over a small enclosure on the tailings. The ASARCows eat the hay and their hooves till some of it into the tailings along with their own high-quality "naturally produced" fertilizer (cow pies). This adds sufficient organic material to help create a sustainable soil that will support a mixture of native and non-native plant species. The ASARCows have been moved to an area that is presently not visible from the regular tour route.

Asarco is also testing the use of bio-solids from the Pima County Waste Water Treatment Plant as a soil amendment. This helps the county with their solid waste disposal problem, and helps Asarco reclaim the tailings -- a win-win solution for both parties.

Located at 1421 West Pima Mine Road in Sahuarita, Arizona.

For more information: 520-625-7513 or

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The Pepper Group™
Diversified Real Estate
5845 N Calle Tiburon
Tucson, AZ 85704
Tucson Real Estate