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National Tunnel and Mines Company

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This page was last updated on September 14, 2016.

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Overview

National Tunnel and Mines Company was a March 1937 consolidation of the two largest mining companies with mines in the Carr Fork section of the Bingham Canyon mining district. These two companies were the Utah Delaware Mining Company and the Utah Apex Mining Company.

Work began immediately on the new company's reason for the consolidation, to build a tunnel between the Bingham mines, and the site of the International smelter near Tooele. The tunnel was completed in July 1941, with a finished length of 4.5 miles.

Costs of keeping the mines clear of water, and of transporting ore to the smelter were very high. When the World War II-era subsidies for lead, zinc and copper mining came to an end in 1946, the costs were too high for the company to remain in business. Bankruptcy came in September 1947, and all property and assets were sold to Anaconda Copper Mining in October 1948.

Elton Tunnel

The Elton Tunnel was constructed by National Tunnel and Mines Company as an outlet for the underground copper and lead mines controlled by Anaconda Copper Company, which by the mid 1930s had assembled control of most of the underground mines in the west area of the Bingham pit. Collectively the underground mine was known as the Utah Delaware mine, and the Utah Apex mine. In 1948, Anaconda acquired full control and ownership in the tunnel company and the associated mines. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 77)

The Elton tunnel was 4-1/2 miles long (one of the longest railroad tunnels in the United States), and was constructed to eliminate pumping and hoisting costs, and provide reduced transportation costs, especially for the Utah Apex ores. This tunnel had its portal at the west base of the Oquirrh Mountains about 5,000 feet west of the Tooele Mill and Smelter. The tunnel connected at the Bingham end with the Rood Shaft and the Utah Apex workings in Carr Fork. The water flowing from the tunnel was used for irrigation of farms in the general Tooele area.

The Elton Tunnel replaced the Utah Consolidated aerial tramway between Carr Fork and the International smelter near Tooele. The aerial tramway had been completed in 1910.

(Read more about the Utah Consolidated aerial tramway)

As a historical note, a similar tunnel was planned between Carr Fork and Pine Canyon as early as August 1899, when the Baltimore Mining & Tunnel announced its intention to complete the project that was projected as being 9000 feet in length. The Carr Fork opening was to be 600 feet deeper that the lowest workings of the Highland Boy mine. (Salt Lake Mining Review, August 30, 1899)

Timeline

March 12, 1937
"UTAH MINING FIRMS AGREE UPON MERGER -- Utah-Apex, Utah-Delaware Plan To Resume Operations -- PORTLAND, Me., March 12. (AP) — Stockholders of the Utah-Apex Mining company voted here today to merge with the Utah-Delaware Mining company to form the National Tunnel and Mines company for operation of copper, lead and zinc mines in Utah and California." "Little more than an hour was required to effect the consolidation and elect officers under a previous joint agreement by respective boards of directors." "By the consolidation agreement, Utah Apex will be the surviving corporation, continuing under the name of the National Tunnel & Mines company. The new corporation will have authorized stock of 1,050,000 shares a without par value, 528,200 shares will be issued to the stockholders of Utah Apex in a share-for-share conversion plan. 328,000 will be issued to the holder of outstanding shares of Utah-Delaware, Inc., International Smelting and Refining company in conversion of a like number of fully paid and non-assessable share of Utah-Delaware now outstanding. The remaining 200,000 shares of the new corporation will be issued in conversion of a like number of partly-paid shares of Utah-Delaware Mining company, for which the Anaconda Copper Mining company has subscribed at the rate of $5 per share." "SHUT DOWN IN 1932 -- Properties of the two companies were shut down in 1932 because of the low price in metals." "The agreement proposed construction of a 22,000-foot drainage it and transportation tunnel through the joint properties." (Ogden Standard Examiner, March 12, 1937)

December 6, 1940
National Tunnel and Mines was shown as being a subsidiary of Anaconda. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 6, 1940)

April 27, 1941
"The length of the tunnel stood at 23,158 feet Saturday, with the water flow about 3651 gallons per minute. When completed at 24,100 feet, the tunnel will drain the lower levels of the Utah Apex and Utah delaware mines and provide a means of transporting ore to the International Smelting & Refining company's plant at Tooele. International, an Anaconda Copper Mining company subsidiary, controls National Tunnel." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 27, 1941)

May 5, 1941
Frederick Laist of New York City, was executive vice president of International Smelting & Refining company, president of National Tunnel and Mines company, and was vice president in charge of metallurgy of all Anaconda Copper mines. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 5, 1941)

