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Smelting In Utah

This page was last updated on November 14, 2016.

(Return to Smelters Index page)

Early Smelters

(A list of smelters and mills in Utah Territory in 1873)

The first successful smelter in Utah, with direct access to railroad service, was built by the Woodhull Brothers in June 1870, to process the ore from their mine in Little Cottonwood canyon. To provide the needed water supply, this early smelter was located where the Utah Southern railroad line crossed Big Cottonwood Creek (at about 4900 South, by today's street numbering system).

The Woodhull Brothers smelter later became the Morgan smelter, and then the Hanauer smelter.

(Read more about the smelters at Murray)

"Other mines in this area were located and worked, among them the Neptune, Kempton, Wall Street, and the Damn Fool. The Utah mine was located by soldiers from Camp Douglas and the 1871 owners, Buel and Bateman, built a nearby smelter. This mine was sold to an English Company at a price said to have been in the neighborhood of $450,000. In 1879 T. R. Jones, a banker of Salt Lake City, purchased the property." (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p.89)

The first smelter in Utah "was by the Utah Smelting company and was erected in Bingham, its stacks being blown in first on September 20, 1860." "The old site of this smelter and the mine from which its ores were taken are now the property of the Niagara Mining and Smelting company, and remains of the old slag dump are still apparent to the passer-by." (Salt Lake Tribune, July 22, 1897; describing a float for the Pioneer Day parade that depicted the first smelter in the state.) (The 1860 date is very much in error; likely a typographical error for 1870.)

Utah smelter operated from 1871 to 1873. (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p.90)

December 1872
Work started on the smelting works of the Galena Silver Mining Company, located where the Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd Railroad was to cross the Jordan River on its way between a connection with Utah Southern at Sandy, and the mines in Bingham Canyon. Surveying work for the railroad had begun one month previously in November 1872. (Clarence A. Reeder, "The History Of Utah's Railroads, 1869 - 1883, Chapter 5)

(Read more about the smelters at Midvale)

Winnamuck (or Winamuck) smelter built in Autumn 1871. (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p.90)

The Winnamuck claim was first filed on March 31, 1866. (USGS Professional Paper 38, "Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District", page 84)

The company was first organized as the Winnamuck Silver Mining Company. (London Times, June 19, 1873)

(Read more about the Winnamuck mill, which became the terminus of the railroad in Bingham)

Sheridan Hill smelter was built in 1873. (Billings)

In 1873 there were within 12 miles of Salt Lake City 11 furnaces for reduction of ores, and in the state of Utah there were over 30 such furnaces, all of which had developed since the arrival of Union Pacific in 1869. (History of the Union Pacific, Nelson Trottman, 1923, page 99)

June 3, 1877
The Flagstaff smelter, located on the Union Pacific tracks in Sandy, was processing the lead ore from the Spanish mine in Bingham. The price in lead had declined sharply, but the Spanish mine was still in operation because they had a fixed-price contract with the Flagstaff smelter. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 3, 1877)

The large amounts of lead coming from the Horn Silver mine during the late 1879 time period shown above give a good indication of Union Pacific's motivation to complete construction of its Utah Southern Extension Railroad between the end of the Utah Southern at Juab, and Frisco. After UP gained control of Utah Southern in mid 1875, its terminus remained at York until early 1879. It was the developing Horn Silver mine, which UP's officers also had an interest in, that was the motivation for rapid completion of railroad service to Frisco. Work resumed March 1879 and reached Frisco on June 23, 1880. Until that time, and throughout 1879 and early 1880, the stream of wagons between Frisco and the smelter in Murray (235 miles) must have been quite a sight to see. It would have to have been a stream of wagons, given the above mentioned production figures for finished unrefined lead.

At the beginning of 1880, there were ten lead smelters in Utah, with the following order of production (largest first):

September 17, 1891
"D. W. Brunton, of Taylor & Brunton sampling works, is in town; his company is to put up new works below the Germania smelter, the building to be 40 by 127 feet, the central part being 40 feet square and three stories high, and it will be located between the R. G. W. and U. P. tracks." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, September 17, 1891)

July 1, 1891
The Mingo Smelting Company was incorporated in Utah "yesterday" (July 1), with James E. Schwartz of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, holding 4,970 of the 5,000 shares. Schwartz was also president and director. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 2, 1891)

In the ten year period between 1896 and 1906, there was a general increase in the production of lead, copper, and gold from the Bingham district and it had become the leading copper producing camp in Utah.

In 1899, American Smelting & Refining Company was organized by combining the Germania and Hanauer smelters at Murray, the Mingo smelter at Sandy, and the Ibex smelter at Leamington.

July 1902
ASARCO built its new smelter at Murray, with operations starting in July 1902.

