New Mexico Mineral Symposium
November 13-15, 2015
Mines, Minerals, and History of the Lordsburg Mining District, Hidalgo County, New Mexico
The Lordsburg Mining District is situated in the northern part of the Pyramid Mountains, immediately southwest of Lordsburg, New Mexico. The district is composed of two sub districts, the Virginia district in the northern portion and the Pyramid district in the southern portion located on the northwestern slopes of the Leitendorf Hills and North Pyramid Peak.
The Lordsburg Ming District is composed of volcanic rocks of Tertiary–Cretaceous age comprising approximately 22 square miles of high desert, typical of the arid southwest, located within the closed Animas drainage basin. North Pyramid Peak is the highest peak in the district reaching an altitude of 6,002 feet. The only spring in the area was originally named Mexican Springs, the site of a stage stop and later after several more name changes became the town of Shakespeare.
The first claim in the district was located on April 7, 1870, followed by more prospecting for gold and silver. W. C. Ralston, a leading financier from San Francisco became involved early on in the development of the mines and then became the principal victim of the Great Diamond Hoax of 1872. Thus began the up and down cycle of boom and bust the district experienced throughout its history. The district was basically abandoned until 1880 when the railroad reached Lordsburg, by passing Shakespeare. Renewed interest in the district resulted in a number of mines being claimed and opened, including the mines which became the major producers in the district, the 85, the Bonney and the Atwood mines. The Panic of 1893 caused in part by a change in the silver standard to the gold standard resulted in the drop in silver prices and the closing of most silver mines in the west, including the Lordsburg district.
Interest in the district renewed again in 1899 with the rise in copper prices resulting in the Lordsburg district becoming a copper district. The 85 group of mines became the principal producers in the district. The town of Valedon was built to service the miners of the 85 mine during this time and a railroad spur was extended to the mines. After being bought and resold several times the 85 group was acquired by the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company in 1920 due to its need of siliceous fluxing ore at its smelter in Douglas. It continued to prosper until 1931 when the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company was acquired by the Phelps Dodge Corporation. Phelps Dodge had its own sources of fluxing ore and no longer needed the ore from the 85 group. The mines were shut down, the pumps pulled and the town of Valedon was dismantled.
By 1933 the district was almost deserted. Renewed interest in the Bonney mine by a group of investors from Oklahoma resulted in the incorporation of the Banner Mining Company in the fall of 1935. The mine was brought into production the following year and expanded until WW II, when price freezes and shortages of labor made mining difficult. After WW II, the Miser’s Chest mine was acquired and production was increased again. In 196? The Banner mine was closed after 30 years of production, placing 2nd in production of copper in New Mexico for a number of those years. Currently there is no active mining going on in the district.
The Lordsburg district had its share of desperados, Apaches and con men who added to the colorful history of the district, among them, Curly Bill Brocius, John Ringo, and Billy the Kid.
The estimated value of production of metals during the period of 1904–1961 was $47,000,000 derived from approximately 156,000,000 pounds of copper, 4,400,000 pounds of lead, 500,000 pounds of zinc, 157,000 ounces of gold and 6,700,000 ounces of silver. Almost all of this production came from three mines, the Eighty-five, the Bonney-Miser’s Chest and the Henry Clay-Atwood.
The district did produce some significant collectable mineral specimens, but never any in large quantities. As a result, the Lordsburg District is not well represented in collections. The best are preserved in the collection of the mineral museum at New Mexico Tech. Those specimens include chalcopyrite, azurite and native copper.
Future prospects for the district are being investigated at this time by the Santa Fe Gold Corporation and Rio Tinto. According to Curtis Floyd, vice president, Lordsburg Mining Company and Banner Mill Manager, a deep low grade porphyry copper deposit is believed to be located in the area of the Banner mine. Santa Fe Gold has claims controlling around 13 square miles and Rio Tinto has claims controlling around 9 square miles.
Perhaps the claims made in an 1880 “dodger” distributed by the railroads claiming the mines around Shakespeare to the “the Eighth Wonder of the World” may have some validity yet.
Lordsburg Mining District, Pyramid Mountains, Tertiary, Cretaceous, Ralston, Valedon, Calumet, Arizona Mining, Banner Mining, Phelps Dodge, Billy the Kid, Santa Fe Gold
36th Annual New Mexico Mineral Symposium
November 13-15, 2015, Socorro, NM