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Christmas Mine from AZ 77

Arizona's Christmas Mine 1880s to 1982

David Briggs newest contributed report, ‘History of the Christmas Mine, Gila County, Arizona’ , details the geology and the history of mineral exploration and mining at this small porphyry copper deposit 75 miles north of Tucson. 

The 45-page report includes 22 figures and a table of mine production data showing that 25.8 million tons of ore were extracted from 1905 to 1981. The ore yielded 362.9 million pounds (181,950 tons) of copper, 55,000 ounces (3,437 pounds) of gold, and 2.15 million ounces (134,375 pounds) of silver. Copper ranged from 0.2% to 3.0%  grade.

Copper ore was first discovered at Christmas in 1880, but mining operations did not begin until August 1905. The remote setting, poor roads, and the absence of a reliable source of coke to fuel the Christmas smelter hampered early development. A rail spur constructed in 1911 and commissioning of ASARCO’s Hayden Smelter resolved the most pressing logistics; mining operations began in earnest in 1916. Over the next half-century, production mirrored the peaks and valleys of the national and international copper market. By 1966 unstable underground workings forced the owners to shutter the mine in favor of an open pit mine method. Copper mining at the Christmas Mine was suspended in January 1982.

Christmas Mine, Gila County Arizona
Geologic cross section (W-E) through the Christmas Mine porphyry copper deposit.

Metallic ore was hosted in the Paleocene Christmas Granodiorite Porphyry, the Cretaceous Williamson Canyon Volcanics, and Paleozoic limestones – Martin, Escabrosa, and Naco Limestone. Mobilization of ore-bearing fluids was controlled in part by the Christmas, Joker, and No. 4 shaft faults.

The mine is now owned by Freeport McMoRan (FMI). As recently as several years ago, FMI had a small exploration drilling program going to better quantify copper reserves.   

Citation: Briggs, D.F., 2021, History of the Christmas Mine, Gila County, Arizona. Arizona Geological Survey Contributed Report CR-21-A, 45 p

Other recent mining histories by David F. Briggs