Silver mining in Arizona

Silver Mining In Arizona

Silver mining in Arizona

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Silver mining in Arizona was a powerful stimulus for exploration and prospecting in early Arizona. Cumulative silver production through 1981 totaled 490 million troy ounces (15 million kg). However, only about 10% of Arizona's silver production came from silver mining. More than 80% of the state's silver was a byproduct of copper mining; other silver came as a byproduct of lead, zinc, and gold mining.

The Spanish and Mexican eras

Silver ore was first discovered in west-central Arizona in 1583 by Spanish explorer Antonio de Espejo, but no mining resulted. Again in 1598, Juan de Oñate led another expedition searching for Espejo’s silver; many claims were staked, but the expeditioners returned to Santa Fe without mining any silver, and the deposits remained unexploited. Espejo’s silver discovery is thought to be at the site of present-day Jerome, which later became a major copper-mining district. Richard T. Moore and George H. Roseveare (1969) Silver, in Mineral and Water Resources of Arizona, Arizona Bureau of Mines, Bulletin 180, p. 254-255.

Father Eusebio Kino, in charge of the Spanish missions in southern Arizona from 1687 to 1711, noted a number of “minas” in the mountains bordering the Santa Cruz valley (present Santa Cruz County, Arizona), but the Spanish word “mina” can mean either a mine or an unexploited mineral deposit. A noted silver...
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