Keweenaw Stories: Quincy Mine Site Overview

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Hundreds of copper mines started on Michigan’s remote Keweenaw Peninsula, but many failed without ever making a profit. The Quincy mine was unusual in that it was both profitable and long-lasting. Formed in 1846, Quincy mine paid its first dividends to investors in 1861 and continued to do so for the next 59 years – a consistency which earned it the nickname ‘Old Reliable’. Extracting and processing copper took a lot of labor, infrastructure, and power. Quincy continually invested in new technologies to become more efficient. Over its nearly 100 year lifespan, mine managers adopted several variations of equipment used for drilling and blasting rock, transporting ore, and powering their many operations. The copper ore mined by Quincy on average consisted of just 2% copper and 98% rock, meaning that it required processing to separate copper from waste rock. The ore first traveled to the stamp mill where it was crushed and sorted. The mineral then moved to the smelter where copper was melted and cast into ingots. From the smelter, copper ingots were shipped to industrial centers around the Great Lakes. The Quincy mine site is one of the best preserved examples of a large copper mining operation on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Many of the ruins have been stabilized, and provide a complete picture of how the surface operations and the underground activities would have worked together. In addition to the structures that showcase the technical aspects of the mining process, the site also features a dry house and worker home that illustrate how miners and their families lived. The Quincy Mine Hoist Association offers access to the shaft/rockhouse, and guided tours of the steam hoist and underground copper mine.You can also walk around some of the ruins, either on your own or on a ranger-guided program during the summer. As you explore the Quincy Mine site please be careful to stay off fragile ruins and to leave artifacts and rocks where they are found. This preserves the historical value of the site for visitors today and in the future. All of these objects, along with the remaining ruins and structures, help reveal the role Quincy Mine played in our nation’s industrial heritage.

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2 minutes, 39 seconds

The Quincy Mine site, from mining giant to National Historical Landmark.


Running Time: 2:40 minutes
Produced by: Dan Johnson
Written by: Kristen Schmitt

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Last updated: June 26, 2022

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