BHP to remove old headframe at Old Dominion Park

Photo by David Abbott The headframes at Old Dominion Park are both more than a century old. The “old” headframe on the interior of the “new” structure was built in 1881. The newer structure was built in 1908.

Editor's note: This report has been updated to reflect the location of the Burns & McDonnell engineering firm that will perform the headframe removal work.

The definition of “new” is a matter of perspective.

For instance, BHP is preparing to remove one of two headframes at the Old Dominion Mine Park in Globe, the old headframe, built in 1881, and will leave behind the newer one that was built in 1908.

“We’re basically doing a facelift so it remains stable for the next 10-, 20- to 30 years,” Daphne Place-Hoskie, principal closure planning for BHP, said. “We’re preserving history: it’s a local landmark that serves to provide a sense of place for the community.”

BHP delayed the start of the project in deference to last month’s Old Dominion Days, but is set to begin on Monday, Oct. 8.

The reason for the work is that the smaller, 60-foot-tall, wrought iron, inner frame has been deteriorating for years and is beginning to pull the newer, larger structure down. That frame is 120 feet tall and made of carbon steel.

There is no active mining going on at the site but there is still activity — water is being pumped from the shaft to keep it dry, and being piped to mining operations in Miami — with the integrity of the structure compromised there is concern that personnel working in the area might be susceptible to injury from falling objects.

“Safety is of paramount concern,” Place-Hoskie said.

While the park is a fairly recent addition to the community, the history of the mine and mining in the area goes back to prehistoric times.

According to Bob Zache, who served as a docent for the Gila County Historical Society during Old Dominion Days, the Salado culture began digging up turquoise and copper ore on the site about 800 years ago.

After the Civil War, the riches under the ground began to attract miners and the U.S. military cleared out the danger from the Apaches, who were fighting their final battles to preserve their culture.

Mining on the site began in earnest in 1874, according to Zache.

“By the 1880s, there was an estimated 110 mines in the area,” he said. “It was the electrical age and copper went up in value, but transportation was difficult.”

In 1903, the mine was sold to Phelps-Dodge and it was eventually purchased by BHP.

At one point, according to Zache, mining operations were pumping more than 2 million gallons of water a day into the creek to keep mine dry.

By 1931, the life of the mine was over, but it was not until the late 1990s during the reclamation of the site when the community came together to create the park.

Former councilmember Thea Wilshire was one of the driving forces behind the transition from played-out mine to community asset.

Wilshire and a group of volunteers, including Zache, Mary Ann Moreno, Brandon Parker and Ellen Kretch, worked for nearly two decades to bring the park to fruition.

“The community wanted a park there for 40 years, but it was 11 years before we were allowed on the site,” Wilshire said. “It was a community effort: Tanner Hunsaker made the signs and Bruce Brinkley did the architectural designs. Ellen and Mary Ann spent 11 years to get it to the point for easement.”

The park finally opened in 2011, and Wilshire said with the recent addition of the playground, phase one of the three-phase project is nearly complete.

In addition to the playground and trails throughout the park, there is a 9-hole Frisbee golf course and a zipline.

Old Dominion Mine Park is the only mine-themed park in Arizona and there are more than 35 educational signs about history and mining. The trails are named with an eye to historical reference — Mule Shoe Pass was the name of one of the claims — and much of the antique historic pieces of equipment were saved from the scrap heap.

The work is intended to preserve the history of the Globe-Miami area and the headframe removal will be sensitive to that dynamic.

“This is a tight-knit community with a history of working at the mines,” Place-Hoskie said. “We want to ensure the 1908 headframe remains a lasting community landmark.”

The work will begin on Oct. 8 and will last around seven weeks, Monday to Thursday for 10 hours per day, starting at 6 a.m.

BHP has contracted with engineering firm Burns & McDonnell, out of Phoenix to perform the work.

The park will remain open during project, although ample notice will be provided should park closure be necessary.

All dismantled headframe material will be donated to the Old Dominion Mine Park Committee for future use.

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