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The Calumet & Hecla Fatalities

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  • Martin O'Connor (1883 - 1913)
    ACCIDENT No. 30 - July 4, 1913 - Martin O'Connor, No. 6 Hecla, C. H. Martin O'Connor died on this day from injuries received on July 3. An inquest was held by Justice Fisher. The following testimony w...
  • John William Gillies (1856 - 1898)
  • Lorenzo Messico (1838 - 1880)
    Portage Lake Mining Gazette October 28, 1880 On Saturday last, a party of men were fixing some timbers in the Hecla mine underground , when the wall plate slipped and fell. It was 4 P.M and one of the...
  • Joseph Lokar (1872 - 1923)
  • Anton Svetich (1875 - 1909)
    ACCIDENT NO. 40 – June 11, 1909 – Toney Svetich, No. 4 Calumet. A fall of vein-rock at the 64th level south of No. 4 shaft, was the cause of the death of Toney Svetich on this date. An inquest over hi...

The Calumet and Hecla Consolidated Copper Company was the most successful corporation to have mined native copper in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Through nearly a century of mining activity, the company produced in excess of 4.5 billion pounds of refined copper and issued over $200 million in shareholder dividends. Unlike many of its competitors along the Keweenaw Peninsula, Calumet and Hecla successfully expanded its operations over several separate mineral bodies, developed capital-intensive ancillary industrial facilities, explored diversified non-mining enterprises, and remained a significant mining corporation at the national and international level well past the district's most productive era.

History of the Calumet and Hecla-

In 1864, while surveying the military road running between Fort Wilkins at Copper Harbor and Fort Atkinson in central Wisconsin, Edwin J. Hulbert stumbled across a peculiar find. It was an ancient Indian storage pit, left by native miners. The pit was filled to the brim with copper-rich boulders, and prompted Hulbert to secure the land around it. Purely by chance, those ancient miners placed their copper storage pit directly atop the great Calumet Conglomerate lode, which it didn’t take Hulbert long to discover. Thus, The Calumet mine was born. Just to the south of the Calumet Mine a second mine opened on the same lode – the Hecla Mine. The lode proved just as productive as the Calumet to the north.

In 1871, the Calumet Mining Company & Hecla Mining Company joined together with the Scott Copper Company and the Portland Copper Company to form the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company. Though now one mine, the two parts of C&H regained their original identity. North of Red Jacket Road were shafts of the old Calumet Mine (labeled Calumet #1-5), and south of the road sat the shafts of the old Hecla Mine (labeled Hecla #1-8).

The C&H management replaced the directors of the Portland and of the Scott companies (Goodale, Brown, and Hulbert). C&H Mining Company created the Lake Superior Water Works to provide water for their operations. They also owned a smelter at Hubbell, the Black Rock Smelter at Buffalo, NY, and a stamp mill at Lake Linden. The Calumet & Hecla Smelting Corporation was owned by them and operated from 1887-1892. The Hecla Mining Company owned the Hecla and Torch Lake Railroad to Torch Lake Stamp Mill at Tamarack.

The C&H company was dissatisfied with shipping its ore to other smelters on the Great Lakes. One reason was that the processing of its concentrates was limited to the shipping season, which ceased when the Great Lakes froze over in the winter. The other, more important reason was that they were dissatisfied with the results of the smelting process. The company at first endeavored to smelt its ores at the Portage Lake Smelter in Hancock, MI.
In 1887, they constructed their own smelter in Hubbell, MI, The Calumet & Hecla Smelting Works, located at the north end, near Division Street, just one mile south of their main stamp mills, on Torch Lake. The Calumet stamp sands were located at the southern end of Lake Linden, and the Hecla Stamp sands were located just south of there. The Calumet and Hecla Mills were combined early on and were known as the C&H Stamp Mills.

C&H eventually started its own railroad for its mines and smelters, renting track from the Keweenaw Central Railroad, which was owned by the Keweenaw Copper Co. A little later, C&H bought all of the rolling stock of the Keweenaw Central Railroad.

In 1905, after Michigan laws were changed to allow it, C&H began purchasing stock and controlling interest of the other companies. Some of the companies were operated as separate entities for a while and later absorbed into C&H. In Keweenaw County, they purchased the Manitou Mining Company, the Frontenac Copper Company, Gratiot Mining Company (north of Mohawk on the Kearsarge Lode), New Jersey Mining Company (near Lac La Belle), and Caldwell Copper Company (on the south end of the Kearsarge Lode.) In Houghton County, they purchased the LaSalle Copper Company (south of Calumet town on the Osceola Lode) and the Superior Copper Company in 1925 (south of Portage Lake whose ore was stamped at Atlantic Mill). They purchased the Nonesuch in Ontonagon County (first known as Cleveland Co. 1867-1879, then owned by Captain Thomas Hooper 1879-1891, then in 1915 known, as the White Pine Lode.) C&H operated the mine from 1915-1920. They then sold it at auction for its debts. It was purchased by the Copper Range Company.

