Copper Geology and Mining Methods

The Chitina mining district of Alaska is located at the headwaters of the Chitina and Copper Rivers. At present, the only producing mining properties are the mines of the Kennecott Copper Corpn. and the Mother Lode Coalition Co., which are situated 196 miles from Cordova the port of entry.

The first claims, later acquired by the Kennecott Mines Co. and afterwards transferred to the Kennecott Copper Corpn., were discovered in 1900. The Copper River & Northwestern Ry., which connects the mines with tide water at Cordova, was completed in the spring of 1911.

Contemporary with the construction of the railroad, aerial tram equipment was brought to the mines by pack train and a tramway, 3 miles long, connecting Bonanza mine with the proposed railroad terminal, was finished, enabling shipments of high-grade ore to be made immediately on the completion of the railroad. A mill to treat the lower grade ore was begun the same year.

The Kennecott company’s holdings consist of 111 mineral claims. The Mother Lode Coalition Mines Co., which is controlled by the Kennecott Copper Corpn., owns 73 claims adjoining the Kennecott holdings. All data on operations and geology refer equally well to the Mother Lode property.


The general geology of the district has been covered by the U. S. Geological Survey and the geological features of the mines have been carefully studied by A. M. Bateman, in his capacity as consulting geologist to the company.

The formations in the vicinity of Kennecott are shown, by the U. S. Geological Survey, to be as follows:

Quaternary.—Alluvium: flood plain gravels, sands and silts.
Rock glaciers: broken rock and ice.
Moraines: glacial till, partly sorted.

Jurassic or later.—Quartz diorite porphyry: stocks, sills, and dikes.

Upper Jurassic.—Kennecott formation: shales, sandstones, and conglomerates.

Upper Triassic.—McCarthy shale: shale with few thin-bedded limestones.
Chitistone limestone: massive limestone mostly magnesian, ore containing.

Triassic-—Nikolai greenstone: altered basaltic lava flows.

The Nikolai greenstone is a succession of altered basaltic lava flows, its total thickness, exposed in the vicinity of the mines, is at least 3500 ft. and the base cannot be seen. Numerous prospects have been opened on copper showings in this formation, the ore being usually bornite, chalcopyrite, and occasionally chalcocite; however they have not resulted in productive mines. Native copper is known to occur in all placer operations in gulches cutting the greenstone, some of the nuggets weigh several hundred pounds. In the vicinity of the mines, the strike of the greenstone is N 60° W and its dip 23° to 30° to the northeast.

Chitistone Limestone.—All the important orebodies are in this formation. It is a conspicuous heavy-bedded formation intersected by numerous systems of fracturing; weathering along these fracture planes produced a very rugged topography. It conformably overlies the Nikolai greenstone and is estimated, by Moffitt, to be about 3000 ft. thick.

The lower part of the formation consists of a 4-7-ft. bed of shale; above the shale is 12 ft. of thin bedded, smooth, hard, gray argillaceous limestone, then 23 ft. of thin-bedded, rough, pebbly limestone, containing flattened, cylindrical, fossil-like grains which, from its appearance, Bateman has termed “crinkley lime,” and 30 ft. or more of dull gray limestone. The remainder of the formation consists of massive beds of sparkling light-gray dolomitic limestone, with occasional beds of darker rock. The upper part of the Chitistone limestone becomes thinner bedded and shaly, gradually grading into the overlying McCarthy shales.

Porphyries.—Light-colored quartz diorite porphyries intrude the greenstone and all the sedimentary rocks in the form of stocks, sills, and dikes. They occur most abundantly about one mile from the Bonanza mine, where they form a larger stock, which constitutes Porphyry Mountain.

Faults and Fractures

There are numerous faults both parallel to and traversing the bedding of the sedimentaries. The former are known as flat faults; the latter also pass into and displace the greenstone. There are many displacements of from 1 to 25 ft., and several faults caused a displacement of as much as 1300 ft. Most of these were pre-mineral; however, in the Bonanza and Mother Lode mines there are several instances where a portion of the ore- body has been displaced. Bateman considers that the flat faults have had a direct bearing on the deposition of the ore, the selvage or gouge contained in them acting as a dam to the orebearing solutions.

