Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Helvetia, Arizona, And The White Scar

A few posts ago I mentioned the white scar visible in the NASA image showing the Sawmill Wildfire burn area. I thought that it was remnants from mining operations in the old town of Helvetia. However, when I dug into what was showing on the image, I learned a few things.

There are numerous old copper mines (green triangles shown above) in the area of what was once the town of Helvetia, Arizona. The map above also shows what was the town site of Helvetia. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the town (just below) was the site of a smelter (second below) to process the copper ore from the nearby mines. Actually, there were three different smelters, since the first two burned and were rebuilt.

Today there is little left of what was Helvetia - crumbling walls of a few buildings and a cemetery - and no white scar from old mining operations.

The white scar that shows up in the NASA image is actually an operating mine - it's an open pit quarry (above and below) where marbleized limestone is blasted, and sized and hauled away in trucks on the dirt roads that lead to the mine. The truck traffic explains the dust that hangs in the air west of the mine during stagnant conditions. The Emerys Limestone Quarry is owned and operated by a Georgia-based company, and employs around a dozen people.

The NASA image at the bottom shows a long plume of residual, calcium carbonate that has slowly washed eastward over the decades toward the town of Sahaurita, Arizona.

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