The copper companies gave birth to Verde Valley prosperity during the turn of the last century. Now 100 years later, they are again contributing to the economy again. This time the profit will be generated by recycling the waste from copper production.
Slag piles, molten rock from which minerals have been extracted, seem to be a thing from another era. Nobody wants the eyesores in their viewscape and would prefer they were removed or covered.
Now there are plans to reclaim and remove both piles of slag, ghosts that haunt the Verde Valley 50 years after closure of the Jerome mines. Technology has finally reached a point that can crush that dense man-made rock.
Searchlight Minerals has been rebuilding the old lab at the Clarkdale smelter to use for reclaiming minerals from the rich United Verde Copper Company slag along the Verde River near Patio Park.
A report in November indicated that the building construction is near completion and most of the critical equipment is on-site. The feasibility study is to begin in the first quarter of the 2008 processing 100 to 250 tons per day of material as part of the first production module. When production reaches capacity, the company expects to process 2000 tons per day for more than 20 years.
The company hopes to sell 90-percent of the slag as a component for cement manufacture. The slag also contains precious metals including lingering gold, silver, copper and zinc.
Across the Verde Valley there is a second proposal to re-use the slag pile that towers above the Verde Valley Fairgrounds in Cottonwood. That slag is the waste of the United Verde Extension smelter at Clemenceau.
Mineral Research & Recovery of Tucson will face Cottonwood Code Review next week, and Planning and Zoning later in the month, to secure a conditional use permit to process the black pile.
Community Development Director George Gehlert says the company already processes slag to be used as abrasives, for roofing shingle material and for road construction products. The company has nearly leveled an existing slag pile at an Ajo, Ariz., mine near the Mexican border.
Gehlert says the slag processing is proposed to continue around the clock. While the aging pile lies in the middle of Cottonwood, it is directly surrounded by the fairgrounds and mainly industrial uses. Gehlert says that is a fortunate situation.
Ten large trucks full of material are predicted to pass from the processing area for shipment each day though an access road adjacent to the VFW hall off Aspen Street.
Thomas Oakes, CEO of Copperstate Companies, Inc, represents the project as the General Contractor for the manufacture of industrial processing equipment.
His job is to create the system as a turnkey plant for Minerals Research to operate.
The project will have a crushing plant, conveyors and steel structures including storage silos to feed a bagging unit.
The bagging plant will be the only structure other than a portable administrative building. A bagging unit will package the crushed material in 50-pound and 90-pound bags for shipment.
He contends that removing the slag will not only improve the landscape appearance but bring greater value to the affected properties.
Oakes says mining companies today recycle their own slag.
He knows of only three independent operations for recycling mining slag including the operations in the Verde Valley.
"Minerals Research is very generous," according to Oakes, "in wanting to do the right thing to look appropriate in the community and be a viable business there."
He says, "the company wants to make a statement and install landscaping and make a statement."