A black and white photo postcard of the Sacramento Pit, circa 1920s. The front caption reads: "Steam Shovels, Sacramento Hill, Bisbee, Ariz." The postcard is unused, and the publisher is unknown. Ena Cain Donahue Collection.
Phelps Dodge’s exploration of Sacramento Hill began in 1909 and discovered eastern and western ore bodies, with the western having a higher grade of ore. Rail-based Bucyrus stream shovels began operations on April 5, 1917 and the peak of Sacramento Hill was dynamited off on June 6, 1918. Three years later the main ore body was found and in twelve years Sacramento Hill was flattening the in the pursuit of copper . Nine million tons of ore were produced from the Sacramento Pit and the site remained in operation until 1931. In time it was absorbed by the expanding Lavender pit. During the mining operations in Sacramento Pit, flying rock from dynamite blasts posed a grave danger to anyone in the vicinity. Notices were posted in the Bisbee Daily review to warn residents who wanted to see the new steam shovels in action. Eleven workers died in accidents in 1918, the worst took place on January 10, 1918, when 3,150 pounds blasting powder in two holes were set off prematurely killing four men (Sidney Drakenfield, Modesto Vastido, Carlos Calderon, and Juan Nunez) and injuring eight others (J.D. McBride Nat Anderson, Frederico Esquer, Francisco Valenzuela, Lorenzo Vasquez, Jose S. Martinez, Jose Monarez, and Juan Villanedan.) The strength of the blast was so intense that it derailed a steam engine. In the following year Phelps Dodge enacted more safety precautions which prevented any accidental deaths from occurring in 1919. By 1929, the Sacramento pit’s ore reserves were exhausted after producing 9 million tons of copper ore from 360 million tons of rock. The pit was temporarily filled with waste rock before being consumed by the expansion of the Lavender Pit.
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