Silver City

by kfrego

Silver City, is located  in southwest New Mexico. The town sits at 6000 foot elevation and has a mining history dating back to the 1860’s. The primary employment in the Silver City area was the operation of huge surface and underground copper mines within a twenty mile radius of town. Our mining project in 1983 was a development tunnel for a new mine near the small town of Pinos Altos just north of Silver City. The primary ore was nickel with secondary inclusions of gold, silver, and copper. The 3400′ of horseshoe shaped tunnel at a 16% decline would provide access for future mining operations. We would use conventional drill and blast mining methods.

When we left Roseville, CA for New Mexico the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys had been socked in with fog for a month. We were really excited to be going someplace where there was sunshine. Our first week in Silver City we got nailed with two feet of wet heavy spring snow. Maybe the fog wasn’t so bad after all.

When we mobilized our project the local economy was in bad shape. The price and demand for copper was very low due to economic conditions around the world. The first couple of weeks in town was spent in a motel. When I opened my door at 5AM it wasn’t uncommon to have a dozen good miners standing around my pick-up to rustle a job. I always threw my legal pad on the hood and took their information. These men were excellent workers who had no employment because all the mines were literally closed.

Most of our equipment was mobilized out of our northern California yard. Several of our machines for hauling muck out of the tunnel weighed 80,000 each. The truckers who knew their way around could get the overweight load permitted through California and Arizona, but came into New Mexico without permits. The New Mexico scales in Lordsburg on Interstate 10 were about two miles past the exit to downtown Lordsburg and the highway to Silver City. The drivers would slip in at night, exit into town, and catch the highway north without reporting through the scales. One night I waited up for Old John who was coming in with one of the ST-8’s on his lowboy. He called from Lordsburg a couple hours late. When he jumped off at Lordsburg there was a fire in town. The road was blocked by the State Police. When the officer asked Old John about his trip permits and weight it was all over. I went to the Justice of the Peace the next morning and paid $800 to get Old John off the scale.

The New Mexico State Police didn’t arrest Old John………..just parked him at the scales, took his keys, and gave him a ride to a motel.