The History of Tiger, Arizona – 1942-1953: Magma San Manuel’s beginning

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By Daryl F. Mallett with Kim K. Howell & Farlow C. Davis

Already published portions of this story are used with permission of BHP Billiton and Farlow C. Davis.

Tiger again became the source of strategic metals at the start of World War II. Vanadium production statistics were withheld from the public by the U.S. Bureau of Mines as “war secrets.” After the United States entered the war, labor was short in the district, so the U.S. Army discharged 65 men and sent them to work in the mines. The Mammoth-St. Anthony Mining Company struggled through the war and probably would have failed were it not for the bonuses the government was paying for its metals.

In 1942, the Mammoth-Tiger Extension Mining Company cleaned out the underground workings of the Ford Mine. The company erected a new headframe; installed new ladders, platforms, air and water lines in the shaft; built a hoist house, blacksmith shed and supply house; installed tanks, a compressor and hoist. The shaft, which was allowed to flood in 1920, was completely dry by 1942. Pumping in the nearby mines at Tiger had lowered the water table below the bottom of the Ford shaft. The ore, which was blocked out at this time, was reported to assay 3.02% lead, 1.75 ounces of silver per ton, 7.8 ounces of gold per ton and 3.7% copper.

In 1943, the U.S. Bureau of Mines began exploratory chum drilling on the San Manuel copper deposit, adjacent to Tiger. The drilling was begun on the recommendation of B. S. Butler of the University of Arizona and N. P. Peterson of the U.S. Geological Survey.

By June 1943, the labor shortage at Tiger was critical. The company was exploring the possibility of importing Mexican nationals and again requested U.S. troops to help mine the strategic metals at the mines. Production was down 50%; peacetime employment had been 415-500 men and there were now only 340 on the payroll. The company needed about 100 more men to achieve full production.

At the time, Tiger had one of only two processing plants in the United States which could separate molybdenum and vanadium from other metals.

By June 1943, J. L. Fozard was general manager of both St. Anthony Mining and Development Company and Mammoth-St. Anthony Ltd., which were still operating the Tiger mines jointly.

In October 1943, the War Production Board granted a 40 cents per shift pay increase to the employees, retroactive to June. This increase was a result of a dispute between the company and the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union. It brought the base pay of the miners to $6.40 per day, with annual vacations of seven days a year at six days’ pay.

By November, William Miller, a rancher from Higley, Arizona, and partners had control of the Mammoth-Tiger Extension Mining Company. They engaged the services of a prominent Phoenix mining engineer to investigate whether or not Mammoth-St. Anthony had crossed underground onto their claims at the Ford Mine. The engineer, Mr. Colvocoresses, visited both mining properties and determined that the nearest workings on the Collins vein were no closer than 1,000 feet to the Mammoth-Tiger Extension sideline.

By this time, the Mammoth-Tiger Extension had been denied further loans from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which had placed a lien on the ore and a mortgage on the equipment at the Ford Mine. The company approached Mammoth-St. Anthony about the possible purchaseof the Ford property, paying off the Reconstruction Finance Corporation loan as part of the sale. Mammoth-St. Anthony had found no extensions of the Ford vein on any of its property, and had found no ore on the Dream Vein or the Collins East vein, on the Ford side of its holdings. Mammoth-St. Anthony therefore considered the Ford property to be of little value and declined to purchase it.

In December 1943, Mammoth-St. Anthony was not in the best financial condition anyway. The company was on the verge of shutting down at any time, due to extremely high pumping costs. The only thing keeping it in operation were government bonus payments for the strategically important molybdenum and vanadium, lead and zinc that the mines were producing.

During 1944, the Magma Copper Company, under general manager Wesley P. Goss (1899-1984), purchased the 21 claims which made up the San Manuel property. Magma continued the exploratory drilling there. About the same time, a group of claims to the north of the original group, and held by the Apex Lead Vanadium Mining Corp., and a group to the east, held by the Quarelli family, were optioned.

On September 3, 1944, the Mohawk shaft caught fire. All of the timbering in the shaft was destroyed, along with the headframe, hoist house, warehouse, coarse ore bins, coarse crushing plant, fine crushing plant and all wiring and pipe lines. The shaft was filled with tailings, first to put out the fire, and then used as a work platform. Shortly after the fire broke out, the pumps in the shaft failed, shutting off the water supply for the entire 1,400 person community, as well as the firefighting efforts. The fire was not put out until help arrived from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.

