International Smelter at Tooele
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This page was last updated on October 19, 2016.
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The following comes from the December 1909 issue of Mines and Methods magazine:
The International smelter at Tooele is the result of the smoke litigation in Utah. Formerly the Utah Consolidated Mining Company did its own smelting at its plant at Murray, but when the smoke agitation reached its climax and Judge Marshall issued an injunction restraining the valley smelters from operating, the Utah Consolidated company was compelled to hunt elsewhere for some other site or else to arrange with some company to do its smelting.
During the smoke agitation R. H. Channing, then manager of the Utah Consolidated, had hunted around for smelter site and had secured smoke abatement agreements and options on much land about five miles this side of Tooele across the Oquirrh range from the Highland Boy mine, the company’s property in Bingham Canyon. Consequently, when the smoke injunction was issued, the Highland Boy people began to get active in regard to new smelter site. The officials of the Garfield smelter were not anxious to see another smelter built, for through the injunction practically all competition in copper smelting in the vicinity of Salt Lake had been removed.
Therefore they made overtures to the Highland Boy for its ores. These negotiations in regard to smelting contract began some time before the time that the Utah Consolidated options at Tooele expired. But these negotiations dragged, for the Utah company could not get as good rates as it knew with its experience in operating its own smelter that it ought to. Still, the negotiations progressed, because of the fact that the Utah Consolidated Mining Company was reluctant again to build smelter to treat only its own ores.
In the meanwhile the Guggenheim [American Smelting] interests had obtained information in regard to the time when the Utah Consolidated company's options at Tooele expired, and so began game of delaying the negotiations, and yet all the time the Garfield people tried to appear as being on the verge of closing up the deal. In the meantime the Utah Consolidated people became suspicious. The Cole-Ryan interests [Thomas F. Cole of New York and John D. Ryan of Butte] then had conceived their idea of building chain of copper smelters in the West, using the smelters and mining properties that they already controlled as basis.
Consequently when they heard of the state of the negotiations in regard to the Highland Boy smelting contract, knowing the importance as a smelting base of the Highland Boy ore, they closed a deal with the Utah Consolidated company. By this they took over all the Tooele options of the Utah Consolidated, made long-term contract with that company to smelt its ores at very favorable rate and agreed to begin smelting the Highland Boy ores April 1, 1910. So rushed were these final arrangements that there was barely time enough to complete the payments on the options necessary to make them binding.
Thus the International Smelting Company, which was organized later, came to enter the Utah field, and that is the reason that the smelter is located where it is. (Mines and Methods, December 1909, page 149, "International Smelter", Google Books)
The Highland Boy mine was owned and operated by Utah Consolidated Mining Company, which had its own smelter out in the Salt Lake Valley. The smelter smoke suit of 1904 forced them to close that smelter and find other smelting capabilities. The obvious choice was the newly completed Garfield smelter on the south shore of Great Salt Lake, but the two companies failed to come to agreeable terms for a contracts that would bring all of Utah Consolidated's ores solely to the Garfield smelter. Instead, the principle persons, along with investors (referred to as the Cole-Ryan interests), organized the International Smelting & Refining Company to build a new smelter, in competition to the Garfield company to process ore coming from Utah Consolidated's mines, and custom ores from other mines in the region. The Tooele Valley Railway was built to serve the International smelter to bring in these custom ores from around the region, and was opened in 1910. A lead-silver smelter was added in 1912.
The International Smelting Company was organized in May 1914 as a subsidiary of Anaconda Copper Company to take over and hold its interest in the former International Smelting & Refining Company, and other properties in Arizona and Utah, along with a copper refinery in New Jersey and a lead refinery in East Chicago.
Ore arrived at the Tooele smelter by two methods, either by the 20,000 feet long aerial tramway of Utah Consolidated that traversed the ridge from Bingham Canyon, or by the Tooele Valley Railway that operated between International and a connection with Union Pacific at Tooele Junction (later Warner), west of Tooele.
