Mills at Bingham
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This page was last updated on December 21, 2022.
(This page will focus on mills that were served by the railroads in Bingham.)
In the mid 1890s, the mining companies at Bingham were finding a larger percentage of ore that was lower grade, known as first class or smelter ore, which could not be shipped direct from mine to smelter. This lower grade ore, known as second class ore, needed to be reduced to save both on unneeded transportation costs, and high smelting costs.
In the early days of mining, a very large percentage of gold and silver ores required milling, or at least simple crushing to obtain ore of high enough concentration for smelting. These mills were essentially stamp mills feeding sorting and separation tables, usually known as "jigs." The ore was of such high value that simple amalgamation with cyanide was enough, which allowed very small operations to make good profit. This resulted in numerous small crushing and jig mills being built at almost all the larger mines in the Bingham district. As the tunnels were dug deeper, the ore became lower grade and of different chemical composition (less oxidized), which in turn required different and more expensive processes to separate the valuable portion of the ore from the useless rock.
As the oxidized ores ran out, the cost of extracting value soon exceeded the profit. With a new character of ore, a new process that used cyanide was used to separate the valuable gold and silver. These early cyanide mills were for processing gold ore. In May 1894, the Niagara Mining and Smelting company's Spanish mill installed cyanide equipment to process gold ore from the Spanish mine.
A limiting factor for all the mines in Bingham was the condition of the roads during wet and cold weather. The roads became impassable after the first snow fall, keeping the mines from shipping their first class ores to the smelters, or their second class ores to the mills, unless the distance from mine to mill was short enough to allow a covered mine track. Some mines continued working, storing their high value ore waiting for good weather. The mills usually shut down during the winter season.
Other mills were processing lead-silver ore and used a different process. These included the Dewey mill, the Fortune mill, and the Jordan mill of the United States company. Newspaper accounts also mention a Stewart mill operating in Carr Fork in Bingham circa April 1892, along with a Markham mill in December 1893.
"By the close of 1882 four stamp mills had been erected, one by the Stewart (20 stamps), one by the Stewart No. 2 (10 stamps), and two by the Jordan (one of 10 stamps, the other of 60 stamps, respectively). Even as late as the middle of the next decade a large stamp mill, with cyanide plant, was erected at the Highland Boy mine for the treatment of its oxidized gold ores." (These were gold mills.) (Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District, Utah, by John Mason Boutwell, USGS Professional Paper 38, 1905, page 95)
"The Shawmut mill is situated on the property of that name on the north slope of Carr Fork, just above its mouth. It is equipped with 1 Gates rock breaker, 2 pairs smooth Davis rolls, 7 Hartz jigs, 1 Chilean mill, 4 sets cylindrical screens 4 to 12 mesh, and 4 Wilfley tables. Power for a 50-horsepower dynamo is obtained from the Telluride Power Company. At time of visit 30 to 35 tons of low-grade pyretic copper ore were being run through in each eight-hour day. The plant is equipped, however, to treat 100 tons a day." (Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District, Utah, by John Mason Boutwell, USGS Professional Paper 38, 1905, page 95)
Transportation was always a problem, and as the mines and their production grew, the lack of capacity of using wagons and teams on the roads in the canyons and gulches became a major obstacle. The same narrow canyons and gulches were also a limiting factor for the railroads and aerial tramways. It was expensive to build a usable railroad spur to serve a successful mine, and in the steep canyons and gulches in the Bingham district, several mines built aerial tramways to get their concentrated ore down to where it could be loaded into railroad cars.
The successful mills were located on the Copper Belt railroad, which allowed the smaller mining companies to ship their second class ore by wagon or rail car to the mill, and to ship concentrates by partial and single car loads from mill to smelter.
By 1905, the need for reduction (concentrating) mills was slowing as mining companies began consolidating, reducing the market for custom milling, and as the local smelters added concentrators to their own processes. Also, the focus of the Bingham district shifted from lead and silver, over to low-grade copper ore.
By 1907, Utah Copper and Ohio Copper had both designed and were building their own concentrators located outside of the district. Also, Utah Consolidated would soon have its own mill and smelter on the Tooele side.
Early Bingham Mills
As early as the mid 1870s, the fact that most of the ore veins at Bingham were of low grade, soon became a limiting factor in their development. The March 18, 1876 issue of Engineering & Mining Journal wrote, "Owing to the enormous masses of very low grade ores at Bingham, the capacity of the camp will not be reached until proper concentration works are built. These very low grade ores, i.e. containing 3 to 10 oz. silver and 50 to 20 perecent lead, contain such large percentage of silica as to render the profitable treatment in furnaces impossible. The first concentration works built were those of the Utah Silver Lead Company."
