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Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources (ADMMR) information
is now available in the Mineral Resources section of the
Arizona Geological Survey's (AZGS) website.

Arizona Mining, Minerals, & Copper: An AZGS Primer | The earliest miners in what is now Arizona were Native Americans who chiefly mined surface outcrops of salt, clays, hematite, quartz, obsidian, stone, turquoise, and coal.  In the late 1600s, Spanish explorers began the hunt for metallic deposits with special focus on gold and silver.  Antonio de Espejo made the first major silver  discovery  south of the San Francisco Peaks in May 1583, near what some believe is present-day Jerome, Arizona.  By the late 17th Century, Spanish prospectors had engaged in extensive mining in the mountains bordering the Santa Cruz River and its tributary Sonoita Creek.  Rare finds of sheets or “planchas” of silver – one sheet reportedly weighted 2700 pounds – fired the imaginations of several generations of miners. (Image to left: Early day miners stand in front of a mine portal near Morenci, AZ)

In 1854, in Ajo, Arizona, the Arizona Mining and Trading Company launched the modern era of hard-rock mining.  A burgeoning mining industry stimulated early growth in the Arizona Territory, and by 1864 nearly 25 percent of the male, non-native populace was prospectors.  By the 1870’s a plethora of hardrock mines were yielding prodigious volumes of copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold ore.  In 1912, the newly christened state of Arizona supported 445 active mines, 72 concentrating facilities, and 11 smelters; their gross value that year was nearly 67 million dollars -- equivalent to1.4 billion dollars in 2006. (Image bottom right: Modern-day Tiger Mine in San Manuel, AZ)  

The important metallic commodities of Arizona, listed in order of decreasing value, include copper, gold, silver, molybdenum, and lead.  Non-metallic (industrial) minerals produced -- listed in order of decreasing value -- include sand and gravel, crushed stone, clay, cement, gypsum, lime, perlite, pumice, and salt.  Arizona's is world-famous for its turquoise, peridot, petrified wood, azurite, and malachite; turquoise, azurite and malachite are copper-bearing minerals. Arizona also produces energy resources such as coal and small quantities of petroleum and natural gas.

Additional Resources and Links

Mine Databases

  • Federal Mineral Exploration Assistance programs 1950 - 1974 historical files Mine reports from the DMA, DMEA, and OME mineral exploration assistance programs of the USGS.
  • Mine Safety and Health Administration's Data Retrieval System Search by mine name or operator. Retrieve mine overview, employment, accident & violations histories, and health sample data.
  • Mindat Primarily a mineral database, but provides information on over 11,000 occurrences in Arizona and nearly 200,000 sites worldwide.
  • National Mine Map Repository The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) maintains map repositories for all types of mining for the entire country. Many of the maps in the repository are currently available in digital format.
  • USGS - Mineral Resource Spatial Data Download Mineral Resource Data System (MRDS) that now includes the Minerals Availability System & Mineral Industry Location System (MAS/MILS) mineral deposit databases. Also available are GIS data layers for geology, geophysics, geochemistry, etc. covering Arizona and the world. Data sets are avalable in a vaviety of formats - databases, shapefiles or KML files.
  • USGS - Map Interface Mine records of the Mineral Resource Data System (MRDS) mineral deposit database. The map interface is an interactive GIS applet providing map mine information covering Arizona and the world.
  • USGS - Open File Report 98-206 Database of Significant Deposits of Gold, Silver, Copper, Lead, and Zinc in the United States, 1998 by Keith R. Long, John DeYoung, Jr., and Stephen D. Ludington. This report includes name, location, deposit type, discovery date, past production, and remaining resources for each deposit in the database. Data are organized by State, with 115 deposits included for Arizona. Deposits are also located by mining district, county, and latitude-longitude.

Mining History

Arizona Universities' Mining and Geology Departments

Mine or Geological Agencies of Adjacent States and Mexico


Mini-Mineral Gallery, Courtesy UA Mineral Museum and Monica Graeme.