Modern-day Ajo can be attributed to the vision and efforts of Col. John C. Greenway (1872-1926). Greenway, the General Manager of Calumet and Arizona Mining Company (C & A) located in Bisbee, was eager to develop a steam shovel copper mine. In 1911 Greenway visited Ajo and found the copper prospects to be promising. He immediately started negotiations to purchase copper mining options. Late in 1911, Greenway obtained options from the New Cornelia Copper Company, and other mine operators in the area, that were sufficient to develop an open pit copper mine.
By mid 1912, C & A had decided that the copper would be leached from the oxide ore with a dilute sulfuric acid solution, and the copper would be precipitated from solution by electrolytic deposition.
With the ore body secured, and a viable method developed to extract the copper, it was time to develop the infrastructure to run an open pit mine.
Among the requirements that Greenway set out to develop were:
- Town Site
The population of "Old Ajo" in 1910 was 50. Water was provided by a few shallow, low capacity wells and what ever runoff could be collected. This made for very poor living conditions.
The original well was started in April of 1914. The shaft, 3' 9" by 4' 6", was dug by hand, at an average rate of 4.5 feet a day, to a depth of 645 feet. Water delivery to the expanding copper mine, and supporting community, began in 1916. Up to 13 million gallons a day were pumped from the well when the mine was in full swing. Now that the mine is shut down, water usage is approximately 200,000 gallons a day. With all that consumption over more than 8 decades, the water table has remained at nearly the same level that it was when the well was put into service.
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