Modern-day alchemists are turning waste rock into gold at the historic Harquahala Mine, located in western Arizona between the town of Salome and Interstate 10. Their work has not gone unnoticed by the local snowbird population, which has gone perhaps a bit too fanboy over the project. “We have seasonal visitors riding their off-road vehicles to the project in hoards to watch us work,” Colby Johnston, a haul truck driver, says. "That's cool, but they even try to drive through the project while our large equipment is moving materials, which is dangerous for everyone.”
Besides curious snowbirds, workers on the mine project have had to contend with scorching 118-degree temperatures, cold 30-degree mornings, and the daunting logistics of doing construction in a remote area of the Sonoran Desert, far from supplies and resources. But with gold prices hovering around $1,800 an ounce, the challenges are worth it to the mine’s new co-owners, Bonanza Mining Company and Tombstone Exploration Corporation. The reactivation of the Harquahala Mine, which has yielded gold since colonial days, is a fascinating $1.5 million, two-year project to extract wealth from old mining tailings.
Located near the foot of Martin Peak at the southwest end of the Harquahala Mountains, the Harquahala Mine first produced gold in the 1760s. Spanish prospectors discovered the deposit, but its remote location and hostile Native American tribes limited the mine’s development until the 1880s. Significant production at the mine began in 1893 when the Harqua Hala Mining Co. acquired the property. The company assembled a 20-stamp amalgamation mill and an onsite processing facility, which allowed it to cast 400-pound gold ingots, the sizable weight of which reduced theft.
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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Nov/Dec 2021 issue, Vol. 10, No. 6.