Ore Deposits

The general geological features and the relative position of the mines are shown in Fig. 1. The orebodies are typical replacement deposits in the limestone, the outstanding features being the intensity of the mineralization and the fact that chalcocite is the predominating mineral in the deposits. As usual, deposition took place along a fissure, or series of fissures that seemingly start from the greenstone, contact.

These fissures have a strike varying from N 30° E to N 80° E and have no definite dip, varying from nearly vertical to 40° from the vertical, most of them more closely approach the vertical, however. The ore-bodies have the same strike and dip as the fissures, although often when a fault plane is intersected, they widen out along these planes and form what are termed the “flat orebodies,” and are identical with the “Manta” orebodies of the Mexicans. The mineralization along the fissures is much less as the fissure passes into the dull gray limestone, and in only two or three instances is any ore found in this formation or the “crinkley lime” beds that immediately overlie the greenstone.

In the Jumbo mine, a fault roughly following the contact between the dolomitic and the dull gray limestone is the west limit of an orebody, the largest mass of high-grade ore so far encountered. This deposit had a cross-section of 80 by 100 ft. and extended from the 150-ft. to the 700-ft. levels, of which a portion 50 ft. wide and 50 ft. high, extending from the 300-ft. to the 600-ft. level, was practically pure chalcocite.

The lower 1000 ft. of the dolomitic limestone appears to be the most favorable zone for ore deposition. All the productive orebodies lie in it and have their greatest width in the lowest beds, gradually becoming , smaller and of lower grade as they extend east into the upper beds. The eastern extension of the fissure is usually filled with calcite. Thus, the orebodies have a rake or pitch practically paralleling the greenstone contact.

There is every degree of intensity of replacement, from large bodies of practically pure chalcocite and its oxidation products, covellite, azurite, and malachite, to the lime containing small bunches or veinlets of these minerals too low grade to mine. There are no defined walls; the grade of the ore is the limiting factor in mining.

In width, the orebodies vary from a few feet to over 100 ft., not including the local widening of the flat orebodies, which sometimes extend another 100 ft.; in length they vary from 150 to over 1000 ft. In some places, practically the entire width is high-grade ore with only a few feet

of lower grade; in others, the high-grade is in veins from 1 to 10 ft. in width, which are separated from one another by lower grade ore. As the eastern ends of the orebodies are reached, with but one exception, no high-grade deposits are found. There are several places where it would appear that pre-existent fissures or veins were filled, but this occurrence is rare.

The Glacier mine exploits a unique and interesting orebody. It is made up of ice, limestone, some greenstone, and chalcocite. The outcrop of the Bonanza mine was a massive deposit of chalcocite located on the edge of a small amphitheater; the debris, resulting from disintegration of this orebody and country rock, fell into this basin and was occluded in a glacier, which now partly fills it. The orebody is 800 ft. long and 85 ft. wide, and the broken ore in payable quantities extends to a depth of 40 ft.; 45 per cent, of the volume is ice, the remainder is broken country rock and chalcocite with a small amount of carbonate ore.

The principal mineral is chalcocite and its oxidation products covellite, malachite, and azurite. Enargite, bornite, and chalcopyrite are occasionally found together with cuprite, luzonite, and other rarer copper-bearing minerals. During the past five years, the ore produced has averaged 70 per cent, sulfides and 30 per cent, carbonates. The ore is divided in two grades: that which is shipped direct to the smelter and the lower grade ores, which are treated in the mill and leaching plant. The high-grade shipments average between 50 and 55 per cent, copper.

Silver exists in the ore in the ratio of about 1 oz. silver to each 130 lb. copper.