The company arranged to haul water from the town until the pumps could be put back into operation. Mrs. Jamie Dicus, who was a young child living in Tiger at the time, recalled vividly the huge cloud of smoke billowing up from the headframe. It went on hour after hour, and the entire town was in a state of turmoil.

At that time, John A. Richards was general manager, Henry Carlisle was consulting engineer, R. Eddy Sr. was mine superintendent and C. E. Craven was mill and smelter superintendent.

All of the employees were kept on the payroll after the fire, doing clean-up and repair work. The mine pumps were back online in three days. Most of the clean-up work was completed by September 12.

By November 15, the shaft had been repaired by a rather ingenious method. The Mohawk shaft was accessible underground through the Mammoth shaft. The burned-out shaft was filled to within 15 feet of the collar with mill tailings, which were loaded by hand into trucks and dumped into the shaft. New timbers were erected at the collar and set in concrete. The tailings were then drawn out of the shaft from below in stages, far enough to allow the workmen a floor to stand on while they installed new timber. This method eliminated the hazard of working in an open shaft, over a 900 foot deep hole. As work progressed downward, the air was sampled frequently, and care was taken to remove any carbon monoxide left from the fire.

A steel headframe was purchased from the Verde Central Mine in Arizona, a hoist from the Atolia Mine in California. Compressors and steel ore bins were scavenged. The truck hauling the hoist overturned on its way to the mines, destroying the hoist; another one had to be purchased and hauled from Tonopah, Nevada. The change of hoists forced the workmen to tear out and remodel the newly installed foundation for the headframe.

While the fire damage was being cleaned up and repaired, the mill, which was not damaged by the fire, was overhauled. New steel ore bins and crushers were installed there. Before the fire, all of the ore was hoisted from the Mammoth shaft and carried by tramway to the crushing plant and mill near the Mohawk shaft. After the wooden tram towers near the Mohawk shaft burned, it was decided to equip the Mohawk shaft for hoisting ore.

After the shaft was repaired, it was deepened and sulfide ore was mined from the lower part of the Collins vein, between the 700- and 900-foot levels. The minerals that were of primary significance now were lead and zinc minerals, galena and sphalerite.

After the end of World War II, St. Anthony continued to produce lead and zinc ore from the lower levels of the Collins vein. On December 31, 1945, Mammoth-St. Anthony Ltd. was formally dissolved. St. Anthony Mining and Development Company continued to operate the properties at Tiger, now as a single entity. The primary function of Mammoth-St. Anthony, which had been to handle shipments, was taken over by St. Anthony Mining and Development Production of lead and zinc from the mines continued, with 1946 production exceeding that of 1945.

In 1948, underground exploration began at nearby San Manuel. The San Manuel Copper Corporation had been formed by Magma in 1945. Exploratory drilling on that property was completed in 1948 and the company began sinking the No. 1 shaft.

The year 1949 marked a peak in demand for and production of lead and zinc. A tapering-off in production began in 1950. By 1951, a flood of lead and zinc imports had caused many lead and zinc mines in the United States to shut down. The situation became progressively worse, with more and more mines shutting down during the next few years.

During the entire period of lead and zinc production at Tiger, mill recovery had been erratic. The best recovery was from pure sulfide ore, from the deepest levels of the vein. The more oxides present in the ore, the worse recovery was. But, as the mine workings progressed deeper and deeper, the influx of water increased.

By 1952, mining on the Collins vein was down to the 1,125 foot level. The amount of lead and zinc in the ore was decreasing with depth and the amount of water that had to be pumped out of the workings was increasing. At the same time, the prices for lead and zinc continued to decrease. Production during 1952 totaled bout 8,000 tons a month, and there were 190 men on the payroll.

By this time, the Town of Tiger had evolved into a mature community. The miners had modest homes in the lower part of the basin with neat, well-kept yards. As late as 1954, outdoor privies were not a rarity. The larger staff houses were up on the hillsides, and the general manager’s house had a swimming pool. There were no bars or saloons in Tiger, but there were many churches. A café and boarding house was run by Rosalee Hendrickson and provided meals for the single men. The town boasted a movie house, two school buildings, a Laundromat, a gas station and a mercantile store operated by Kenny and Janet Creed.

St. Anthony Mining and Development suspended operations at Tiger on December 1, 1952. On February 11, 1953, the Magma Copper Company announced the purchase of nearly all the property of St. Anthony Mining and Development at Tiger. The property was acquired in exchange for 10,000 shares of Magma capital stock which, at the current market rate on the New York Stock Exchange, was worth $275,000.

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