Mine tales: Apache Powder put the boom in Arizona mining – by William Ascarza (Arizona Daily Star – June 13, 2016)


One of the great technical breakthroughs in late 19th century mining occurred with the introduction of nitroglycerin, a colorless, earth-shattering liquid used initially in quarrying.

Nitro, a high explosive five times as powerful as black powder, was known for its volatile characteristics. These were attributed to its speed of decomposition, making it less desirable and unsafe because of its ability to become unstable through the slightest jolt or friction.

Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel tamed the instability of nitro by adding it to inert fillers — including sawdust — giving it the appearance of a fat paper candle he christened dynamite. A pinch of fulminate of mercury or another supersensitive explosive was added at the base to instigate the shock necessary for detonation.

There was also the ability to alter the nitroglycerin percentage to compensate for the strength of the rock to be blasted. Ease of handling made dynamite the preferred choice among miners to move more rock with more precision and with less expense and time.

The Apache Powder Co. was incorporated on June 11, 1920, by a conglomerate of mining companies in the Southwest as a means of decreasing the excessive market price of explosives. The company became the largest single plant for the manufacture of dynamite in the United States.

Located near St. David, the company was heavily involved in supplying explosives to the mining industry.

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