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Higgins mine


Higgins Mine

Twilight Mine

Twilight Shaft

Lower Higgins tunnel

Higgins tunnel

Wolverine interior

Wolverine interior shaft

The Higgins tunnel entrance

The Higgins tunnel entrance

The Higgins Mine is located on the Webster Claim. This claim is a relocation of the early Copperopolis Claim. In the early years the Higgins Mine was actually considered part of the Twilight Mine. After some years the workings at the 5660ft. elevation became known as the Higgins Mine and the workings at the upper elevations 5,800ft. + retained the name Twilight Mine. The original Copperopolis property was developed around 1882 with an 85ft. shaft. Thomas Higgins purchased the property from George Kline and Charles Anshultz. It is reported that  as the Twilight Company, Thomas Higgins working alone hand drilled the main Higgins Tunnel 650ft. into the mountain  In1903, Higgins sold the Twilight  property including the Webster claim to the Higgins Development Company for $650,000. Thomas Higgins was a major stockholder of this new company.  S.A. Parnell was in charge of the property with Dr. D. Broderick as company physician. He began working on the tunnel driven by Thomas Higgins and drove it 1,600ft. further. On May 28, 1903 a three compartment shaft was started south of the main tunnel. After reaching a depth of 60ft. the windlass being used for hoisting was replaced with a “whip” hoist (horse whim?). This hoisting method was used until a depth of around 110ft. was reached. By June 5th a steam hoist and a headframe had been erected on the site and soon the shaft was completed to a depth of 298ft. Water was intercepted by the shaft and the main tunnel was likely draining a fair amount as well*. A pump was installed in late October.  The water caused more than problems in actual mining. Draining mine water flowed down the hillside, until it puddled around the Muirhead House (Mr. Muirhead was mayor at the time) on Main Street before flowing down the street. Scott Whaley and W.H. Brophy, influential business men took around a petition to have a flume or culvert built to divert the water from the street area to beyond the Copper Queen Store warehouse. When the shaft was being started a blast threw a boulder that broke through the roof of the Black family home.  The boulder nearly hit the sister and daughter of Mrs. Black before tearing a four foot hole in their floor. Quickly, the company sent someone to repair the home. From the 300 ft. level, a 1,200 ft. of cross cut were driven. The Higgins Development Company had great property, but unfortunately the company was deprived of luck. They had come within 50ft. of finding an orebody in the tunnel and the crosscut in the shaft was about 200ft. from ore. The Higgins Leasing Company took over prospecting on the property.  Three diamond drill holes were completed including one straight down from the bottom of the shaft. After analyzing the cores mineralogist George Augustus Koenig, felt that those areas in porphyry and would be out of the ore zone. The decision was made to cease all diamond drilling and focus on drifting and crosscutting like the Copper Queen and Calumet& Arizona Mining Company. Soon the Higgins Development Company forfeited the Higgins property which, returned to the ownership of Thomas Higgins. In April of 1907 the Wolverine & Arizona Mining Company approached Thomas Higgins about leasing the property. A diamond drill on the Warren Claim belonging to the W&A had intercepted an orebody of crystalline azurite and malachite. Unfortunately, the Warren claim was thousands of feet from the Wolverine Shaft. A lease was arranged and the W&A began to mine to extend the Higgins Tunnel 300ft to the drill hole. Ore was hit on September 6th 1907 while the tunnel was still 125ft from the drill hole the orebody after extending the Higgins Tunnel 300ft.  Generally, this company only used the Higgins Tunnel as an access point to their own ores.  The only entrance to this stope on W&A ground was the Warren Raise. As mining continued it was discovered that a fault cutting through the orebody had resulted in the bottom of the orebody being oxidized and the top of the ore had been protected and remained as sulphides, a geologic curiosity. The Wolverine Interior Shaft was developed to exploit their ores and along with extensive drifting. In 1913 the Higgins Leasing Company was formed by local business man James Letson, Harry Jennings and John M McGregor. Local rumors told that a diamond drill hole drilled by the Higgins Development Company had actually hit ore. Purportedly, the leasing company drove the main tunnel to the area and intercepted a rich sulphide orebody. In 1914 six drills were installed for operation..