January 11, 1942
The first lead-zinc ore was delivered from the Elton Tunnel. The dewatering operations were very nearly completed, and full production was expected to begin by February 1, 1942. (Salt Lake Tribune, January 11, 1942)

February 8, 1942
The Elton Tunnel was at the 2475 level in the Utah Apex mine. Copper ore bodies had been developed as low as the 3300 level. To allow work to resume, electric pumps were installed to pump water up to the 2475 level, and out the Elton Tunnel. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 8, 1942; February 22, 1942)

April 19, 1942
Mining of lead and zinc ore was taking place in the upper levels of the mine, from the 1150 level down to the 1500 level. Mining of copper ore would begin in lower levels (2700, 2900, 3100, and 3300 levels) as soon as water had been pumped out and repairs made in, including clearing a large quantities of mud. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 19, 1942)

April 22, 1942
During 1941, Anaconda Copper Mining increased its ownership of National Tunnel and Mines, to 55.91 percent. (Reno Gazette Journal, April 22, 1942)

March 20, 1944
The shareholders of National Tunnel and Mines Company, and of Utah Metal and Tunnel Company, met in simultaneous meetings in Portland , Maine, to vote of a proposed merger of the two companies. The boards of each company had already signed the contract to merge the companies. (Deseret News, March 10, 1044)

September 15, 1947
The National Tunnel and Mines Company closed its mine. The mine had produced 400 tons of ore every day until it closed. The shafts were so deep that water was a problem, and keeping it pumped out was a major expense, with 2,500 gallons flowing out of the Tooele portal every minute. Costs became too high after the U. S. government stopped its subsidy payments for the lead and copper ore that was being taken out of the mine. After the subsidies stopped, the ore was too low in grade to make mining cost effective. (Salt Lake Tribune, October 4, 1948)

The company had filed for bankruptcy on September 9th, and the court approved the petition on September 13th. Trading of the company's stock was suspended on September 18th. (Ogden Standard Examiner, September 18, 1947)

October 4, 1948
"The holdings of the National Tunnel and Mines company were sold at auction October 4, to the Anaconda Copper company for $500,000. The properties, including the Elton tunnel, buildings and more than 5000 acres of patented mining claims, had been estimated to have a value of $6,000,000. The 23,000-foot tunnel, running eastward from Tooele to connect with the workings of the Apex and Highland [Boy] mines on the Bingham side of the Oquirrh mountains, was completed in 1941. In addition to draining 2500 gallons of water per minute from the mines, 800,000 tons of ore were moved through the tunnel during World War II. When government subsidies on copper and lead were dropped, it was said, the ore was not of high enough grade to pay for its mining." (Desert Magazine, December 1948, page 30, citing the Salt Lake Tribune)

The auction was held at the Tooele County court house, with the minimum bid being $500,000. (Salt Lake Tribune, September 4, 1948, official publication of the planned sale)

The value of the company was reported as being $6 million. (Salt Lake Tribune, September 29, 1948)

(Research shows that Anaconda already held a controlling interest, as well as a very large majority of the stock of National Tunnel and Mines. The bankruptcy was used by Anaconda as the method of forcing minority shareholders to accept the price Anaconda was offering to purchase all of the remaining stock.)

January 29, 1949
The bankruptcy court approved the sale of National Tunnel and Mines Company to Anaconda Copper Mining Company for $500,000, with an effective date of October 11, 1948. The company had filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 1947, and the court approval and signing of the decree cleared all outstanding debts, claims and obligations. There had been over 5,000 shareholders, residing principally in the eastern states and foreign countries.

After 1948

Anaconda shut down the entire National Tunnel and Mines property after they bought it in 1948. They did occasional diamond drilling to find the extent of the ore bodies, but did not do anything until the mid 1970s when they started the Carr Fork project. The long tunnel was allowed to deteriorate and cave in several places. When Anaconda started developing the Utah Apex property for the Carr Fork project in 1979, they drove new shafts and tunnels. (Jim Garmoe, retired Anaconda geologist, telephone interview, September 10, 2016)

August 31, 1964
In a news item about a fire at the surface works of the Utah Apex mine in Carr Fork, which destroyed the mine's two-story office, change house and machine shop, the watchman stated that the mine had not been out of production since 1959. (Ogden Standard Examiner, August 31, 1964)