Ore continued to arrive at the International smelter from the Utah Consolidated's mines in Bingham Canyon. Through a series of court cases and mergers, Utah Consolidated was combined with several other large underground Bingham/Carr Fork mines, such as Utah-Apex, Utah-Delaware, and Utah Metals, and in 1937 they all came under the control of a new company known as National Tunnel & Mines Company.
In 1937, ground was broken for a 22,000-foot tunnel from the underground mines in Bingham Canyon. This was to replace the Utah Consolidated aerial tramway. The tunnel was completed in 1941. In 1948, Anaconda acquired full control of National Tunnel and Mines Company, including that company's mines in Bingham and the tunnel between Bingham and the International smelter.
At various times, from 1910 through 1972, the company operated copper and lead smelters and a lead-zinc flotation mill. The smelter processed ores mined from several areas in Utah and Nevada. The copper smelter was closed in 1946, followed by the closure of the lead/zinc flotation mill in 1968, and finally, closure of the lead smelter in 1972. The entire site was demolished during the years 1972-1974.
In 1969, Anaconda began exploration drilling with plans for a large expansion project. In 1974, Anaconda constructed and operated a copper mine and mill known as the "Carr Fork Operations". The main mill of the new Carr Fork operation was one mile east of the International Smelting smelter property in Pine Canyon on approximately 12.5 acres. The Carr Fork operation began processing ore in 1979 and ran until ARCO shut it down in 1981 (Atlantic Richfield purchased Anaconda in 1977).
Tooele Valley Railway was used to haul away the scrap as the International smelter was torn down in 1972-1974, and remained to serve the new Carr Fork mine and mill in Pine Canyon. It was finally shut down and abandoned when the Pine Canyon "Carr Fork" mine and mill shut down, with its last day of operation being on August 28, 1982.
The Carr Fork mine stopped production in November 1981, while Anaconda waited for copper prices to rise. When this did not happen, the processing facilities were torn down, sold, and removed from the property in late 1984. The Carr Fork Operation property was sold to Kennecott Copper in October 1985. This included the mine and mill along with several acres of land in Pine Canyon, above the former International smelter site.
January 21, 1907
"Tooele, Jan. 19 -- It really begins to look as though the Utah Consolidated smelter would be located at Pine canyon, as the superintendents and engineers have been working out there for nearly two weeks, making surveys. C. R. McBride has been quite successful in securing smoke easements and options on the farming land for the company." (Deseret Evening News, January 21, 1907)
To solve its smelting smoke problem, Utah Consolidated purchased land in Tooele County "just over the mountain from the mine in what is known as Pine Canyon, and not far from the town of Tooele." The smelter would use plans already drawn up by the Amalgamated Copper Company at Anaconda. A 10-mile railroad would be built to connect the smelter with the three railroads serving Garfield: Western Pacific; Rio Grande Western; and San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake. (Deseret News, December 14, 1907)
September 30, 1908
Representatives of Utah Consolidated Mining Company began purchasing land at the mouth of Pine Canyon as the site of a new smelter, to replace the old Highland Boy smelter in Salt Lake Valley that was closed in late 1906 due to smoke litigation. Negotiations with American Smelting and Refining for Utah Consolidated to furnish ore to ASARCO's Garfield smelter abruptly fell through on September 29, and a rush was made to take the option on the Pine Canyon site that was to expire on September 30. (Inter-Mountain Republican, October 1, 1908, "yesterday")
December 1, 1908
The International Smelting and Refining Company was organized. (The Copper Handbook, Volume 11, 1914, page 473)
The International Smelting & Refining Company was organized as a new company, separate from Utah Consolidated Mining Company, and its mining interests in Bingham Canyon.
