The Mine That Ate an Arizona Town
MORENCI — If you ever dug up your mom’s garden with a tin scoop shovel and hauled the dirt away in a toy dump truck, you might want to look down into the Morenci Mine and appreciate what grownups can do with real tools. The open pit copper mine is one of the largest man-made holes in the world. It’s so big — more than 2,500 feet deep, two miles across and a nine-mile perimeter — that it once swallowed up an entire town.
Like the one that replaced it, the town was called Morenci. When the original Morenci got in the way of the project, the mining company built a new community, razed the old buildings and began digging up the land underneath. The mine, now owned and operated by Freeport McMoRan, still contains a substantial portion of the world’s copper reserves.
Tours are not available, but there is a lookout point where excavation groupies can look down almost a half-mile.
There’s some interesting early history of the mine here:
Several years ago, PBS aired a documentary about the experience of Mexican-American miners at Morenci. I was particularly struck by the interviews with those who were children when town was closed. Many of us move away from the home we knew as children, but most of us know that our home, our school, our church, are probably still there. For the children of Morenci, not only the home, but also the entire town, is gone. If you get a chance, watch the film.
First should be an article about the mine that created the town to begin with! Without the mine there would have been no town!
Morenci is unincorporated, it is not a town. It’s a big mining camp.
The mine actually swallowed up two towns and several smaller villages. Morenci, Metcalf, Shannon (not Shannon Hill), Coronado, Stargo, Queen, New Town, Garfield, etc. All gone.
Is this the Gerald Hunt that was at NAU around 1968? Just recognized the name.