Two of three ore bins on the Higgins mine site

Two of three ore bins on the Higgins mine site

Three drills were to be used by the Wolverine & Arizona and the other three were for the Higgins Leasing Company’s use. Thomas Higgins continued to renew the lease and enabled the Higgins Leasing Company to make a profit by the time it shut down in 1916. He also showed his generosity in town in 1915 he donated the land for Saint Patrick’s Church .Thomas Higgins took over the mine himself and continued to mine the ore discovered by the lessees and continued mining ore to the 300 level of the shaft under the direction of Mike Ryan. Hauling of the ore through Main Street, Bisbee to below the slag dump on Naco Road for loading into railroad cars was problematic.  Occasionally, an ore wagon would break a wheel or an axle and dump its contents onto the street. This blocked the street from traffic until it was cleaned up. In November 1916 an ore wagon arrived at the unloading point and a horse fell off the 15ft. wall and fell between a railroad ore car and the wall. All the horses except one, were dragged off the wall and fell into an ore car. With considerable difficulty the horses were rescued. May 6, 1917 a fire broke out at the mine at 12:45 am the fire destroyed most buildings including the hoist house, change house and boiler room. Lack of water pressure prevented the miners from extinguishing the flames and the poor road to the mine block the city fire department from helping. The hoist was believed to be repairable, but the cable was ruined. Interestingly, the shift underground had no clue a there was a fire on the surface until, they left the tunnel and found the change house in ashes. A group of shrewd miners working in the nearby Southwest Mine, realized that the large New Southwest Orebody, likely continued onto Higgins ground. In 1918 Don Leedy, Edward Bergquist and G.M. Stole took out a lease on the Higgins. They drove the main Higgins Tunnel 50ft. further and intercepted a 600ft. X 200ft. orebody. It was predicted that they would make about $700,000 before their lease expired. These men retired after the lease ended in 1919. This was considered the most profitable mine lease in Bisbee. On the 100 level of the shaft a large oxide orebody was discovered. Small bodies of oxides were being discovered underneath sulphide orebodies. This was considered quite an unusual, but these sulphide orebodies had been simply protected from oxidation by impermeable rock and clay. On March 15, 1920, the driving force behind the Higgins property, Thomas Higgins died. The mine continued to operate under his estate. Difficulties continued when on July 29, 1920 Elwin J. White, half-brother to the mine superintendent was killed on the 200 level close to the shaft station when he drilled into a misfire. During this year the Wolverine stopped working through the Higgins Tunnel and returned to develop the Wolverine Shafts on the Broken Promise Claim. In July 1922, Phelps Dodge acquired an 18 month option on the Higgins Mine and eventually purchased the property. All supplies were removed from the Higgins and transferred to the Boras Shaft which was being enlarged at the time. The Higgins was mined by lessees until 1930.  In 1933 the Higgins Shaft burned, ending its possibilities of reopening. The tunnel was shut down for a four years and reopened in 1934 and continued to operate until 1944. The most well-known area of operation was the Hargis lease. It  mined sulphide ores through an interior incline shaft that is popularly known as the Hargis incline. This incline has three levels not including the top of the shaft where the hoist was mounted. The bottom level is the 6th level of the Southwest Mine. The upper levels, because of their dry and sulphide nature, remain as one of the few areas underground that stands in a condition similar to when mining stopped. The lower levels are flooded with acidic mine water.  When operations ceased the Higgins Mine consisted of a 298ft. vertical Higgins Shaft, the Higgins “Hargis” Incline Shaft, the Wolverine Interior and two adits/tunnels. The old extensive main tunnel and a newer adit that was located near the Higgins Shaft. In 1962, the burned-out Higgins shaft was filled. The main Higgins tunnel was also filled. The newer adit is difficult to locate, but it is near the Higgins Shaft and was nearly covered from above by the dumps of the 8th level Southwest Adit.  It has been buried for decades.  After the mines shutdown in 1975, plans were made to develop the 3rd level Southwest Mine or Queen Tunnel into a mine tour. It was also decided to develop a large attractive natural cave located in a raise off the 7th level of the Southwest Mine. Although the ground conditions around the cave were strong, the 7th level Southwest Adits passed through heavily stoped treacherous ground, which would have been extremely difficult to reopen. They also did not have road access, since they were supplied originally by the Sunrise Shaft. It was decided to use the Higgins Tunnel to access this cave. The portal was reopened and timbered using a single “A” style mine car and a timber truck. The ground conditions along the route to the cave were solid only minor cave-ins were encountered. The small collapses were cleared and rail was laid from the mine entrance to the connection to the Southwest Mine. Airline was run from the entrance almost to the cave. At the connection between the Southwest and Higgins mines, there was about an eight foot elevation difference.  