[Michigan Upper Peninsula] Geologists didn’t always get copper mining right – by Graham Jaehnig (Te Daily Mining Gazette – January 7, 2018)


Native copper was, to state it bluntly, a geologic fluke. It did not occur in commercial quantities anywhere on Earth except in the Lake Superior copper district.

Although its existence in the region had been known in Europe and the American colonies since the French had discovered it in the 1600s, most knowledgeable people who had seen specimens disregarded native copper as an absolute and isolated freak of nature. As a freak of nature, however, native copper stumped many geologists.

Some geologists, like Douglass Houghton, Columbus C. Douglass and Samuel Hill, did not focus their studies so much on why native copper occurred, but rather on how much of it occurred. Could it be profitable? Was there enough to mine? Was it pure?

Other geologists, like Boston-based Charles T. Jackson, never did seem able grasp anything about native copper. In 1845, Lake Superior Mining Company Trustee David Henshaw contracted with Jackson to inspect every copper vein C.C. Douglass had located on all seven leases held by the company.

It is difficult to guess why Henshaw chose a Boston geologist to second-guess Douglass, who himself was a capable and experienced geologist. Douglass was more experienced than Jackson regarding the Lake Superior region, because he had served under his cousin, Douglass Houghton, on his 1840 Upper Peninsula geological expedition. So had Sam Hill.

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