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Garfield Smelters

This page was last updated on February 17, 2019.

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(interim link: American Smelting & Refining Co. history at Funding Universe)

American Smelting & 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 of the Garfield smelter began in August 1905. (Salt Lake Mining Review, September 15, 1914, page 14; "The Garfield Plant of the Garfield Smelting Company", article with photographs.)

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

The Garfield Smelting Company was incorporated and formally organized 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)

The Garfield smelter was to start operations "this week". (Salt Lake Mining Review, June 15, 1906, page 32)

News item about the agreement between American Smelting & Refining Company, Utah Copper Company, and Boston Consolidated for the processing of ores at the new Garfield smelter. (Salt Lake Mining Review, August 30, 1906, page 28)

December 13, 1916
Asarco's new sulphuric acid plant at its Garfield smelter began operations. (Box Elder News, December 15, 1916)

Asarco began recovering sulphuric acid from the smelter gases at the Garfield smelter.

December 18, 1934
A large brick smokestack at the Garfield smelter complex were demolished. The smokestack that was demolished was 28 years old, and had been unused since a new 407-feet tall concrete smokestack was erected. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 19, 1934; Ogden Standard Examiner, December 19, 1934)

(This later 407-feet tall concrete smokestack was replaced in 1974 by a new much taller (1,1100 feet) smokestack.)

Utah's three big smelters at Murray, Midvale, and Garfield were closed by a 150-day strike that was settled on June 30, 1946. (Murray Eagle, June 20, 1946)

5,605 tons of concentrate from Magna and Arthur were shipped to Kennecott's smelter in McGill, Nevada due to a one and a half day, and another five day strike at the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) smelter at Garfield, Utah. (Kennecott Historical Index)

July 1953
The following article about Western Pacific's use of slag ballast comes from the July 1953 issue of Mining Engineering magazine, page 661:

A modern slag crushing and screening unit has been installed at the edge of the slag dump at American Smelting & Refining Co.'s Garfield Smelter to facilitate treatment of slag, found extremely useful as ballast on western railroad grades.

Slag has become popular as ballast because of its excellent drainage characteristics which lead to longer tie life. It also provides a more rigid roadbed than other materials. It has led to a brand new activity at Garfield. Some 30 million tons of slag are already in the dump, with monthly additions of 50,000 tons adding up to what appears to be an inexhaustible supply.

The crushing and screening unit was installed by Utah Sand and Gravel Co., independent contractors. Asarco granted additional right-of-way for the slag treatment plant and necessary service spurs to the Western Pacific Railroad. Western Pacific is the present ultimate purchaser of the slag which is used for an extensive modernization program. The slag is employed for ballast on the main line.

Dumping of the molten slag takes place around a major part of the dump's roughly circular periphery. The treatment plant had to be located where future dumping would not take place. A means for removing the solid slag from the interior of the dump had to be provided without interfering with present haulage or undermining existing trackage and other facilities.

Slag is partially broken up with a modern scarifier and bulldozed to a loading point where a shuttle feeder places it on a conveyor belt. The conveyor transports it under the slag haulage track to the crushing and screening plant. A jaw crusher and a cone crusher give the desired size reduction.

The two-step process for size reduction minimizes the production of fines, a limited-use byproduct. Slag is water-treated before crushing to eliminate dusting during preparation and loading. Vibrating screens remove undersize from the crusher feeds as well as fines from the finished product. The prepared ballast is -1-1/2 +3/8 in. in size. The -3/8 size is being stockpiled at present, but there is hope that someday it may be used for road surfacing and concrete aggregate.

The finished product is lowered to the loading level by means of a rock ladder. The rock ladder is an enclosed tower with projecting shelves alternating on opposite sides, preventing material falling far enough to create further reduction. Present capacity of the plant is 240 tons of prepared slag per hour. The plant is operated five days per week.

Slag is eventually loaded into Western Pacific Railroad hopper cars for transportation to points of use. Western Pacific and Asarco have both benefited from development of this new byproduct.

(View Photo 1)

(View Photo 2)


January 2, 1959
Kennecott Copper Corporation took over operation of the Garfield smelter of American Smelting and Refining Company (Asarco). The purchased took effect on January 1, 1959. The sale price was reported as $20 million. The smelter had an annual input capacity of concentrates and ore of 1,608,000 tons, but was processing 625,000 tons annually. At the same time, Kennecott ended Asarco's practice of accepting ore from other mines, and the Garfield smelter would no longer be what was known as a custom smelter. In the months prior to the sale, Asarco was purchasing 10,000 to 15,000 tons per month from other mines, including independent producers in the Park City and Eureka districts. (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1959)