General Description

The Jumbo and Bonanza mines are located on the greenstone-limestone contact at an elevation of 6000 ft.; the Erie mine, on the same contact, is at an elevation of 4500 ft.; and the Mother Lode mine is at an elevation of 5200 ft. This last mine was opened in the higher beds of limestone, the vertical shaft intersecting the contact at an elevation of 4400 ft. Contrary to all expectations, the temperature at the elevation of the mine is not extremely cold, rarely falling below —20° F. and during the winter is often 40° warmer than at the mill camp 4000 ft. lower. Freezing or near freezing temperatures prevail even at the lowest levels of the mines, so the mines are dry and dusty; veins of ice are commonly encountered. The only pumping required is during the summer months, when the snow melts and a small part of the water finds its way through open fissures to the upper levels.

The topography is extremely rough and rugged; snow lies on the ground nine months of the year and snow falls throughout the year. Because of the topography, space for bunk houses and other buildings is limited. All hoists, compressors, and other machinery are located underground. Aerial tramways transport the ore to the mill or railroad terminal, all supplies to mines, and, during the winter months, carry all the passengers to and from the mines.

All the mines, except the Erie, are connected underground; a tunnel is now being driven to connect, this mine with Jumbo. Jumbo and Bonanza mines are opened by inclined shafts paralleling the dip of the greenstone and are located about 50 ft. above the contact. These shafts are 14 ft, wide, have two skipways arid a manway, and are 7 ft. high above the rail. The shaft of the Jumbo mine has, a slope distance of 3051 ft. and the shaft of the Bonanza 2416 ft. On account of the flat dip, the manways have stairways in place of ladders.

The skips used at Jumbo have a capacity of 80 cu. ft. and those at Bonanza, 60 cu. ft., with a track gage of 40 in. in both shafts. The Mother Lode mine was opened by, a two-compartment vertical shaft 800 ft. deep. A new incline shaft has been sunk a slope distance of 1405 ft., after the same manner as at the other mines. All are located underground, being connected with the surface by a tunnel. On account of the flat pitch of the orebodies, the vertical shafts would require an excessive amount of development work to open the various levels.

Formerly, levels were driven each hundred feet, this distance was increased to 200 ft., which was found to be too great, and 150 ft. has been accepted as the best distance, all things considered. Two or three pockets are commonly cut at each level and the skips loaded by chutes without a measuring hopper. One pocket for the mill ore is usually capable of holding about 300 tons; the others, for the high-grade and waste, have a capacity of 50 to 100 tons.

Exploration, Sampling, and Estimating

In common with most deposits in the limestone, it is impossible to foretell or estimate accurately the amount or grade of the ore that a block of ground will produce without an unreasonable amount of development work. Diamond drilling has been used to good advantage for exploring unknown ground; in all over 70,000 ft. of drilling has been done. The usual and more reliable method of exploring has been to drive a drift or crosscut in the dolomitic limestone paralleling the strike of the greenstone, and about 100 to 150 ft. from it; thus any mineral-bearing fissure that is encountered can be followed.

Only occasionally is any sampling done underground. After becoming acquainted with the ore, it is possible to estimate closely the grade of the ore by the amount of glance or carbonates it contains. When the limits of the ore are reached, samples are sometimes taken. It has been found that the sample values are usually considerably higher than the actual recovery obtained in the mill; this is probably due to the friability of the glance and the soft chalky nature of some of the carbonates.

Mining Methods

The shrinkage method of stoping has been used, except for the open-pit mining on the Bonanza mine outcrop. A departure from the usual method, however, is practiced. Where the high-grade portion of the orebody is of sufficient size, as much as possible is mined by the shrinkage method and completely drawn out. The mill-grade ore is then stoped, filling the void left by the extraction of the high-grade and the excess is drawn off as usual.

After as much of the high-grade ore is mined as is practical, other veins, lenses, and masses are met and broken with the mill ore. No attempt is made to sort the ore in the stopes after the mining of the mill ore is commenced; but at all the mines, the ore from the skip pocket on the top level passes over a picking belt, where pieces of high-grade ore are hand picked from the mill ore and any mill ore that may be mixed with the high-grade produce is picked out.

