Copper Queen Mine Tour, Bisbee, AZ

By Jeff Insel

My wife and I recently spent a couple of nights in Bisbee,AZ. One of the things we wanted to see was the Copper Queen Mine Tour and we weren’t disappointed. Tours are seven days a week with several different tour times. Each tour lasts about an hour and takes you 1500 feet deep into the mine by small train (see photo).
The tours are led by retired Phelps Dodge employees, very knowledgeable about the mining history and progression of more efficient tools ie: from manpower to mules to trains.
The photo with the train is an iPhone photo as we had a light rain going on outside as we waited to enter the mine.
The Copper Queen Mine began operations in the 1880’s and was bought by Phelps Dodge in 1885. It closed in 1975 after 90 yrs of operations. It had one of the world’s largest production valuations: An estimated production of 8,032, 352 lbs of Copper, 2,871,786 ounces of Gold, 77,162,986 ounces of Silver, 304,627,600 lbs of Lead and 371,945,900 lbs of Zinc!
Tours began in 1976 through the efforts of then Bisbee Mayor, Chuck Eads, Phelps Dodge, many local volunteers and a grant from the Economic Development Administration.
The Dynamite wall photo was shot hand held, 1600 ISO, 28mm, f4.5 and 1/20th of a sec.
We learned how the miners originally dug out the tunnels, shored up the work areas, hammered spikes for the drill bits; the evolution of the different types of drills and their capabilities; how they used dynamite to bring down walls safely (see photo) and even the use of their portable toilets (see photo).
The Toilet photo was hand held, 1600 ISO, 1/3 sec, f4.5.
Even though it was about 95 outside at the start of our tour, it was nice and cool inside.
If you go, cameras are allowed but tripods aren’t practical as there’s not enough space to use one. The challenge is photographing in near darkness, some overhead lights and the hand held small flashlights we all had so some of the light is always in motion, but it’s a fun challenge.
Jeff Insel is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

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