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Minerals and Mining

Mining and the 21st Century Arizona Economy | About 65 percent of the nation's copper is mined in Arizona and for many years Arizona led the nation in production of nonfuel minerals; chiefly because of our large copper reserves.  In 2005, there were 72 mining companies operating 126 mines in Arizona.  On top of that, 70 sand and gravel quarries operated throughout the state.  Arizona mines and quarries directly employ nearly 22,000 people who collectively earn more than 1 billion dollars each year.  The direct and indirect economic impact of mining is estimated at about 3.5 billion dollars annually.  Of this, about 277 million is accounted for in exports abroad.  The future of mining is assured by the following fact: each American uses more than 45,000 pounds of newly mined minerals annually! (Image to left: Open-pit copper mine in Arizona)

Mining districts in Arizona on the accompanying mineral resource map (see right) are categorized by the specific geologic environment in which the mineral deposit formed. Base- and precious-metal mining districts are classified according to the dollar value of metals produced. Only districts for which the total value of reported production of copper, lead, zinc, gold, or silver is greater than $500,000 (based on 1996 metal prices) are shown. Manganese, uranium, and tungsten districts have had significant production. Only minor quantities have been produced from the iron and mercury districts. Locations of economically or historically significant mines are also shown.

A northwest-trending belt of metallic mineralization across the state is a striking feature on the map. The southeastern part of this belt is dominated by porphyry copper (red on map) and associated lead, zinc, gold, and silver deposits (blue and purple on map). These deposits are associated largely with granitic rocks that were intruded 70 to 55 m.y. ago. Many important deposits in central Arizona are associated with Precambrian (1,750 to 1,650 m.y. ago) volcanic activity. The western end of the belt is dominated by gold deposits (orange on map), mostly related to volcanic activity between 25 and 15 m.y. ago. In addition, economically significant uranium deposits (light blue on map) are concentrated in northeastern Arizona. Locations from which a commodity has been produced are designated by stars. Arizona is believed to have potential for undiscovered metallic, non-metallic, and other resources, including oil and gas, coalbed methane, helium, carbon dioxide, and geothermal.