Cheers erupted at 8:46 a.m. Saturday in Superior after the historic copper smelter stack from the Magma Mine crashed to the ground. But the cheers only came because the controlled demolition offered such a spectacle. Many of the people lined up along the streets watching the destruction were sad to see the 293-foot brick stack fall.
Even though smoke hasn’t wafted from the top of the stack since 1971, the 94-year-old smelter about 60 miles east of downtown Phoenix was a symbol of the region’s mining heritage, and had sentimental value for those who lived and worked in Superior.
That includes Larry Palacio, a Gilbert retiree who spent more than 21 years working at the Magma Mine after he graduated from Superior High School in 1955. “I did just about everything,” he said, standing along Main Street waiting for the warning sirens before explosions that caused the stack to topple. “I was a mucker, mechanic, worked the cage.”
Resolution Copper, which is developing a much larger mine at the site, determined the stack could not be preserved and was dangerous for workers.
The brick was falling apart and even attempting to patch it up would have been too risky, company officials said. The structure also was heavily contaminated with arsenic and other remnants from smelting copper. But demolishing the facility was not an easy decision for Resolution because many community members wanted to preserve the facility for its historical significance.