The Utah company's mill was completed in mid April 1874, at a reported cost of $170,000. -- Salt Lake Herald, April 22, 1874 "just been completed."
The Utah mine showed large bodies of galena, zinc blende, iron and copper pyrites, a mixture that necessitated expensive fine crushing and floatation in water, and consequent production of a large percentage of wet concentrates, known as 'slimes'. These slimes in turn required large tanks to separate the minerals from the water, and methods to dry the concentrate prior to its shipment.
Concentraion works used large quantities of water. This early concentrating mill at the Utah mine (earlier known as the Buel & Bateman mine) was at the head of Bingham canyon, in what is at times known as Galena Gulch. Its location was its major difficulty, with water being scarce during the summer months due to its elevation at the head of a canyon, and equally scarce during the winter due to frost and snow. The earlier Buel & Bateman smelting furnace had failed for a similar reason. Its location meant that all of the fuel and fluxing ores had to be transported up the steep canyons to reach the smelter.
The mill of the Utah mine would have been successsful had it been built three miles lower, at Lower Bingham where the railroad ended its climb of the canyons, and where there was plentiful free-flowing water from springs and creeks. There were numerous small concentrating mills built adjacent to the mines in the canyons and side canyons at Bingham, and they all failed for essentially the same reasons, together with the lack of milling and concentrating machinery technology.
Dewey Mill (Wall Mill)
This mill was the same as the mill known as the Swan-Bemis mill, which began operations in June 1898. It was owned by the Dewey Mining and Milling Co. The last reference to the Bemis mill, or the Swan-Bemis mill in online newspapers was in July 1898. After that, it became the Dewey mill.
"The Bemis concentrating mill, which does much of the custom work of the district, is equipped with one Blake crusher, 9 by 15; one smooth-faced roll, 16 by 17; one smooth-faced roll, 12 by 20; four jigs (special design); 2 Wilfley tables, and a sizer. It was built in 1898 for treating low-grade copper ores, and has a capacity of 5 tons per hour. In 1900, 14,000 tons of ore were concentrated." (Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District, Utah, by John Mason Boutwell, USGS Professional Paper 38, 1905, page 95)
In 1904 the Dewey mill was sold to Col. E. A. Wall, and became known as the Wall mill. The "special design" jigs noted above may have been those designed by Wall as he continued to develop methods to process low-grade copper ore.
The Lead mill was located at the mouth of Bingham canyon, near Copperton. The location that was later known as "Lead Mine," and was also where the connection was for the Rio Grande low-grade line into Bingham canyon, completed in 1907.
The Lead Mine station, the site of the Lead mill, was also where Utah Copper, and later Kennecott Copper, built its precipitation plant.
The Lead mill was connected to the Lead mine by a tramway four and a half miles long. The tramway was twenty-four inch gauge, and is operated by mule power and gravity.
The Lead mine was located very near the Dalton & Lark mines, at the head of Copper Gulch. The original tramway from the Lead mine to the Lead mill is shown on the 1900 Bingham district USGS map.
The Markham mill was located at the mouth of Markham gulch, on the east side of Bingham creek. The mill is shown on the 1898 Sanborn fire insurance map, and would have been served by a spur of the Rio Grande Bingham branch.
"The Rogers mill, at Upper Bingham, is smaller, and during 1900, was running fairly steadily on leasers' ore. It is equipped with 5 stamps of 650 pounds each, 2 revolving screens of 8 and 16 mesh, 3 jigs, 2 Wilfley tables, and a hydraulic sizer. Both copper and lead ores are treated. The capacity averages 20 to 25 tons in eight hours, but varies with the hardness, ranging from 10 to 30 tons. In 1900, during 250 days, 5,500 tons of ore were concentrated." (Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District, Utah, by John Mason Boutwell, USGS Professional Paper 38, 1905, page 95)
The Shawmut mill was located on the north slope of Carr Fork canyon, about 600 feet southwest of its intersection with Bingham main canyon. After being closed for many years, and its ruins used by the local children as a large playground, the mill was demolished in 1923 to make way for the Robert E. Gemmell Memorial, better known as the Gemmell Club.
The following is summarized from Eva J. Hoffman's EPA report of 2005:
The mill was erected in 1900 by the Shawmut Mining and Milling Company and had a capacity of 100 tons of ore per day. The mill appears in the 1902 and 1907 Sanborn maps and was located in Carr Fork, only a few feet from the Carr Fork branch of Bingham Creek, approximately 600 feet southwest (upgradient) of the intersection of Carr Fork with the Main canyon. Historic photographs of the mill show substantial waste dumps surrounding the mill site. The period of operation for the mill appears to be from 1900 to sometime before 1908. The Utah Copper Company acquired the property in 1910. Utah Copper bought the land to use as a railroad corridor and dumping ground.
