Briggs Shaft

(Calumet & Pittsburg Shaft, C&P Shaft)

 

Briggs shaft

The Briggs mine was faced with challenges only a well-established mining company could survive. Only the close corporate relationship with the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company allowed the mine to be successful. Sinking was started in 1902 by the Calumet & Pittsburg Mining Company, but in 1904 water was struck. The mine was flooded with water entering the shaft at 2,700 gallons per minute. It was decided to enlarge the shaft to five compartments. This was too allow room for the pumps and shaft sinking to occur simultaneously. Three of the shaft compartments were designed to hold three deck cages or if necessary   1,000 gallon bailing buckets. This extra bailing capacity could increase the mine drainage by 1,000 gallons per minute. 1905 was a year of difficult progress, the shaft was sunk with the miners standing in waist deep water and under a waterfall coming down the shaft.  In 1906 a merger of the Calumet and Pittsburg with other related Calumet & Arizona related companies formed the Superior & Pittsburg Mining Company. The new company was forced to shut down the Briggs because of a fuel shortage, caused by a difficulty in getting fuel oil trains from California. During this idle time it was decided to drive a crosscut from the Junction Mine on the 1500 level under the Briggs Shaft to drain the ground rather than fight water while sinking. Even though, this successfully dried up the mine, it was not until December 1909 that sinking continued at the Briggs. After years of struggling at huge cost, in 1910 significant ore was beginning to be developed and by 1912 the Briggs was hoisting 400 tons of ore daily and had intercepted what was then the largest sulfide orebody found in Bisbee. Electric locomotives were brought underground in 1913 to haul ore from the 1400 level Briggs to the Junction Shaft for hoisting. Development work intensified and in 1918 17,730 ft. of drift, 9,213ft. of raises and 7,445ft. of diamond drill work was completed. It was also decided to replace the flammable, wooden headframe with a massive steel headframe during that year.  Operations continued smoothly until March 27, 1920 when a sulfide fire broke out between the 1300 and 1400 levels.  Even though the fire was extinguished three times it continued to reignite after a short time. Finally, the fire zone was sealed with concrete bulkheads and the Oakland shaft was sunk to ventilate the fire zone. Even after the fire was somewhat contained the mining was severely hindered. On December 5th 1920, a hoist was installed on the 1000 level with a sheave wheel placed in the shaft a short distance above the level. The Briggs shaft would serve as an interior shaft with the upper shaft largely abandoned. A single cage moved men and materials between the 1000 to 1500 levels. All supplies and men were first lowered down the Junction and brought to the Briggs for hoisting. The mine for the next few years operated on one shift and rich orebodies like the “Tintown” orebody were developed. Even with the challenge of having to supply the mine through the Junction Shaft, tens of thousands of feet of drifts and raises were driven. 1925 was a year for change at the Briggs; a 75ft. level was started. Two raises were driven to the surface from this level. One was under the waste dump and the other near a railroad spur. These both were used to haul waste rock underground for the essential backfilling of stopes. By April 10th a double drum hoist was installed at the surface and the upper part of the Briggs Shaft was restored for lowering timber and other supplies. Miners were still brought underground through the Junction. This could have been because there were still some fire gasses venting into the shaft or that no change room facilities were available at the Briggs. A precipitation plant was built on the 1500 level to recover copper from acidic mine water in 1926. In 1929 The Calumet & Arizona Mining Company closed operations at the Briggs. The mine remained idle until 1935 when lessors began mining the property. In 1942 the hoist from the Briggs was sent to the Cuprite Shaft and the hoist from the Silver Bear shaft was installed at the mine. At the beginning 0f 1944 all leases were canceled and mining stopped at the Briggs. Phelps Dodge repaired the shaft and made major repairs to the 770, 1000, 1100, 1200 and 1400 level shaft stations. After the repairs, only one compartment was usable for hoisting.  During 1945-46 lead ores were developed on Bengal claim of Briggs ground and credited to the Briggs mine, but these ores were likely mined through Junction. In 1949, the buildings at the mine were demolished and the dumps were leveled for a new section of company houses known as “Briggs”. Workings from the Briggs were accessible from other mines. This became a problem in the 1960s when fire gasses began to leak out of the Briggs fire zone The Briggs fire continued to burn long after the mines closed in 1975 and could possibly have sections smoldering today.

A map of the 1300 level Briggs with chalcopyrite samples, the fuel for the fire.

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© 2013 by Doug Graeme