Stairs were installed covering a double compartment raise that had been driven at the connection and allowing access to the 7th level of the Southwest mine. During the project steady a crystal clear stream of water flowed from the portal.  The only point of interest in the actual Higgins Mine to be visited by the proposed tour was a large open stope locally known as the “Cuprite” stope due to the large amount of cuprite found in the stope. Large numbers of thin rather unattractive sheets of native copper were also found in the stope**. The tour was completed to the cave, when supposedly issues with handicap access to the cave shutdown the project. In 1980 the timber sets extending from the portal was covered over. Lack of ventilation soon caused these timbers to rot out and collapse burying the “A” car and sealing the entrance. This collapse also dammed up the water flooded the area immediately underground with two-three feet of water leaving the timber truck submerged. There have been discussions at times to redevelop the tour, but these have all failed to be realized. From a mining perspective the actual reopening would be simple and safe. The greatest difficultly would be rebuilding the stairs at the connection between the Higgins and the Southwest mines. This would be interesting, only because of the nearly 100ft. deep double compartment raise happens to be right at the connection. During the 1980s,the newer adit could be accessed with extreme difficulty from a large stope. Its workings although barren, were largely still open. Parts of the 100 level of the Higgins shaft were accessible in the 1980s-1990s, but there is little of interest except for a Truax mine car with a broken axle and a few decayed Atlas powder boxes. During this time period and with extreme difficulty the Wolverine Interior could be reached. The area was flooded with acid mine water, which was pouring into the interior shaft. The only level in the shaft is likely completely flooded. There was a badly rusted inclined skip or “Giraffe” at the top of shaft along with a sinking bucket. The immediate area around the shaft was knee deep in black-colored acid water. It is hard to be positive, but it appears the hoist was mounted near the collar of the shaft. These workings were largely open in the 1980s, including an exceptionally long crosscut heading out towards the Warren Claim and Shattuck Mines. Humorously, at the far end of this crosscut a miner had written with a carbide lamp “Kilroy was here” with the appropriate picture. Obviously, even in the 1940’s the crosscut led to the middle of nowhere. This crosscut caved during the 1990s. The Hargis Incline was open down to the bottom level which was flooded with acid mine water that varies from 3ft. to 5ft. deep.  The 2nd level is partially stoped out. The remaining section of drift is flooded with acid water. Two to three inch post-mining selenite crystals attached to the walls are growing underwater. This drift is flooded to the back after a short distance. The first level is open and generally in good condition as is the tunnel level. The small hoist was located at the top of the incline and was later salvaged. Today, the portal remains covered and overgrown with brush.

*A few hundred feet inside the Higgins tunnel is a fault that drains clean drinking water. This water drains freely during the times the adit is open and not sealed like presently, but the water seeps out through the fill that covers the entrance into the ground around the entrance. The Higgins Mine site can be easily located by looking for large water loving cotton wood trees on the hillside above Bisbee.

**Since this time the stopes was discovered to contain significant amounts of green fluorescent and phosphorescent willemite. It is associated with a red fluorescent calcite. The stope has great potential as a fluorescent display, if a future tour was created.

mine car tub coated in post-mining calcite/aragonite

 This mine car tub coated in post-mining calcite/aragonite was used as a platform to collect clean water from a small fault, Higgins mine tunnel level.

sulphide stope in the “Hargis Country” of the Higgins mine

A  sulphide stope in the “Hargis Country” of the Higgins mine

Looking down the Hargis Incline from the Tunnel level.

Looking down the Hargis Incline from the Tunnel level..

Thomas Higgins donated the land to build this neo-gothic church dedicated to Saint Patrick. It is constructed in the typical cross shape.

An interesting sink that was placed in a fork of a tree by miners near the Higgins tunnel

Diagram of the Higgins shaft Bisbee Arizona
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