The LaSalle produced copper from 1910-1920. The stock was liquidated in 1933 and the lands sold to C&H in 1936. C&H acquired 43% interest in the Allouez Mining Company and 51% interest in the Centennial Copper Company. They acquired 23% interest in the Osceola Consolidated Mining Company, which, with the proxy vote, granted them control of the voting stock. Osceola and the independently owned Wolverine Mining Co. shafts were between the workings of the Allouez Mining Company and Centennial Copper Company, which were now controlled by C&H. The directors of Osceola Consolidated legally resisted a C&H effort to include them in a consolidation but finally in 1909 gave up control and also offered their remaining Lake Superior Stockholders Organization stocks to C&H. These stocks included the: Seneca Mining Company, Tamarack Mining Company, Ahmeek Mining Company, Isle Royale Copper Company, and Laurium Mining Company.

Finally, in 1923, the C&H Mining Company achieved a consolidation in which C&H with its subsidiaries of Cliff Mining Company (including bonds for Hancock & Calumet Railroad, Mineral Range Railroad Company stock, and Lake Superior Smelting Company), LaSalle Copper Company, Superior Copper Company, and White Pine Copper Company, joined with Ahmeek Mining Company, Allouez Mining Company, Centennial Copper Company, and the Osceola Consolidated Copper Company, thus becoming the Calumet and Hecla Consolidated Copper Company.

The Tamarack Mining Company, which was organized about 1880 to mine the lower part of the Calumet conglomerate vein. It did so until 1917, at which time Calumet and Hecla Mining Company purchased all of its assets. The mills of C&H, the Osceola Consolidated Mining Company, and the Tamarack Mining Company were all located on the western shore of Torch Lake.

The Tamarack Mining Company built its No. 1 Tamarack Mill north of the Osceola mills in 1887. This present location is known as Tamarack Hill or Tamarack Mills and is located immediately south of the town called Tamarack City. Subsequently, the Tamarack Mining Company built its No. 2 mill between its No. 1 mill and the Osceola Mill. The smelter located at the end of present-day 6th Street in Tamarack City originally belonged to the Ahmeek Mining Company and was known as the Ahmeek Mill. The ruins of one of its stamps are still standing. It is located north of the Tamarack Mill on the lake side of highway M-26. Control of the Ahmeek Mining Company was acquired by C&H around 1909, and the Ahmeek Mill became part of the C&H properties as a result of the 1923 consolidation. Tamarack City and Hubbell are two towns that are separated only by a boundary line. The Tamarack No. 1 mill treated ores from the mines of the Tamarack Mining Company on the Calumet conglomerate vein until C&H Mining Company bought all of its assets. They continued stamping rock at the site until 1920, when the mill ceased operations.

The Centennial Mining Co. owned the Lake Superior Milling, Smelting, and Refining Company (LSMSRC). Some shares were sold to Allouez, Hancock, Isle Royale, and Superior. LSMSRC operated its No. 1 mill at Point Mills. The Tamarack No. 2 Mill was sold to the Lake Milling, Smelting, and Refining Company by the Tamarack Mining Co. in 1914 and became known as the Lake No. 2 Mill. It operated, with several periods of shutdown, from 1914 through 1930. Lake Superior Milling, Smelting and Refining Company (LSMSRC) performed milling for its shareholders only on a fee basis meant simply to return its cost. Since its shareholders were all included in the C&H consolidation, so was this company. Tamarack #2 tailings were deposited in an area between the Osceola sands and the Tamarack sands. The rights to the sands had originally belonged to Osceola, which had transferred them to Lake. In 1915, development of C.H. Benedict's ammonia leaching process allowed C&H to build a plant at Lake Linden to reclaim the copper that it previously lost in its tailings. This was called both the Calumet Reclamation Plant and the Lake Linden Reclamation Plant and operated from 1915 until 1953. In 1925, C&H built a similar reclamation plant for the purpose of reworking the conglomerate sands produced from the Calumet conglomerate ore by the Tamarack Mining Company. This was called the Tamarack Reclamation plant, even though the Tamarack Mining Company had been dissolved in 1917. The plant continued to operate on these sands until they were exhausted. The plant was modernized, and its activities were transferred to the amygdaloid sands produced by the Osceola and Lake Mills. A 1911 Houghton County Platte Book, page 10, Township 56 North, Range 33 West, shows the locations of the other "Tamarack" sites which are located in the area of Calumet. There were the Tamarack Junior Mine and the North Tamarack Mine, in section 11, the #5 Tamarack Mine in section 15, and the Tamarack Mine in section 14.