Boutwell's USGS report in 1905 indicates that the mill was located on the north slope of Carr Fork just above its mouth. It was equipped with one Gates rock breaker, two pairs smooth Davis rolls, seven Hartz jigs, one Chilean mill, four sets of cylindrical screens and four Wilfley tables. Capacity was 100 tons in each eight hour shift, but was typically operated at 30 tons per day. Kennecott indicates that a drought in 1900 created a water shortage at the mill site and 600 feet of boxes were laid to divert water from Carr Fork Creek to the mill.
Kennecott reports that the mill actually operated only between 1900 - 1902 and 1906 - 1907. Operations ceased between these period because of litigation difficulties. During the operation of this mill from 1900 - 1901, it milled 10,000 tons of lead-gold-silver ore producing 8,333 tons of tailings, containing 125 tons of lead. (Oquirrh Mountains Mining and the Environment by Eva J. Hoffman, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Denver, April 21, 2005)
March 1, 1900
Bids had been received for the construction of a 100-ton concentrating mill to be built at Bingham. The mill was to be built for the Shawmut Mining company at Bingham, which owned the Cuba group of mines at Bingham. The concentrating mill was to be completed by July 1st. (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1900; Salt Lake Herald, March 1, 1900; April 20, 1900)
May 21, 1900
"Shawmut mill building, now ready for machinery, will be practically completed tomorrow. Part of machinery due to have arrived last Tuesday is still on the road. The plant will include a Gates crusher, two sets rolls, a Chilean mill, five Wilfley and four double jigs, and its full capacity will be about 150 tons." (Salt Lake Herald, May 21, 1900)
June 10, 1900
"At Shawmut mill affairs are nearly at a standstill, awaiting arrival of machinery which is overdue. Only machinery thus far delivered is a fifty horse power electric motor. Another motor of twenty-horse power is included in the outfit." (Salt Lake herald, June 10, 1900)
June 30, 1900
"Shawmut Equipment -- Four Carloads Will be in Transit Today -- The first consignment of machinery for the new Shawmut mill at Bingham left day before yesterday, another carload was forwarded yesterday and by today the fourth car of equipment will be in transit. At least that was the information conveyed to Manager W. B. Andrew yesterday by telegram." "The arrival of the machinery has been expected for more than thirty days, when the contract was let by the company the delivery was promised before now, in fact Manager Andrew had every assurance from the machinery houses that everything would be on the ground in sufficient time to have the plant completed and ready to go into commission by July 1." "The eastern directors were given the same assurances but there was one delay after another and now Manager Andrew will do well if he gets the mill in shape to start up a month later than he expected to." (Salt Lake Herald, June 30, 1900)
August 5, 1900
"The Bingham Bulletin in its story of the week, says all of the Shawmut mill machinery is in place and connections are being made - the electric power being already connected up. Several pulleys and wheels were broken in transit but duplicates will be here by Monday and a week later the mill should be ready to go into commission." (Salt Lake Tribune, August 5, 1900)
August 17, 1900
"The Shawmut mill at Bingham was scheduled to start up yesterday and will soon be handling 100 tons of ore dally." (Salt Lake Tribune, August 17, 1900)
September 16, 1900
"Shawmut mill began shipping ore Wednesday and is sending out concentrates at the rate of a carload a day." (Salt Lake Tribune, September 16, 1900)
November 11, 1900
The Shawmut mill was shut down to lack of reliable electric power from the Jordan Narrows plant. The mill was to remain closed until reliable power became available, or until a steam plant could be installed. the Shawmut mine itself continued to ship ore and develop ore veins within the mine. (Salt Lake Herald, November 11, 1900)
March 2, 1901
"It is expected that the Shawmut mill, supplied with power by the Telluride company, will make another start about 1st of April and be run by three shifts." (Deseret Evening News, March 2, 1901) (By May 31st, the mill was still not in operation due to a lack of milling ores from the mine, meaning the mine was shipping higher grade ore direct to the smelter. -- Salt Lake Tribune, May 31, 1901)
July 15, 1901
"It is expected that the Shawmut mill at Bingham will be started up again today or tomorrow." (Salt Lake Mining Review, July 15, 1901)
August 28, 1901
"Since the starting of the Shawmut mill about three weeks ago three cars of very nice concentrates have been marketed and three more will be out in a day or two." (Salt Lake Herald, August 28, 1901)
Various newspaper items reported that the Shawmut mill was in and out of operation on a regular basis due to problems with the ore coming from the mining company's U&I and Cuba mines. To better support the financial future of the mining company, only first class ore was mined to bring in higher profit. Second class, or milling ore, was left in the ground, thereby keeping the mill idle. By 1905, the Shawmut mill was processing custom ores from other mines. (Goodwin's Weekly, December 5, 1905)