July 11, 1965
A new resident manager was appointed for all of Anaconda's properties in Utah and portions of Nevada. This included the International smelter, the Tooele Valley Railway, "the inactive copper holdings near Bingham Canyon." (Salt Lake Tribune, July 11, 1965)

The following comes from a 2005 report completed by the Denver office of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency:

From "Oquirrh Mountains Mining and the Environment"

By Eva J. Hoffman, EPA Denver office, April 21, 2005

Elton Tunnel, built by the National Tunnels and Mines Company, was started in 1938 (sic, 1937) and completed in 1940 (sic, 1941). It was 23,000 feet long and connected the mines in Carr Fork with the Tooele smelter. It contained both a railroad and a drainage conduit. It drained the lower flooded workings of the Apex mine permitting additional exploration. The mine water irrigated 2000 acres of farm land on the other side of the mountain. [Lynn R. Bailey, Old Reliable, page 166].

A contemporary newspaper account indicates that the tunnel was completed in August 1941 [SLT, 8-23-41] taking 4 years to build. The dimensions were 11 feet x 12 feet. The objectives of the tunnel according to several newspaper accounts between 1940 and 1941 were (1) to drain both the Utah Apex and Utah Delaware Mines owned by the National Tunnel and Mines Company; (2) to provide irrigation water (3500 gals/min) to Tooele Valley; (3) haul ore from Bingham to the Tooele smelter and (4) transfer workmen from the Tooele workings at Bingham. The cost was $1.5M. It was named after J. O. Elton, the general manager of International Smelting and Refining. Water gushing out of fissures and gravels caused construction difficulties and one fatality. The National Tunnel and Mines company, a subsidiary of Anaconda Copper Mining Company, constructed the tunnel.

ARCO reports that the flow from the tunnel was about 4000-5000 gal/min in 1939. Flows during the 1940s ranged between 400 - 3000 gallons per minute. Former Anaconda employees said the flow under normal conditions was 1200 - 1800 gallons per minute, but increased during spring runoff to 3000 - 5000 gallons per minute. [ARCO, 1994]. The water was used primarily for irrigation, but also by Utah Copper, by the Tunnel Company, and the International Smelting and Refining Company.

Caving in the Elton Tunnel began in 1948, the first cave-in was repaired. A former employee indicates that the water had stopped flowing in approximately 1952 due to caving. Although the Anaconda Company considered the Elton Tunnel for dewatering old workings in the development of its Carr Fork mine in the 1970s, the idea was abandoned when the tunnel was determined to be completely blocked by caving within 250 feet of the portal. Anaconda installed a concrete bulkhead to seal the tunnel in the late 1970s.

The portal of the Elton tunnel was buried during reclamation of the area. There is no surface water expression of any drainage. The tunnel portal is in an area still owned by ARCO, but Kennecott owns the water rights. The water rights for the Elton Tunnel (WUC # 15-296) is for process water at 5802.98 gpm [KUC Water Rights, 1990]

In 1999, Anderson Engineering (a consultant to ARCO) discovered that the south branch of Pine Creek had eroded a channel through a breach in the lower water holding pond and was flowing through the original Elton Tunnel portal structure. Anderson repaired this by constructing a overflow channel and spillway from the holding pond to the natural drainage channel below the ponds. Excavations revealed no further subterranean voids between the plug and the former portal, and there was no evidence of mine drainage in the fill. The tunnel portal structure was demolished and 300 cubic yards of fill was added to fill the sinkholes and the voids.

During the fall of 1998 and 1999, Atlantic Richfield completed maintenance work, including repair of shallow erosion rills, placement of an additional cover in the Elton Tunnel portal area, construction of a spillway at the Elton Tunnel water holding pond, and demolition and backfill of the Elton Tunnel portal. After its purchase of the property in 1985, and with Kennecott's diversion from mine dewatering to the Salt Lake Valley streams, the flow of water from the Elton Tunnel is almost nonexistent. (EPA Record of Decision, International Smelting and Refining Superfund Site, Tooele, Utah, September 2007)

More Information

Carr Fork Mines, 1896-1941 -- Information about the larger mines located in Carr Fork; includes the Highland Boy (Utah Consolidated), Bingham New Haven, and Utah-Apex. By 1941, all were owned by Anaconda and were shipping by way to the Elton Tunnel to the International smelter near Tooele.

International Smelter (Tooele) -- Information about the smelters at International, near Tooele.

Anaconda In Utah -- Information about Anaconda and how in later years (after 1948), it let the Carr Fork mines remain idle until the Carr Fork Project was started in 1979, but was shut down in 1981.

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