Resolution Copper’s demolition contractor has safely and successfully completed the controlled demolition of the Magma Copper smelter’s chimney stack, which was structurally unsound and posed a significant threat to safety.
Resolution Copper’s number one priority is ensuring the health and safety of its employees and the community and finalizing this latest phase of the 15-year reclamation effort is a vital step in fulfilling its commitment to health, safety and environmental stewardship.
In addition to proactively addressing the safety threat posed by the crumbling chimney stack, it was also necessary to remove smelter structures in order to clean all contaminants out of the soil that had accumulated during five decades of the Magma Copper Company’s smelting operations, which started in 1924 and ended in 1971. Safe removal and cleanup of the smelter complex is a major milestone in Resolution Copper’s broader reclamation of the West Plant property adjacent to Superior, which began in 2005 and is on schedule for completion in 2020.
“Being a good neighbor is extremely important to Resolution Copper. We are dedicated to making Superior a cleaner and safer place to live and work,” said Andrew Lye, Resolution Copper project director. “When the company took over the West Plant property in 2004, restoring the land was a top priority, and the safe removal of the smelter was unfortunately required for us to finish the job. The Town of Superior has been an important partner throughout the reclamation process, and we’ll continue to coordinate our efforts with Superior’s public officials as we move forward.”
Superior Mayor, Mila Besich offered the following statement: “As we bid farewell to the smelter stack, we are reminded of all that it has represented to generations of our citizens. It is an iconic reminder of every miner, engineer, craftsman and staff who have worked the Magma mine. It has been a symbol of our mining history, the industry that created Superior and the families which made Superior a community. We will miss seeing this important and historic structure from our skyline, but we also celebrate the new era that is before us today – a new mine, abundant economic and community development opportunities and our community working together to create greater opportunities for the benefit of all – not only for today, but for future generations. Superior’s best days are truly ahead of us, and together we will establish Superior’s growth and prosperity in the 21st century.”
The next major phases in the West Plant reclamation project are:
Resolution Copper understands the cultural significance of the Magma Copper smelter complex for the Superior community, and the company is funding a study for a legacy project to commemorate the town’s rich mining history. Resolution Copper proactively sought this opportunity to work with the community, including residents and elected officials. Under an agreement with the Town of Superior, Resolution Copper will review three project proposals, which are based on several months of gathering feedback from residents on how they would like to see Superior’s mining history preserved.
Resolution Copper is also funding major improvements to Superior’s US Highway 60 Park and Caboose Visitor Center, known for its feature landmark, a train caboose converted into a visitor center. Resolution Copper is collaborating with the Town of Superior on the park improvement project. The scope includes working with the Town to enhance the mining history trail, upgrading existing playground equipment to include new mining themed elements and landscaping.
Another part of Resolution Copper’s ongoing effort to celebrate the history of the Magma Copper Company smelter has been the work of our contractor, WestLand Resources, Inc. WestLand carried out detailed architectural documentation of the smelter, using an aerial drone to take high-resolution photographs and video of each structure. The drone imagery was processed with specialized computer software to generate both conventional architectural drawings of individual structures as well as three-dimensional models of selected buildings. The drawings and other documentation have been used to complete the standard Historic Property Inventory Forms for individual structures typically required by the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office.
WestLand has consulted a wide variety of early maps, photographs, company records and other documents. These sources together provide a better understanding of when the different parts of the complex were built and used, along with new details on the smelter’s role in the history of both Magma Copper and the community of Superior. WestLand has also been conducting oral history interviews with former Magma employees who worked either at the smelter or in other parts of the Magma operation. The interviews have been recorded by a professional videographer, and excerpts of the recordings will be used to produce a video history of the smelter for public distribution.
WestLand has presented its research in a series of public meetings in Superior over the last few months. In addition, WestLand is working on a booklet about the history of the smelter that will include historic and recent maps and photographs. The smelter history booklet will be available for public distribution on Dec. 21.
In the interim, Resolution Copper has collaborated with the Town of Superior and Boyce Thompson Arboretum to celebrate the smelter’s connections to the community by displaying a collection of historical photographs of the smelter complex at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
The exhibition, titled “Images to Remember: The Magma Copper Company Smelter at Superior,” consists of large reproductions of historic and recent photographs, a video display, maps and construction drawings of the smelter.
The exhibition is installed in the Benson House at the Arboretum and will be open to the public free of charge from Nov. 20, 2018, through May 20, 2019, during scheduled business hours (Fall-winter hours: Monday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., October through April).
For more information on viewing the smelter exhibition, contact Boyce Thompson Arboretum at 602-827-3000.
Submitted by Jonathan Ward, communications specialist, Resolution Copper