By April 1906, the Shawmut mill was still idle. The mining company was under new management, stating the the previous owners were inexperienced in processing the metals of Bingham. Improvements were to be made in the milling process to mill the second class ore from the mine at lower costs. (Inter-Mountain Republican, April 28, 1906)
October 12, 1906
The Shawmut Mining company removed the machinery from its mill at Bingham, and shipped it to a mill it owned in Salida, Colorado. (Salt Lake Herald-Republican, October 12, 1906)
October 26, 1910
"The Shawmut Property was acquired by purchase. The group contained 11 claims with a total acreage of 100.381 acres. This property had been abandoned as a mining proposition and was valuable solely for right-of-way and building purposes. $24,065.06 was pald for this property." (Utah Copper Chronology, citing "History of Utah Copper, compiled by L. F. Pett")
December 30, 1910
It was reported that the holdings of the Shawmut Copper company had been sold to persons "closely allied" with Utah Copper company. (Salt Lake Mining Review, December 30, 1910)
March 1, 1913
A photograph in the March 1, 1913 issue of Engineering and Mining Journal, shows that by the time the undated photo was taken, the Shawmut mill had been demolished, leaving a large scar on the hill side. (Engineering and Mining Journal, March 1, 1913, Volume 95, Number 9, page 465) (The photo was taken after the large B&G bridge crossing over Carr Fork had been completed in 1911.)
July 4, 1914
It was reported that the Shawmut groups was among the holdings of Utah Copper company, increasing its holdings from its original 190 acres, to its then-present holdings of 740 acres. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 4, 1914)
June 9, 1923
Utah Copper received permission from Bingham City to change the course of the creek at the "old" Shawmut mill. (The [Bingham] Press Bulletin, June 9, 1923)
July 27, 1923
"Bingham -- Ground is being broken for the erection of a clubhouse by the Utah Copper company on the site of the old Shawmut mill." (Beaver County News, July 27, 1923)
July 30, 1923
"Ground is being broken for the erection of a clubhouse by the Utah Copper company at Bingham on the site of the old Shawmut mill near the present tramway terminus. The building, 120 by 80 feet, which will be one of the finest of its kind in the west, will be called the Robert C. Gemmell Memorial in honor of General Manager Gemmell, who died recently. The Gemmell Memorial, to be erected at a cost of over $125,000, is but part of the building program now being executed by the Utah Copper company in retaining its position as one of the best equipped mines in the world." (Salt Lake Mining Review, July 30, 1923) (Robert C. Gemmell passed away on October 22, 1922)
The Spanish mill was located on what was called "the Utah ground," meaning the site of the old Utah group of mines, which included the Spanish mine. The mill was owned by the Niagara Mining and Smelting company, and was opened in mid August 1890, with P. A. H. Franklin as the company president.
From June 1895 on, the Bemis brothers, Austin H., Fred H. and George L., were operating the Niagara company's Spanish mill, processing gold-silver bullion. Previously they had been working the Trinity, the 1889, and the Spanish mines under lease, all of which were owned by the Niagara company. During the last half of 1895, they were delivering bars of gold-silver bullion to Salt Lake City banks, each valued at $700-800. During this time, the Spanish mill was owned by the Niagara mining company. The last reference to the Spanish mill in online newspapers was in March 1898.
The Spanish mill was closed in 1898, and much of its equipment moved to the larger Dewey mill in lower Bingham. The new Dewey mill continued to process the ore from the Niagara company's mines.
The Yosemite mine and mill were located a short distance south and east from the pass at the top of Yosemite Gulch, which extended down the eastern slope of East Mountain, on the east side of Bingham Canyon. At its top, Yosemite Gulch joined Copper Gulch (the location of the Dalton & Lark mine) and became the low pass between the Salt Lake Valley and Bingham Canyon. Proceeding down the western slope from the pass toward Bingham, brings you directly to Upper Bingham and the town of Copperfield.
The USGS map of Bingham in 1900 shows a road directly between the Yosemite mine, across the low ridge west to the Telegraph mine in Bear Gulch on the Bingham side of the pass.
Bingham Mills Backstory
- Historical Notes On Mill Sites In Bingham District, by Steven Richardson, November 1995
- Oquirrh Mountains Mining and the Environment by Eva J. Hoffman, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Denver, April 21, 2005) (PDF; 343 pages; 84MB)
- History of the Bingham Mining District, Thomas P. Billings, 1952