Byron Neslen Southwest Fine Art Photography



Superior, Arizona Mining Portfolio

History of Superior and Copper Mining


I would first like to thank David Leer for allowing me the opportunity to photographed the Magma Superior Mine or known today as B.H.P Mining in Superior, Arizona. I photographed the copper mining plant before and as it was being dismantled from the summer 1998 to about 2000. Arizona produces more copper than all 49 states combined. Copper is one of the five C's that made Arizona. I wanted to document what was it like at this copper mine before it was gone foreverer.

Superior was originally founded because of Silver but copper quickly became the main element mined. The ore in Superior is 8% to 9% copper which is very rich ore. The ore was mined underground. The ore is then sent to what they call a crusher to crush the ore to about 3/8 inches in diameter gravel. They then take the ore and run it with water and steel balls in a ball mill or more like a giant rock polisher with these steel balls rolling along with the ore. They use large steel balls at first and work down to smaller steel balls to reduce the ore to a very fine powder like powder sugar or flour.

They then take this mixture of water and ore powder and mix chemicals into the mixture that causes the copper in the ore to attache to air bubbles. They send this mixture into what they call Frothers which agitate the mixture and air bubbles are being drawn through mixture and the particles of copper attche to the bubbles and float to the top. The copper is skim off the top and then is sent to the filter plant. The Filter Plant takes away the water from the mixture The copper precentage is now 20% to 30%. The Copper is then sent to the smelter for the final process of making copper from copper ore.