Saturday, January 31, 2015

Visiting the ASARCO Mine

I tagged along with the Photo Club on Tuesday to visit the ASARCO mine, located just south of Green Valley, near Tucson.
ASARCO started in 1899 as American Smelting And Refining Company... founding fathers were Henry Rogers, William Rockefeller, Adolph and Leonard Lewisohn and Anton Eilers. It became a publicly traded company on the DOW Jones Industials in 1901. In 1999 It was acquired by Grupo Mexico and now trades on the Mexican Stock Exchange... the most active stock on that exchange. For more history click on this Wikipedia link.

This mine site we toured is called the Mission Complex... named so because of the nearby San Javier Mission, which is visible to the west from Hwy. 19.

As we drove on the bus to the mine I did a little "drive by shooting." The settling pond in the distance is a man-made detention pond where the mine discharges their waste water.

They get their water from the Colorado River... and with the lower water table levels, there is lots of complaining about all the water that goes into mining operations.

For many years when passing on Highway 19 we have seen the huge miles of earth piled high in a straight row... and knew it was a mine site... but didn't know about the possible tour available.

The variety of colour in these piles is from the over burden coming from different levels removed in order to get down to the "good stuff."

We drove past this mine processing plant and aeration ponds on the way to the open pit site.

It just looked like ordinary crushed rock to me... but not to these miners. This company is the third largest copper producer in the world.  Something like 350 million pounds a year!

When the bus stopped we got out and took a few shots into the pit. A couple of trucks are waiting at top of the road, just right of centre.

I zoomed in on those huge trucks that were over a mile away. We learned later why they were parked there waiting. These are the largest dump trucks in the world. I would sure love to take a ride in one of these big trucks!

This retired truck at the visitor centre is about 40 feet long, 24 feet wide, and can carry 170 tons of rock. The driver sits over 20 feet off the ground and they drive on the left side of the road in the mine so they can better see the edge of the road bank. The newer ones made by Caterpillar today can carry twice that capacity!

This sign was posted on the grille of the truck.

One tire costs $80,000 and they have to be replaced about every six months.

I caught this family posing for their mother.  Pretty cool shot, eh? You can't think up this kind of shot... kids are so ingenious... they don't have to be told how to pose.

Our tour guide announced that we were in luck!  They would be setting off a blast right in front of us in just a few minutes. Now we knew why those big trucks were parked and waiting on the hill a mile away.

They told us, "Just focus on the plateau to the right of the excavator and drill rig...

And sure enough, after a couple of horn blasts and a long siren, they discharged the blast.

Next they bused us back to the processing plant.

Constantly the rock is being moved thru the process of being crushed and broken down until it is the finest powder possible.

In this facility their object is to just to get the copper into a powder that can be then trucked to a refinery where it is purified in a furnace.

Our tour guide, in the white hardhat, has done this presentation so many times I think he could rattle it off in his sleep.

The first step is crushing the rock... crushing and screening it... then more crushing and screening.

When it is small enough, the ore gets pulverized to dust in this rotating ball mill.

Next it gets sent to the floatation tanks.  This is an excellent flow chart of the whole process.

There is a couple of large aeration tanks outside...

and inside there are several more tanks.  Water plays a large part in the refining process.

Back in the visitor centre our tour guide continued to wax eloquent with his knowledge. The circular entrance to more exhibits was designed in the shape of the ball roller used in the mine plant.

This mineral discovery center provided a lot of resources... and we watched a movie on the process.

These are actual steel balls used in the ball roller drum.

This close up is an extension cord used to run equipment in the open pit. The mine pays $1.8 million for electricity every month.

This mine is only the fifth largest copper mine in Arizona... it occupies 31 square miles... and they have just revised it's life expectancy for another 26 years.  Last week if we had asked our tour guide he would have told us fifteen years... but they have just announced revised drilling results, and believe that they can continue to operate at this location until around 2041.

In the grounds around the Visitor Center we saw some amazing cactus plants.

What a beautiful cluster!

A collection of historic mining equipment is located around the Visitor Center... like this wooden head frame used in the early 1900's.

The way that ore is moved today is vastly different than in the old days of mining.

I'm sure that when this rail car was built it was the most advanced technology of that time.

Now the newest models of these trucks made by Caterpillar can carry 350 to 400 tons! The width of the dump box is 30 feet... wider than the paved street in front of our house... which is the standard 24 feet paved width.  If my memory is right, these newest mining trucks cost in the 5 million dollar range.

It is interesting to see these old antiques... like this road grader.

and this steam shovel.  New models of this shovel can scoop up to twice as much in their bucket as would fill the common dual wheel dump truck.

As we were leaving the visitor centre I liked the colour of these prickly pear cactus...

Guarding the front entrance was this beautiful Crested Saguaro.

Would it be that we could see these rare specimens more often. I was so delighted to see this treasure here. To see more crested saguaros, I invite you to click on Shirley's recent blog post.  She is keeping an inventory list of our crested saguaro finds.

"Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow." -Anita Desai

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sabino Canyon -Hiking the Phoneline Trail

For many years we have enjoyed coming to Sabino Canyon.

We have fond memories of hiking the Phoneline Trail many years ago in the spring when the hillsides were alive with yellow flowers and the cactus were in bloom.

