Lark, Tale Of Two Tunnels
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This page was last updated on October 15, 2023.
There is a lot of history at Lark. It was the out-portal for the Mascotte Tunnel, completed in 1904. At 9,000 feet, it was the longest railroad tunnel in the state. The Bingham Central Railway was organized in 1907 as a joint venture between three mining companies, Bingham Consolidated, Utah Copper, and Ohio Copper.
The next year, 1908, Utah Copper organized the Bingham & Garfield railroad, and pulled out of the joint venture. The Bingham Central was organized in 1907 to extend the existing Mascotte tunnel from the old Dalton & Lark property, to the Ohio Copper property. The extension was completed in 1910 as a subsidiary of the Ohio Copper Co., which built a large concentrating mill at Lark. To shorten the story a bit, U. S. Mining bought the Ohio company, and in 1951 Kennecott as part of deal for surface and sub-surface rights in the Bingham Canyon open pit mine, built a new tunnel for U. S. Mining that also had its out-portal at Lark.
Lark, the town, came into existence as the point where a long tunnel came to an end. The tunnel was the Mascotte Tunnel, named for one of the mining claims that were part of the old Dalton & Lark Mining company when it was reorganized in 1900. Previously the tunnel had been known as "The Bingham Tunnel," with its main purpose to drain the high water levels that were always a plague of mines at Bingham. The Mascotte name was used briefly during 1900 when the company that owned it, the Mascotte of Bingham Mining Company (the reorganized Dalton & Lark company) was active in promoting the tunnel's purpose. The Mascotte name stuck after the company was reorganized again later in 1900, re-using the better-known Dalton & Lark company name after minority shareholder claims were settled.
The Mascotte name continued in use after April 1901 when the Dalton & Lark company was sold to the Bingham Consolidated Mining and Smelting company. The 1901 reorganization was done in part to provide funding for larger pumps to drain the mines and to complete the drain tunnel, which had only reached a length of about 1,000 feet, much less than its later final length. Work continued on the tunnel, and in March 1905, the tunnel was completed to a point under the Dalton & Lark mining claims (and the main Lark shaft) that were its purpose, at a length of 8,200 feet, about 1.5 miles.
In 1907, Ohio Copper company extended the Mascotte tunnel another 3,000 feet to the west from under the Dalton mine, to reach under the Ohio Copper claims on the east side of Bingham canyon. Another branch of over 6,000 feet to the southwest took the tunnel to a point under the Bingham Consolidated company's Commercial claims under Upper Bingham. It was this branch that would provide later access to the adjacent United States company's ground.
As part of the funding to complete the Mascotte drain tunnel, it was separated from the Bingham Consolidated company and was organized in August 1907 as the Bingham Central Railway. This separate corporation could then obtain separate funding by taking a mortgage against the tracks and equipment, allowing the railway to be used as a service to other mines as the tunnel passed under them. The Ohio Copper Company was organized at the same time.
In 1909, as part of the settlement of debts against the bankrupt Bingham Consolidated company, ownership of the Bingham Central Railway, and its Mascotte tunnel passed to F. Augustus Heinz, a promoter who was the moving force behind the Ohio Copper company. Heinz used the tunnel to transport ore from his Ohio Copper properties, to the Ohio company's new mill at Lark, completed in late 1909, as well as charging fees to move other companies' ore from their mines to his new mill. The haulage fees charged to all mines were a sticking point between Heinz, Ohio Copper, and the other mines for many years, with charges in the local press accusing Heinz of holding the Ohio company hostage, since the Mascotte was their only outlet. Until 1917 the tunnel and railway remained under the ownership of Heinz, or his estate after his death in 1914.
Work to extend the Mascotte tunnel to what would be its final length of 14,300 feet began in 1910, reaching the Yosemite property of the Bingham Mines company in Upper Bingham in April 1913.
Ohio Copper was reorganized in March 1917 to provide the needed funds to take ownership of the Bingham Central railway and its Mascotte tunnel. The Ohio Copper company kept the railway and tunnel as a separate subsidiary for its remaining years. The Bingham Consolidated company was reorganized as the Bingham Mines company in 1908, and in July 1929 the United States company purchased the Bingham Mines company.
