The Lavender Pit is a former open pit copper mine covering 300 acres in east Bisbee. It produced 86 million tons of low-grade copper ore (containing about 600,000 tons of copper) for the Phelps Dodge Corp. Gold, silver, and turquoise were by-products.
Production began in 1954 at the site next to the earlier, higher-grade Sacramento Pit, and the two operations combined to consume Sacramento Hill, with the Lavender Pit reaching a depth of 900 feet before Phelps Dodge shut it down at the end of 1974.
The pit was named for Harrison M. Lavender, a Phelps Dodge vice president and general manager who conceived and carried out the company’s plan for surface mining to recover previously unprofitable low-grade ore. He died in 1952, as the operation was beginning.
Phelps Dodge says that an undeveloped Cochise deposit, located immediately north of the Lavender pit, contains an estimated 190 million tons of rock with even lower-grade copper ore and may be mined in the future.
Motorists can pull into an overlook off Arizona 80 and get a panoramic view from the top of the pit through a chain-link fence. The geologic strata are visible, along with the road leading to the bottom that was used by trucks to remove the ore.
About 256 million tons of waste were stripped, though a portion of it was acid-leached to remove additional copper. Large tonnages of dump rock were placed around Bisbee, notably north of the Warren district. The century-old, 10,600-square-foot former home of William Douglas, who rose from manager of Phelps Dodge’s
operation to president of the company, sits next to the dump rock on the north end of Warren.
On Arizona 80
Bisbee, AZ 85603
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