As one of Arizona’s biggest industries, copper mining is still “king” in our state. In fact, Arizona is the largest copper-producing state in the nation. Copper also is one of Arizona’s five “C’s,” along with cattle, cotton, citrus and climate. Recently we made a short road trip to the Ray Mine overlook, one of ASARCO’s copper mines, located just south of Superior.
According to its website, ASARCO lists 678 employees at the Ray location. While many probably live in Kearny, others live in the surrounding towns of Hayden and Winkelman. All three communities compose what’s known as the Copper Basin. There’s no doubt some employees coming from the southeast Valley make the commute via the Florence-Kelvin Highway. That drive is a scenic trip in itself, for those who have some extra time.
Copper ore is extracted from the Ray Mine and sent to the smelter at Hayden by way of the Copper Basin Railway.
Visitors can stop at the Ray Mine overlook, located on State Route 177, between Kearny and Superior. Watch for the large sign on the east side of the road. First arriving at the open pit mine, one is both impressed from an engineering point of view and a bit overwhelmed from an environmental point of view. It seems as though the pit is bottomless.
Huge hauler trucks travel back and forth, up and down these roads at steep grades.
No matter what is thought about the mining operations, a visit to the Ray Mine Overlook gives one an appreciation and respect for the mine workers and their challenging working conditions and schedules.