The character of the ground makes almost an ideal condition for the method employed. The work must be given close attention to guard against leaving ore that makes along bedding planes, faults or cross fissures, away from the main orebody; although in most instances as the broken ore is drawn from the stope, it is safe to follow it down and, by using a Jackhamer, recover the ore that may have been overlooked. A great many of the floor pillars left are recovered after a level is finished; but it has been found that it is well not to be too hasty about the recovery of pillars and destroying the level, as oreshoots from a lower level have been found in ground that was considered barren. Until recently, no attempt was made to fill these old stopes, as they would stand empty with practically no caving; the waste from development work is now being used for this purpose.

The Glacier mine is worked but three months per year, when surface mining is carried on. During the months of July, August, and September, the ice of the glacier melts sufficiently to release about 30,000 tons of ore; this is recovered by scraping the thawed ground with a Bagley scraper. To date, while some experimental work has been done, thawing by artificial means has not been attempted; possibly operations might be successfully carried on during the cold months, but it would be at a much greater cost. The scraper used has a capacity of 50 cu. ft. and is operated by an electric double-drum engine of 75 horsepower.

Development Plans

As the inclined shafts are located on the western limits of the ore, crosscuts are driven until the orebodies are reached. The drifts on the ore are kept, as far as possible, in the high-grade ore, chute raises are driven 25 to 35 ft. apart, and widened in the usual manner so that they connect, leaving a pillar 25 to 30 ft. thick between the level and the bottom of the stope. Often, if the ore becomes leaner in the drift, work in the stope is carried ahead from the last chute raise, thus determining the direction in which the drift should be driven. In the wide portions of the orebody, a second, and sometimes a third, drift is necessary to draw the ore evenly from the stopes. In other words, the main idea, after the ore is located on a level, is to follow it, as local swells and pinches in the orebody and the method of mining followed preclude any definite layout of the haulageways as in lower grade and more regular orebodies.

In order to mine the ore on the extreme west end of the orebody, it is necessary to drive raises through the underlying dull gray and crinkley

limestone and the greenstone; when the levels are driven 200 ft. apart, a sublevel is driven to eliminate the long raises that would be necessary.

Fig. 2 shows, in plan and projection, a typical orebody and the development work required to stope it. The main haulageways are driven 7 ft. wide by 7 ft. high on a grade of 0.5 per cent, in favor of the loads; the prospecting drifts and crosscuts are 5 by 7 ft.; 16 and 30-lb. rails are used, the gage of track is 18 in. A compressor plant at Bonanza mine furnishes air for all the connected mines, a 6-in. line being used.

Very little timber is used, only an occasional set being necessary in passing through faults or on the greenstone contact; usually native round timber is used with round poles for lagging.

Loading machines are used in driving the larger headings; while they expedite the removal of the broken material, thus avoiding any delay when the miners are ready to set up for the lifters, a crossbar being used, they have not reduced the cost per ton removed. Scrapers are used at the Glacier mine, as noted; they are also employed advantageously when the main inclines are raised out, instead of being sunk.

Tramming is done by hand, horse, and storage-battery locomotives. Hand tramming is used where the distance is short and a small tonnage is moved; horse tramming, when the distance is greater; for the long hauls and on the levels producing the greatest tonnage, 4-ton Baldwin-Westing-house locomotives with Edison cells are used. This type of locomotive has given very satisfactory service.

For horse and hand tramming, 20-cu. ft. end-dump cars are used; with locomotives, cradle-type and side-dump cars of 36 cu. ft. capacity are used, usually in trains of six or eight cars. .While, on several levels, the locomotives run on 16-lb. rails, the practice is to use 30-lb. rails; curves have a minimum radius of 40 ft.

Hoisting is done in balance, the hoists at the Jumbo and the Bonanza are duplicates; they are of single-reduction, herringbone-gear type with a rope speed of 600 ft. per min., driven by two 85-hp., a.c., 2200-volt, three-phase, sixty-cycle motors; they were manufactured by the Allis Chalmers Co. The Mother Lode incline will be equipped with a double-drum hoist, with double reduction gears, driven by two 75-hp. motors; the rope speed will be 450 ft. per min. The cables are six-strand, nine- teen-wire, Lang lay, 7/8 in., in diameter. When hoisting men, the skips are removed and a man car used. Neither skip nor man car is fitted with a safety device, as a satisfactory one has not yet come to the company’s attention.