Initial plans were for the new International Smelting and Refining Company, incorproated in New Jersey, was to erect plants at several points in Mexico and the United States. (New York Tribune, December 22, 1908)
December 8, 1908
Work started to connect the new smelter with the Salt Lake Route, by way of the wholly owned subsidiary Tooele Valley Railway. (Salt Lake Herald, July 25, 1910)
December 9, 1908
Construction work started on the International smelter at the mouth of Pine Canyon near Tooele. (Deseret News, August 27, 1910)
December 21, 1908
International Smelting & Refining Company was organized in New Jersey to operate a copper and lead smelter in Utah, near Tooele, and a copper refinery in New Jersey. (The Copper Handbook, Volume 11, 1914, page 473)
January 1, 1909
International Smelting Company purchased the Raritan Copper Works at Perth Amboy, New Jersey. (Deseret News, June 13, 1910, page 7, Annual Report for 1909)
February 15, 1909
International Smelting Company purchased Compania Metallurgica of Toreon in Mexico. (Salt Lake Mining Review, February 15, 1909, page 10)
The route for the aerial tramway has been surveyed between the Highland Boy mine of Utah Consolidated, and the new smelter in Pine Canyon near Tooele. The terminal will be on the property of the smelter. (Salt Lake Herald, June 20, 1909)
October 15, 1909
Tooele Valley Railway commenced operation. The railroad operated 6.235 miles of line between Tooele Junction and International, along with 1.698 miles of yard tracks and sidings. Maximum grade was 2.4 per cent, and maximum curvature was 14 degrees. The railroad was incorporated on November 18, 1908; construction began on November 18, 1908 and the railroad was opened for operation on October 15, 1909. The construction was fully financed by International Smelting Co., which also furnished substantially all of the railroad's freight consignments. (Interstate Commerce Commission, Valuation Reports Volume 110, Valuation Docket 9, pages 310-322)
The new aerial tramway between the Highland Boy mine and the new International smelter was to be in operation "shortly after the first of the year." (Salt Lake Herald, January 9, 1910)
International Smelting declared its first dividend, from production of the Raritan Refining Works, the largest copper refining plant in the world, with a reported capacity of 312 million pounds of finished copper per year. At the time, International Smelting was 40 percent owned by United Metals Selling Company, and Utah Consolidated owned 5 percent, with the remaining shares being owned by the directors, the Rockefellers, and the U. S. Steel interests. (Wall Street Journal, February 10, 1910)
(United States Selling Company was owned and controlled by the same officers that owned and controlled Amalgamated Copper Mining Co.)
April 21, 1910
Utah Consolidated was only making small shipments of ore from its Highland Boy mine to the Garfield smelter, with the ore being the highest grade ore coming from development work, pending the opening of the new smelter in Pine Canyon near Tooele. (Deseret News, April 21, 1910)
May 13, 1910
The International smelter was to be ready to start processing ore by the middle of May 1910. The new aerial tramway received its first trial run "today." There are 78 steel towers on concrete foundations. The daily capacity was put at 1500 tons per day. The ore bins at the smelter were to be filled beginning any day, with Utah Consolidated on contract to furnish 1200 tons per day. "The tramway will affect the company a large saving over freight tariffs to the Garfield smelter." (Salt Lake Herald, March 24, 1910; May 13, 1910)
July 14, 1910
First ore was received at the International smelter, by way of the aerial tramway from Highland Boy. The tramway was 20,000 feet long and was constructed to transport ores from the Utah Delaware Mining Co. in Highland Boy in Bingham Canyon. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 72)
Ore arrived at the Tooele smelter by three methods:
- The 20,000 feet long aerial tramway of Utah Consolidated that traversed the ridge from Bingham Canyon
- The Tooele Valley Railway that operated between International and a connection with Union Pacific at Tooele Junction (later Warner), west of Tooele
- The 11,000 feet long tunnel of Utah Metals Company between its Bingham property and an outlet in Middle Canyon, about eight miles from the Tooele smelter
The railroad connection allowed lead-zinc-silver ores (known as galena ore) and concentrates to be shipped in from all over the west, and for shipment of concentrates and smelted metals to refineries nationwide. Ores that arrived via the aerial tramway was dumped into railroad cars and moved to nearby sampler bins for storage and later processing.