In 1951 the United States Smelting, Refining and Mining company bought out all of the surface and subsurface rights and property of the Ohio Copper company.
Although the Bingham Central Railway operated only within the Mascotte tunnel, there were numerous connecting tunnels. These other tunnels connected by way of vertical shafts, and incline shafts, both up and down, as well as horizontally to many other underground workings. A later map completed by Kennecott in 2001 shows an extensive network of straight and meandering tunnels throughout the various mining claims at many different levels, both on Bingham canyon's east side, and on the west side of the canyon. The Mascotte tunnel, as well as its 1952 replacement, stayed within an elevation of about 5500 feet, and along with the later Bingham-Lark tunnel that replaced it, remained as the main route to access almost all of these many underground workings.
The Mascotte tunnel was at the 5490 elevation at its portal at Lark, descending from the 5565 feet elevation at its western end under the Commercial and Yosmite workings. The Mascotte tunnel at its maximum length was in service from about 1910 until 1952. It was a single-track tunnel, and extended over 14,000 feet into the mountain, to connect with the shaft of the old Commercial mine at the head of Copper Center Gulch, west of Upper Bingham (Copperfield).
In February 1937, Utah Copper purchased all of Ohio Copper's rights (surface and subsurface) above the Mascotte tunnel (actually, 50 feet above the tunnel), then started construction of the Bingham-Copperfield vehicular tunnel. The tunnel was on a curve to avoid the workings of the open pit mine, and was completed in February 1939. The vehicular tunnel rose from 6100 feet elevation at Bingham to 6600 feet at Copperfield.
The Bingham-Lark tunnel, completed in 1952, was also at the same 5490 elevation at its Lark portal, and connected with the Bingham Consolidated company's Commercial branch of the Mascotte tunnel deep inside the mountain at 5565 feet elevation, at a point 500 feet below and a little northwest of the Yosemite truck shop. The new tunnel was a modern high-capacity tunnel and took an underground route that was farther to the south, away from the original Ohio Copper workings, which would soon be part of Kennecott's open pit mine.
In a joint venture with United States Mining company in 1948, Kennecott gained access to the U. S. workings, and after 1952 to the former Ohio Copper workings below the Mascotte tunnel, wanting access the copper ore as part of its open pit mine. Kennecott would take the copper ore discovered, and the U. S. company would take whatever lead-zinc ore that was discovered.
As an illustration of the agreements between Kennecott and USSR&M, Steven Richardson, a retired Kennecott geologist, recalls that UV Industries, as successor in 1972 to the United States Smelting, Refining and Mining company, leased its surface rights to the Reed Brothers, and whenever a Kennecott shovel approached old workings they had a loader ready to put the lead-zinc ore onto a flatbed truck, which then carried it down Bingham Canyon and out to Lark. From there the ore was sent to Idaho or Canada to be smelted.
During a fire in July 1950 in the Lark mine, the completed crossover between the Mascotte tunnel and the Lark branch of the Bingham-Lark tunnel was used to access portions of the burning area of the Lark mine. On the first day of the fire, there was large amounts of toxic smoke exiting the Bingham tunnel opening at Lark, prior to an extensive effort to establish safe ventilation in Lark mine, as well as the Mascotte and Bingham-Lark tunnels.
After connecting with the Mascotte tunnel deep inside the mountain, the new Bingham-Lark tunnel continued another mile deeper into the mountain to access the U. S. mine workings under Galena Gulch, at what was called the No. 2 shaft that was itself a connection with the U. S. company's Niagara tunnel. The new Bingham-Lark tunnel and the connection to No. 2 shaft, and the later new Shaft No. 3 allowed the Niagara tunnel to be retired, and Kennecott and the United States company immediately set about removing all the the former surface structures of the Niagara tunnel at Copperfield.
Mascotte Tunnel -- In-depth history and timeline of events for the Mascotte tunnel. Includes timeline for Bingham-Lark tunnel.