I was invited to write a review of a new paper by fellow geologist David Briggs.
David Briggs tells a compelling story of the Helvetia-Rosemont Mining District in the Santa Rita Mountains of southern Arizona from the 1690s to the present day. The paper describes the history of the Helvetia subdistrict on the west side of the mountains and the Rosemont subdistrict on the east side of the mountains. It is a well-told story of the people, conditions, conflicts, businesses, and development of transportation and mining technology in the area.
The story includes the ups and downs of mining ventures, fortunes made and lost, and politics of the region. Briggs gives us a glimpse of what life was like in the mining towns, describes some of the colorful characters, and what conditions miners endured within the mines.
The paper includes a brief explanation of porphyry copper deposits in general and the specific geology of the mines. He describes the smelter which processed ore from the district and ore imported from other areas. There is a section on the historic production of the area. There were three main periods of copper production, one from 1900 until 1910, a second during World War I and a third that began during the early 1940s and continued until 1960.
Briggs provides a history of regulation in the area beginning with establishment of the Santa Rita Forest Reserve in April 1902. Augusta Resources acquired the properties in 2005 and after extensive exploration sold them to Hudbay Minerals in 2014. Briggs describes their modern exploration and the still on-going regulatory controversies.
Historic and contemporary photos and maps enhance the narrative. The story is well-documented by an extensive list of references.
As a whole, the story of the Helvetia-Rosemont area is very interesting and presents a picture of the colorful history of mining in Arizona.
Briggs ends his story with this: “A victim of competing visions of Arizona’s future, efforts to resume production in the Helvetia-Rosemont remain on hold as appeals work their way through the courts. Only time will tell, whether the Helvetia-Rosemont Mining District remains Arizona’s hardscrabble mining camp or assumes its hard-earned place as one of America’s largest copper producers.”
Reviewer Jonathan DuHamel is a retired exploration geologist.
Citation: Briggs, D.F., 2020, Helvetia-Rosemont: Arizona’s Hardscrabble Mining Camp. Arizona Geological Survey Contributed Report CR-20-A, 65 p. http://repository.azgs.az.gov/uri_gin/azgs/dlio/1950