January 1963
Kennecott announced that it was planning a $60 million project to update its Utah facilities, to increase the capacity of milling, smelter and haulage facilities and "thereby restore our copper productions to the approximate level of 10 years ago, 25,000 tons annually." The copper content of the ore had decreased during the past 10 years, from 20 pounds per ton, to 16 pounds per ton, a drop of 20 per cent, with declines expected to continue. The expansion was to raise mine production at the Bingham pit, and use more effective precipitation and milling techniques to recover copper from waste dumps, as well as low grade ore. The present capacity was reported to be 90,000 of ore per day. the expansion was to increase production to 110,000 tons per day. The production of concentrate from precipitation would increase from 1,800 tons per month, to 6,000 tons per month. In addition to improvements mentioned in several other sources, the expansion was to initiate the use of natural gas and anode converters at the smelter, replacing the use of pine logs as fuel. (New York Times, January 30, 1963)

A molybdenum oxide production plant was placed in operation at the Garfield smelter. (OnlineUtah.com -- Kennecott History)

(See also: Kennecott article in Utah History Encyclopedia)

November 17, 1974
Kennecott completed the construction of the new smokestack at its Utah smelter. Construction started on August 26, 1974. At 1,115 feet high, the smokestack is the tallest man-made structure in Utah, as well as the tallest free-standing structure west of the Mississippi. The extra height was needed to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act of 1970, to disperse waste gases according to the new standards. The new smokestack replaced several earlier smokestacks, the tallest of which was 413 feet high. The old smokestacks were demolished upon completion of the new smokestack. (Deseret News, November 15, 2009, upon the 35th anniversary of the completion of the smokestack)

38 million tons of ore mined in 1979 by Utah Copper Division of Kennecott Copper Corporation. 160 million tons of overburden removed. 12 pounds of copper per ton of ore. 206,000 tons of copper produced; 120,000 tons of copper produced in 1978. New smelter went on line in 1977-1978. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 2, 1980)

Plans were also made for the construction of a new $880 million smelter west of Salt Lake City. It was hoped that the new smelter would enable Kennecott to process all of its own concentrate, rather than send 40 percent elsewhere to be refined. (Kennecott History at FundingUniverse.com)

The following comes from a report completed in 1999:

The new Kennecott Utah Copper smelter, started in 1995, was designed to be the cleanest smelter environmentally in the world. The plant is operating at production rates above the original design capacity. Copper concentrate is smelted in an Outokumpu flash smelting furnace. Matte is granulated and processed using Kennecott-Outokumpu flash converting. Copper anodes are processed in a modernized copper refinery using the Kidd Process.

Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation (KUCC) expanded its mine and mill facilities in 1988 increasing the production rate to 773,000 tonnes per year of copper concentrate. A further expansion of the mill in 1992 raised the concentrate production to 1.0 million tonnes per year. The smelter facilities could only process about half this tonnage primarily because of insufficient acid plant capacity to meet increasingly restrictive air emission regulations. The remaining concentrate production was sold.

In 1989, KUCC initiated a study of smelting requirements to process all of the available concentrate resulting from the current expansion of mining and milling facilities and also possible future expansions. As a result of this study, the Outokumpu flash smelting furnace was chosen as the primary smelting vessel, to be coupled with Kennecott-Outokumpu flash converting technology to process solid matte through to blister copper. ("Recent operation and environmental control in the Kennecott Smelter," ca. 1999)

April 1995
Kennecott's 300,000-tons-per-year copper smelter had been completed by mid April 1995 and began its testing phase, with limited production expected to begin in May. When full production starts, in June or July, the old smelter will be demolished. The old smelter used old technology that used open blast furnaces to convert copper concentrate to copper matte, using large overhead cranes and ladles to move the molten copper matte from the furnaces to cast the copper matte into anodes, which were then transported by rail car to the refinery. The new smelter would reduce smelter operating costs by 53 per cent, and changes to the refining process would reduce refining costs by 45 per cent. The resulting copper would be 99 per cent pure. The modernization of the smelter and refinery would allow Kennecott to process all of the copper ore being produced by the Bingham Canyon mine. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 22, 1995; April 16, 1995)

Problems getting the various parts of the new and complex smelting process to work together, forced the smelter to operate at 80 to 85 percent capacity until early 1997. The reduced capacity meant that Kennecott had to sell come of its copper concentrate to other smelters, and to begin stockpiling concentrate pending the smelter's return to full capacity. The new smelter had been commissioned in July 1995. (Salt Lake Tribune, September 13, 1996)

February 1997
The problems with getting the new smelter fully operational drove RTZ profits down 23.9 per cent, from $1.4 billion in 1995, to $1.1 billion in 1996, about half due to falling metals prices, and about half due to delays concerning the new smelter. The new smelter was expected to be fully operational by June 1997. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 28, 1997; Salt Lake Tribune, March 20, 1997)

May 27, 1997
Kennecott's new smelter was re-started after a six-week shutdown. Production was about 100 tons of copper anodes per hour, with each anode weighing 720 pounds, and being 99.5 percent pure copper. The anodes were then transported to the Utah refinery, where the copper was further refined to be 99.99 percent pure. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 12, 1997; Salt Lake Tribune, July 31, 1997)