The air-compressor plant furnishes air for all mines, except the Erie, where an Ingersoll-Rand Imperial type 10, 600-cu. ft. capacity, electrically driven compressor is installed. The plant contains: One Ingersoll Rand type P. E.-2 compressor, 1500 cu. ft. capacity, driven by a 250-hp. synchronous motor; two Ingersoll Rand Imperial type 10 compressor, 500 cu. ft. capacity, each driven by a 85-hp. motor; one Ingersoll Rand Imperial type 10 compressor, 650 cu. ft. capacity, driven by a 105-hp. motor.

Because of the numerous openings to the surface, natural ventilation, with the exception of small fans belt-driven by a 10-hp. motor in development, aided by doors to course the air, is satisfactory.

Electric lights are used on the levels and incline shafts. The miners use carbide lamps, furnishing their own caps and lamps, the company keeping them in repair.

Each level has a telephone connecting with the foreman’s office, compressor room, and hoist room. The mine telephone system is independent of the general system.

Electric pull bells, modeled after those commonly used in other mines, are used.

Operating Data

Types of Drills

For drifting Ingersoll Rand, 248 Leyner machines are used; for stoping and raising, Ingersoll Rand C. C. 11, except when drilling in chalcocite, when it is necessary to use a water-type drill. Ingersoll Rand B. C. R. 430 and Sullivan D. P. 33 are used for blockholing and where occasional flat or down holes are to be drilled. Four-point, cross, high-center drill bits are used on all machines, made up of the following sizes of steel: 1-in. quarter octagon for stoper; 7/8-in. hollow hexagon for Jackhamer; 1¼-in. hollow round for Leyner. The bits are:

Stoper, 1 7/8-in. for starters; 1 ¾-in. for seconds; 1 5/8-in. for thirds; and 1½-in. for fourths.

Leyner, 2-in. for starters; 1 7/8-in. for seconds; 1¾-in. for thirds; 1 5/8- in. for fourths.

Record of Unit Production

(a) Ore broken……………………………………………………297,502 short tons
Ore produced…………………………………………………….294,202 short tons

Labor Data

(c) Stoping labor includes: Miners in stopes, muckers in stopes, bulldozers in stopes, rockbreakers in stopes:
Tons broken per man per hour…………………………….1.3964
Man-hours per ton……………………………………………………0.7161
(d) and (e) Exploration and development labor, miners only:
Tons broken per man per hour……………………………1.2941
Man-hours per ton…………………………………………………0.7726
(g) All underground labor including above labor:
Tons produced per man per hour……………………..0.4586
Man-hours per ton…………………………………………………2.1807
(h) Surface labor, exclusive of office force:
Tons produced per man per hour……………………11.5536
Man-hours per ton……………………………………………….0.0866
(i) All labor including office force:
Tons produced per man per hour…………………….0.4243
Man-hours per ton……………………………………………….2.3570

Supplies Data

Safety Measures

Hoisting ropes are thoroughly inspected once each week; every six weeks 2 ft. are cut off from both ends. The ropes are changed end for end after six months’ use. The sheaves are inspected once every week, and the hoists each day. In the vertical shaft, the safety catches are tested every Sunday.

There is a fire extinguisher on every level station; fire doors are provided. When located near timber or snow sheds they are of concrete and steel; otherwise they are built of wood, care being taken to make them as air-tight as possible.

No safety engineer is employed, the engineering department reporting to the general mine foreman and superintendent any unsafe practices that come to its notice.

Each bunk house is equipped with a pool and reading room, a number of magazines and other periodicals being provided. Moving picture shows are given twice a week at Jumbo and Bonanza camps.

A well-equipped hospital is located at the mill camp with a competent surgeon and corps of nurses in attendance.

At the plant, last year, there was one fatal accident; no serious accidents causing total permanent disability; three partial permanent disability; 28 causing loss of more than 14 days time; and 120 minor, loss from 0 to 14 days.

Compensation paid, under Territorial Act, amounted to 1.058 per cent, of the payroll.