In 1903 the Copper Belt railroad built spurs and extensions to get the ore traffic of other mining companies in the canyon. The new construction included a spur to Boston Consolidated mine and the Yampa Consolidated mine, both in Carr Fork, along with another spur to the Yampa Consolidated's smelter. (1909 Bingham Commercial Club Souvenir booklet)

The Yampa Consolidated Mining Co., had been organized in April 1901 as a consolidation of Yampa mine and seven other properties, all located on the north slope of Carr Fork. (Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District, USGS Professional Paper No. 38, 1905, page 382)

The Yampa smelter was completed in December 1903 and was located on the north slope of the canyon, about a quarter mile below Rio Grande Western's Bingham station. (Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District, USGS Professional Paper No. 38, 1905, page 302)

The spur to the Yampa smelter crossed the canyon just above the Bingham station and continued along the north slope of Bingham Canyon to the smelter.

The new Copper Belt spur for Boston Consolidated was built after the mining company signed a two-year smelting contract to supply the Bingham Consolidated smelter in Midvale with 200 tons of ore per day. By October 1903, Boston Con was shipping as much as 500 tons per day from the Carr Fork mine. The mine was shipping 4,000 tons by February 1904. (Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District, USGS Professional Paper No. 38, 1905, page 381)

Considering that the average rail car at this time had a 30-ton capacity, 500 tons per day would have been about 16 carloads per day, and 4,000 tons per month would have been a total of about 133 cars per month, or just four carloads per day, averaged out over the month. This ore was all moving over the Copper Belt line to Bingham, then by RGW to Midvale.

Billings wrote, "The Yampa smelter, located on the west slope of the main canyon below the town of Bingham, started operations in the early part of 1904, producing a copper matte which was shipped to one of the Salt Lake Valley smelters for converting into slab copper preparatory for refining."

Utah Copper completed their Copperton mill in April 1904, and commenced operations in September, shipping its low grade ore from the mine to the Copperton mill, by way of the Copper Belt and the Rio Grande Western. (Arrington: Richest Hole, p. 39; Kennecott's own Historical Index says that operations commenced on July 1, 1904)

April 29, 1904
Utah Copper was reorganized as a New Jersey corporation. This new company was organized to provide the finances necessary for further expansion of both mining operations, and milling operations, assuming that the experimental mill at Copperton would be successful. (Kennecott Historical Index)

Until June 1907, all of the ore came from Utah Copper's underground mine. The concentrates from Utah Copper's Copperton mill were shipped to the Bingham Consolidated smelter at Midvale, by way of the RGW.

The expansion of Utah Copper's operation came from the Guggenheims, who also held majority interest in Standard Oil. One of their investment vehicles, the Guggenheim Exploration Company, provided the funding for Utah Copper to build its new mill at Magna, and the reorganization of Utah Copper in April 1904 was the result of the influx of Guggenheim money. The Guggenheims were also the majority owners of American Smelting & Refining (ASARCO), who had bought majority interests in most of the Salt Lake Valley smelters, wanting to consolidate the smelting operations in one large location to benefit from economies of scale that such an operation would provide. To tie their two new properties together, i.e., funding the expansion of Utah Copper, and consolidating the Utah smelters into a new large smelter at Garfield, Utah Copper signed a 20-year contract with ASARCO that would both guarantee a market for Utah Copper mining operations, and through their new mill at Magna, provide copper concentrates for the new Garfield smelter. (Arrington: Richest Hole, p. 46)

Construction on the new Utah Copper mill began in November 1905. (Engineering and Mining Journal, March 17, 1906, p. 534; see also Arrington: Richest Hole, p. 50)

Construction of the Garfield smelter began in 1905. (Arrington: Richest Hole, p. 47)

To formally get the new smelter organized and under construction, the Garfield Smelting Company was incorporated on November 17, 1905, as a subsidiary of the American Smelting & Refining Co. (Utah corporation files, index 5411)

The Garfield smelter began operations in August 1906. (Arrington: Richest Hole, p. 47)

"Complying with Court Decree copper smelting was discontinued in Salt Lake Valley December 31, 1907. However, before the closing down of the three going copper smelters in Salt Lake Valley, preparation for their replacement had been made by new and more modern plants, the Garfield Smelter of the American Smelting and Refining Company erected near the south shores of Great Salt Lake and the Tooele plant of the International Smelting and Refining Company erected at the mouth of Pine Canyon overlooking Tooele Valley. The Garfield Smelter started operations in 1906, principally for the reduction of Utah Copper Concentrates but also custom ores. The Tooele Smelter got into operation in 1911, principally for the reduction of Highland Boy ores but also custom ores, and was equipped for the smelting of both copper sulfides and lead-silver ores." (Thomas Parry Billings, "History of the Bingham Mining District", written c.1952)