Maine Copper Mining Snapshot 1886Last Updated: 1st Nov 2018
By Douglas Watts
Census of the United States Non-Precious Metals Production for the Year of the Census 1886
Copper Production for 1886
Price per pound as ingots: 17.3 cents per pound (Maine and Vermont)
Pounds of copper per ton of ore
Proportion of Maine Production to Vermont: 3.87 percent
Copper Mining Employment
Value of Copper per Employee
Maine mines reporting to U.S. Census for 1886
* This mine is virtually unknown in any Maine written records.
Analysis of Douglass Copper Ore - 1909
Source: Emmons, W.H. (1910). USGS Bulletin 432.
1.Key statistic is Value of Copper per Employee:
Value of Copper per Employee
Maine had 15 percent of the mining employees as Vermont (97 vs. 619) but produced only 4 percent as much copper (102,500 lbs. vs. 2.6 million pounds). Of interest is that copper value as ingots is nearly identical (17 cents/lb.) and pounds of ingots per ton of ore is very similar (46 lbs. for Maine vs. 42 lbs. for Vermont). These close similarities suggest the reported statistics for both states was fairly accurate. Maine copper mines had to spend much more on employees to mine the same amount of copper as in Vermont ($185 of copper per employee in Maine vs. $743 of copper per employee in Vermont). Vermont had six times as many employees as Maine but produced 25 times more ore and copper ingots.
2. This U.S. Government statistical snapshot for 1886 (just past the height of the 'copper boom' in Maine) is valuable because reliable statistics for actual metal ore and finished metal (ingot) production for Maine is hard to find; those extant statistics in publications like the Maine Mining Journal are subject to exaggeration or outright fraud by mining corporations attempting to attract buyers of their stock. The comparison with Maine and Vermont is important because it shows just how little copper metal and copper ore was being actually produced in Maine mines and the very small number of Maine copper mines that were actually producing any finished copper metal for sale.
3. The 1886 U.S. Census figures for Maine copper production are at odds with documents collected by Vandall T. King from the Maine Mining Journal as reviewed in Vol. 2 of the Mineralogy of Maine published by the Maine Geological Survey (King, 2000). Those documents strongly suggest that copper mining in the Blue Hill area peaked in the early 1880s and had nearly or completely stopped by mid-decade due to a sharp decline in copper prices. These U.S. Census data, if accurate for the calendar year 1886, indicate that copper mining continued at a fairly active level in the Blue Hill district of eastern Maine even after the 'copper boom' of the early 1880s in Maine had waned.
4. Of note is a comparison of total tons of Maine copper ore reported produced in 1886 (1,225 tons) compared with statements for the Douglass Copper Mine in Blue Hill for 1880 (6,000 tons in Nov. 30, 1880) and a second report of “15,000 – 20,000” tons on the 'dump' on Dec. 31, 1880. An 1881 report states that 60,000 pounds of ingot copper smelted at Douglass were sold to a “large manufacturing establishment at 18 cents per pound” (MMJ, Sept. 30, 1881). However, an 1882 report states that it is 'probable the contents of the ore dump will be sold … for the manufacture of sulphuric acid (MMJ, March 3, 1882). As V.T. King notes, this 1882 statement strongly suggests that much of the Douglass mine 'ore dump' consisted of massive pyrite with a chalcopyrite component too small to be considered worth concentrating and smelting. This finding is consistent with the author's own examination of the Douglass Copper mine site in the early 1990s when sulphide ore was commonplace in the general area of the concentration and smelting works. Most of the sulphidic masses on the ground at the site were either nearly pure pyrite in a quartzite matrix or was primarily pyrite with just a few percent surface area of visible chalcopyrite. Nearly pure chalcopyrite masses were nearly non-existent at the Douglass Mine site in the early 1990s (the site now has been covered over and has been developed for residential homes). The intimate intermixing of pyrite and chalcopyrite in the ore matrix undoubtedly hampered miners' efforts to focus their shaft development on only those areas with high-grade copper ore made mostly of chalcopyrite. That said, the 1886 Census data for the Blue Hill district shows that some good copper ore was being produced (1,225 tons) with the capability of producing copper ingots (102,500 pounds) with a metal to ore ratio (46 lbs./ton) comparable with the much larger Vermont mines (44 lbs./ton).
5. The 1886 data curiously shows that the Twin Lead Mine (across the road from Douglass) produced nearly three times as much copper metal as the Douglass Mine for that year (60,000 lbs. vs. 22,500 lbs.). The Twin Lead Mine was so-named because the property contained two separate veins or 'leads' of copper ore. Site visits by the author in 2015 successfully located both shafts at the Twin Lead, about one quarter mile apart. The shafts are vertical and approx. 12 x 12 feet square and water-filled. Between the two shafts is small flat clearing in the woods which contains numerous broken bricks coated with copper slag and green copper mineralization; this site is presumed to have been the location of a copper smelter. 15-foot high piles and windrows of shaft dumps can be found adjacent to both of the Twin Lead shafts. Examination of the dumps in 2015 revealed most of the rock in the dumps to be Ellsworth schist with little or no sulphide mineralization. It is quite probable that operators or the Twin Lead Mine at the cessation of active mining had most of the sulphide ore hauled off for its pyrite content for the manufacture of sulphuric acid. Morrill and Hinckley (1958) mention for Blue Hill that the town used the mine dumps as road metal on the town's dirt roads in the early 1900s.
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