In the late 1930s, the company continued explorations to ensure its continued existence. They included explorations of already worked mines, such as the Phoenix, and included reopening of the Ahmeek Mine in 1936. They reopened shafts at North Kearsarge for a short time in 1937-1938, but low copper prices closed this and the Ahmeek endeavor, which had operated at half-capacity, in 1938. Also in 1938, C&H advanced money to the Peninsula Copper Company to purchase Seneca. They then took a five-year option on the purchase and acquired the property in 1945.

In 1939, C&H conducted their Evergreen series of explorations with cross cuts on Knowlton, South Knowlton, Mass, Butler and Ogima Lodes in Ontonagon County, just south of Houghton County. They also continued to perform diamond drill explorations in the 1939-1941 period, which produced the Iroquois Lode and the Houghton Conglomerate in Allouez-Douglass Lands. During this time, they reopened the Ahmeek Mine on the Kearsarge Lode. With the onset of World War II and increasing governmental regulations, the leadership of the company endeavored to make the company in a measure independent of primary production.

The Douglass was operated under lease from its owners, the Copper Range Company, and the newly discovered Iroquois lode and the Houghton conglomerate were brought into production.

The Centennial mine, closed since 1931, was unwatered and treatment of clad scrap as agent for the Metals Reserve Company was performed. Because of the instability of the copper market, C&H embarked on a course of diversification. They established a secondary copper department as part of the smelter and sought and purchased a fabricating outlet, they acquired the Wolverine Tube Company in Detroit, which marketed seamless metal tubing, fabricated specialty tubular parts for industry, and finned tubes for heat dispersal. Later, they reorganized the management of their endeavors into a division arrangement. Exhaustion of the profitable portions of the Calumet Conglomerate were occurring in the early 1940s. In response, the company opened up the North Kearsarge mine, and the Peninsula property was developed and brought into production

The western U.P. endeavors became the Calumet Division, which produced vertically cast copper cakes, billets, ingots, wire bars, copper and copper oxide chemicals, and foundry products. The Detroit plant became the Wolverine Tube Division. In order to market their products (especially of the Tube Division) in Canada, they created Calumet and Hecla of Canada Limited.

In 1947, Seneca #2 shaft was rehabilitated, and a Secondary Copper Department for recycling scrap copper was created. Liddicoat detachable drill bits were marketed. The Arnold & Ashbed lands in Keweenaw County were purchased and explored. Older shafts had been reexplored in the light of present-day costs, and the Iroquois #1 shaft and the Allouez #3 shaft were being operated. Due to earlier expansion and acquisition efforts, C&H had extensive land holdings.

They established their Forest Industries division in 1955. In 1956, it was renamed the Forest Products Group and in 1959, after they acquired the Goodman Lumber Company of Goodman, Wisconsin, it was called the Goodman Lumber Division. In Wisconsin, an area known as the Wisconsin-Illinois zinc-lead district that was known to contain numerous shallow short-life ore bodies was explored with the idea of finding one that was profitable. This exploration led to the development of the Schullsburg Lead-Zinc Mine, which operated from 1947 through 1953. A subsidiary named Tonapah Development Company was organized to oversee the diamond drilling exploration in the Tonopah, Nevada silver/gold district.

In 1956, C&H acquired the Alabama Metallurgical Corporation (Alamet), which they operated until about 1965. C&H also created the Uranium Division of their company to explore western lands.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, C&H expanded into uranium mining. They operated the Marquez, New Mexico Uranium Mine. They also used their expertise in reclaiming copper mining tailings piles to create and operate a company in Mexico. This was called the Boleo Copper Project.

In the early 1960s, Universal Oil Products, a company which had specialized in making petroleum catalysts and designing and building refining processes, decided to diversify its interests. UOP merged with Calumet and Hecla, Inc. in 1968, but with the merger with C&H came acquisition of its labor disputes. UOP negotiated with the union for months before and after a strike began in August of 1968.

By April 9, 1969, settlement seemed impossible, and UOP announced its decision to stop all but maintenance operations in the mines and surface plants.

In September of 1969, UOP signed a letter of intent with a leading mining company, Hanna Mining Company. One of the terms of the agreement called for UOP to resolve all outstanding differences and reach a suitable operating agreement with the union.

In 1972, UOP announced its intent to sell to homeowners and businesses the lands that had been previously leased to them by UOp. Because they could see no progress in reaching the agreement terms, and they had decided that the mines could never be operated profitably, in December of 1978, UOP announced the complete shutdown of its Calumet Division mining operations, including cessation of pumping at the Centennial and Kingston mines. UOP closed the mines with a $13 million tax write off.

Source: Calumet and Hecla Mining Companies Collection MS-002

The Calumet & Hecla have the highest fatality count of the Lake Superior District being approximately 470 mine related deaths.

The Calumet branch Fatalities-

The Hecla branch fatalities-

The Red Jacket Shaft Fatalities

Other Fatalities-