Tuesday, November 3, 2009


18. What kinds of rocks and minerals are found in your bioregion?

Silver, gold, uranium, turquoise and copper are some of Arizona's major mineral assets. Of those, copper is the most important, being one of the "5C's" of that once defined the backbone of the state economy: Climate, Cattle, Cotton, Copper and Citrus. Here are a few photos from Ray Mine near Kearny, which is southeast of Phoenix, where we visited on our way to backpack in Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Area last May. The scale of the place (the mine that is) rivals Grand Canyon. Standing at the edge of this huge open pit, watching dump trucks crawl along on the winding roads, I have to say I was equally impressed just to think of the human industry required to create this technological wonder of the world.

According to Earthworks, a group dedicated to mining reform, "the Ray mine complex includes the nearby Hayden smelter, which is the largest single source of toxic pollution in Arizona, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The occurrence of lung cancer among Hayden residents is roughly 50 percent higher than for residents of the Tucson and Phoenix areas." This is the air that flows through Aravaipa Wilderness.

There are a dozen mines, along with their smelters, like this one in Arizona, the leading copper-producing state in the US. Think about this next time you pick up a shiny penny, listen to a symphony (any brass instrument), flick a light switch (wires) or take a shower (pipes). They all depend on copper mines. According to geology.com, "the average car contains 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mile) of copper wire, and the total amount of copper ranges from 20 kilograms (44 pounds) in small cars to 45 kilograms (99 pounds) in luxury and hybrid vehicles." There I also learned that the Statue of Liberty "represents the largest use of copper in a single structure."

Fortunately, copper is also easily recycled, so save those pennies!

For more fascinating info on copper and other minerals, check out this web link: http://geology.com/usgs/uses-of-copper/

1 comment:

Jackijo said...

You can't really imagine the scale of those open pit mines until you actually stand overlooking them. Great picture on the tire. Gives us an idea of how big those machines are.