We were here early, and already the parking lot was full of cars. They say that Sabino Canyon is the fourth most popular tourist attraction in Tucson... a million visitors come to this park every year.

The sky was clear and the air was crisp as we started on the wide and level road that leads to the Phoneline Trail... which we soon found to be neither wide nor level.

The Sabino Creek flows down the canyon... but today we crossed on a dry road.

I took this photo of Shirley crossing on a bridge in this canyon January 2010. There are eight bridges on the main road up the canyon, and every one of them had water flooding over the bridge decks. If you wish you can check out my blog from back then.

This was water coming over the Sabino Dam at that time.

As we headed up the trail the climb was pretty gradual... and views were spectacular.

There was always a pleasant mix of saguaros.

We were climbing on the left side of Blackett's Ridge.

The Phoneline trail follows along the Sabino Creek. A paved road also follows the creek along the floor of the canyon.

We wondered why this saguaro had a little beanie on top... maybe it was Jewish?

I had no idea what kind of flower this was when I took the photo... but in my Google search it turned out to be a flower of Acacia. It was nice to find a little colour along the trail.

This is the same flower that Shirley took at a recent visit to the Desert Museum... except this specimen has foliage that confirms the plant name. This one had the luxury of living in a place where it was watered and nurtured. What a great shot, Shirley!

Across the canyon is the Catalina Mountains...

and far up on the side of the mountain, in the very centre, is a house with a super view of the world.

What an absolutely incredible location.

Does anyone know the name of the mountain to the right of the cactus?

This saguaro looks like a dancer or a gymnast.

The first trams in Sabino Canyon began operating in 1978. From that point forward, access by cars was restricted to allow visitors to reach Upper Sabino Canyon by foot, bicycle or tram.

Walking in the sunshine was always nicer than walking in the shade today.

Being early in the day there were not very many people on the tram... but we went back on the weekend and the trams were totally full with people in line waiting.

Several workers put forth a lot of effort to build this trail along this side of the mountain... moving rocks and creating a ledge that was safe for hikers.

From this point we could see Thimble Peak to the east.

Taking photos on the shady side of the mountain has it's advantages. Look on the positive side... you can get some great silhouettes.

This prickly pear has been busy getting ready to have some blossoms and some fruit.

I loved the beautiful conical shape of this new arm... looks almost like a football. What a beautiful pattern!

As we were walking on the trail we were mostly looking at our feet... but when we came around a corner it was amazing to look up and discover this incredible sheer rock face looming above us... the Acropolis Wall.

I turned around and told Shirley to look up... it was a "wow" experience!

We all stopped here for a break and a snack... and then I asked the group to pose for a photo as I went over the edge to get low enough to capture them with the rock face behind.

They kept asking me to back up... just a little more!

Someone said, "Look up there... is that a plant growing up there?" Sure enough. It was an agave. Shirley liked her shot of this so much she is using it as her "cover photo" on her blog.  Check it out!

As we started back down the trail it was really chilly walking in the shadow of the ridge. I suggested that it would be great if we had a small hang glider kit... one that would fit into a backpack and we could just pull it out and jump over the edge to soar back to the parking lot.

I had no takers. Someone thought I might land in a cactus. I didn't get any orders for my little invention from this group... but I'm not discouraged.

Without exception we were all looking forward to getting back into the sunshine. We could see it around us... but we just couldn't feel it.

It was wonderful to finally break out around a corner and feel the warmth of the sunshine again.

Looking back into Tucson we could see in the distance a north-south road.  What was it?

At first glance we thought it might be Houghton Road... but upon further study of maps and a drive-by look see, I have no doubt that this is Camino Seco. The Tanque Verde Wash forces the end of Camino Seco at Wrightstown, where it is a narrow, little  two-way street to Speedway.  From there to the Pantano Wash it is a divided four lane road with turning lanes in the central boulevard, then it resumes from Golf Links south again to Irvington where it dead ends.

Looking south from Speedway intersection on Camino Seco.

North on Camino Seco where the road narrows... looking to the ridge where we first saw this street. If you blow up the photo you can see the ridge where we were hiking.

This is a pretty tall, old granddaddy saguaro.

And nearby was a younger saguaro having babies... starting a family!

There were more questions than answers when we saw this saguaro. Was this caused by a injury?

Both Shirley and I found heart-shaped paddles on a prickly pear cactus. Did someone take a bite out of the cookie?

We found a number of unusual saguaros. This little soldier was standing up as straight as possible.

But the most amazing to me was to see another Crested Saguaro. This one was located only a short distance from the beginning of the Bajada Loop Nature Trail, very close to the Visitor Center.

Just like with people, no two Crested Saguaros are the same. They all have their own personality.

It is most common to have the crested curls on the very top. But this one has grown several arms that exceed the top of the crown of this monarch. Very cool. Does this not look like a King with his crown and a Queen beside him?

It is always a good sign of spring to see new leaves come out on the ocotillo. These are the first ones we have seen this year. They are oh so tiny... but no stopping them now.

"The sun was warm,
But the wind was chill;
The hike was great,
And I got my fill."

The top two lines were Robert Frost... the last two lines were Sherwin Goerlitz!