July 24, 1910
The blast furnaces were started at the International smelter. The first slag was poured on August 15th. (Deseret News, August 27, 1910)
August 27, 1910
The first copper metal was produced at the International smelter. Full production was to begin by October 1st. (Deseret News, August 27, 1910, "this afternoon")
The new tramway had the following points of interest:
- Net difference in elevation of 1300 feet
- Bleichert patent design
- 79 towers; 10 to 90 feet in height
- Nine intermediate stations
- 212 individual buckets; each bucket held eight cubic yards; about 1150 pounds for the ore being carried
- 600 feet per minute
- 100 tons per hour
- Operated in three sections to equalize tension in the cables
- A control station was located on the ridge line, at 8200 feet elevation
- Construction started in October 1909, "eleven months ago"
- Cost of transporting the ore reported as 10 cents per ton, compared to 50 cents per ton by railroad rates
- (Salt Lake Herald, September 29, 1910)
March 1, 1911
Construction started on a new lead smelter. While the original smelter had been constructed for copper, the supply of copper ore from the Utah Consolidated mine in Bingham Canyon dropped severely in 1910. A new lead smelter was constructed using much of the existing machinery from the copper smelter. The International smelter stopped processing copper completely in 1946, but continued to process lead (and zinc) until 1971. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 75)
The new lead International smelter near Tooele was completed in February 1912. First furnace "blown in" on February 29, 1912. (Engineering and Mining Journal, January 11, 1913, page 87)
The International Smelting & Refining Company, organized in 1908 to build the smelter near Tooele, was rolled into the organization of a larger International Smelting Company, organized in 1914 by Anaconda Copper Company to control and operate several of its metal smelting and refining properties outside of Montana.
By the mid 1920s, the International smelter had become a custom smelter, processing copper and lead concentrates and ores from Bingham, Park City, Tintic, nearby Bauer, and from Idaho. At times there were 85 to 90 rail cars from all over the west, unloading at the smelter's rail yards. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 74)
Work began on the construction of what would later be named the Elton Tunnel, to replace the aerial tramway. The tunnel was a project of the National Tunnel and Mines Company, a subsidiary of International Smelting Company, which also controlled the Utah Delaware Mining Company and the Utah Apex Mining Company.
August 21, 1941
The Elton Tunnel was formally opened during a ceremony on August 21, 1941. The tunnel was named for J. O. Elton, general Manager of International Smelting & Refining Company, and its National Tunnel and Mines Company subsidiary which built the tunnel. The capacity of the tunnel was said to be 1000 tons per day. (Deseret News, August 21, 1941, "today")
Operation began on what was called the Slag Treatment Plant to extract the zinc content from the slag dumps that had accumulated over the past 30 years. The Slag Treatment Plant continued in operation until early 1972. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 77, 79)
The International smelter stopped smelting copper in 1946. (Deseret News, November 5, 1971)
Copper mining ended in the Carr Fork mine when World War II era government subsidies ended. (Desert Magazine, December 1948, citing the Salt Lake City Tribune)
"An important mining transaction during the year was the sale of National Tunnel and Mines Co. properties to Anaconda Copper Co." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 2, 1949)
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, 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 "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)
U. S. Smelting closed its lead smelter at Midvale and contracted all of its lead smelting operations to Anaconda's International Smelting Company at Tooele. The blast furnace at the International smelter had been closed since early 1958. At the same time, Anaconda stopped milling and concentrating ore at its Tooele plant and began shipping ore from its Carr Fork mine to the United States company's Midvale plant to have it milled and concentrated. The United States company was to continue its milling and concentrating operations at Midvale along with those of the International company, then would ship the concentrates to the International smelter. (Deseret News, June 17, 1958; November 5, 1971) (This change meant increased rail traffic between the Midvale plant in Salt Lake Valley, and the International smelter in Tooele, mostly by way of Union Pacific, but to some degree by way of a combined D&RGW-WP route.)
By late 1958 there were only three lead-zinc-silver (known as galena) mines active in Utah: the United States mine at Lark, and the United Park City and New Park City mines at Park City. There was no mention of Anaconda's Carr Fork mine which shipped the ore from its underground mine in Bingham Canyon, to the International smelter at Tooele by way of the Elton Tunnel. (New York Times, October 12, 1958)
A newspaper ad in the Deseret News for December 16, 1959 showed International Smelting and Refining Company as being a custom lead-zinc concentrator and custom lead-zinc smelter, both at Tooele, and added that their copper smelter was in Miami, Arizona.
