Boom and bust. Birth and rebirth. Life and death. These words describe the vicious cycle of Grand Gulch Mine, a troubled copper mine on the Arizona strip. Grand Gulch Mine has a complicated history that details the ruggedness of the area and the struggles of many settlers in their search for fortune in the desert.
In 1871, a member of the Shivwits Band of Paiutes relayed his findings to some men at a nearby Mormon settlement where interest was piqued. The men paid the Paiute with a horse and some flour, and excitedly began plans to prospect the mine. Samuel L. Adams showed the most enthusiasm, and began by packing in tools and supplies on mules to the mining site. A few years later work began--roads were built, workers were brought in, shafts were dug, and the Grand Gulch Mining Company was formed.
They were immediately faced with challenges, as the mine was 80 miles from the nearest city, St. George, Utah. The cost of hauling the ore from the mine to St. George was eventually too much to bear and the mine closed in 1876. The mine went through several more periods of prosperity followed by inactivity over the next 40 years. Even with the addition of a nearby railroad, an onsite smelter, mechanized equipment, new shafts, and new owners, the cost of running the mine and shipping the ore was too high. For years it continuously started up and shut down, and not until 1916 did it begin to boom.
The start of WWI brought on an almost instant demand for minerals like copper. Copper production across the U.S. increased by 39% and the price increased by 55.4%. The mine was bustling with 75 total workers, the highest number recorded at the mine. However, as the end of the war neared, the quality of the copper began to drop. By 1919, WWI ended, copper prices tanked, and production halted once again.
Full-time copper mining never occurred at the site again. Grand Gulch Mine changed hands in the years after, and some companies dug for copper in the waste rock piles, while others simply scrapped some of the old structures for parts. Eventually it fell into complete disuse, and in 2000 many of the buildings and old equipment was encompassed by Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument to be preserved for its geologic history and mining culture.
Learn More: Grand Gulch Mine Video
Last updated: February 4, 2021