By the year 1967, the concentrator section at the International smelter had been shut down. The United States company had been shipping concentrates from its mill at Midvale to the International smelter for smelting. By that time, the International smelter was the only lead smelter in the state. (Utah Mining Industry, Utah Mining Association, 1967, page 81)
January 28, 1972
The smelter of International Smelting and Refining Company was scheduled to close on January 1, 1972, but reduced production work continued for another three weeks. On January 28, 1972, the Tooele Valley Railway made it last run between the smelter and the interchange at Warner. Throughout its history, the railroad had made the trip at least twice daily. The last trip was made with only a single boxcar and a caboose. The boxcar had been used to bring the last load of newsprint paper for the Tooele Transcript newspaper. (Tooele Transcript, February 11, 1972)
When the Tooele smelter closed, it left over 30 mining properties without a nearby smelter. These mines were forced to close due the high costs of shipment of their ores to the nearest custom smelters at El Paso, Texas, East Helena, Montana, or Kellogg, Idaho. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 111, citing Deseret News of November 9 and 13, 1971)
The smelter was closed to save costs to Anaconda following the loss of its properties in Chile, which were taken over by the Chilean government in 1971. To save the company, its unprofitable properties were either closed or sold. The sell-off did not work, and by 1975, Anaconda was purchased by Atlantic Richfield. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 118)
Tooele Valley Railway operations continued after the smelter was closed. Until about 1975, the railroad was used to ship outgoing scrap from the dismantling of the smelter, and until 1981, the railroad was used to accept inbound shipments of construction materials for the development of the new Carr Fork Mine. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 118)
April 23, 1999
The International smelter site was first proposed to be placed of the federal EPA National Priorities List (Superfund).
July 27, 2000
The International smelter site as formally placed on the EPA National Priorities List
September 27, 2007
After reaching agreements with all interested and responsible parties, including funding, work began to clean up the International smelter site.
The following comes from EPA documents published in September 2007 for the International Smelter "Superfund" site. (EPA.gov, Region 8 Superfund sites)
International Smelting & Refining Company began operations in Tooele in 1910 on approximately 1,200 acres. At various times, from 1910 through 1972, the company operated copper and lead smelters and a lead-zinc flotation mill. The smelter processed ores mined from several areas in Utah and Nevada. The copper plant was originally designed to process 4,000 tons of ore per day, although it never sustained a rate this high. In the early years of operation, tailings and slag were produced at an estimated annual rate of approximately 650,000 tons per year with declining output in later years. The copper smelter was closed in 1946, followed by the closure of the lead/zinc flotation mill in 1968, and finally, closure of the lead smelter in 1972. With the exception of a few incidental buildings, the smelter facility was demolished or scrapped in the mid-1970s.
From 1974 through 1981, the Anaconda Company constructed and operated a mine and mill known as the Carr Fork Operation. The main mill of the Carr Fork operation was one mile east of the International Smelting smelter property in Pine Canyon on approximately 12.5 acres. The Carr Fork operation began processing ore in 1979 and ran for less than two years.
The following comes from the Tooele County Department of Health (TooeleHealth.org):
The copper smelter was closed in 1946. The lead smelter was closed in 1972, and was demolished during the years 1972 - 1974.
In 1974, Anaconda constructed and operated a copper mine and mill known as the "Carr Fork Operations". It was located just east of the IS&R Smelter Site in Pine Canyon. It was in operation from 1974 - 1981. (Atlantic Richfield purchased Anaconda in 1977.)
The Carr Fork mine stopped production in November 1981, while Anaconda waited for copper prices to rise. When this did not happen, the processing facilities were torn down, sold, and removed from the property in late 1984. The Carr Fork Operation property was sold to Kennecott Copper in October 1985. This included the mine and mill along with several acres of land east of the smelter site.
October 11, 2011
The federal EPA removed the International Smelter site from the National Priorities List (Superfund) on October 11, 2011. (EPA.gov)
Tooele Valley Railway -- Information about the history and operations of the railroad that connected the International Smelter with the Union Pacific and Western Pacific railroads west of Tooele.