The Pit

I’ve been at the bottom of this pit.  Before it filled with water.  Before the mine was abandoned, when Anaconda was still giving tours. It was in the late 1960s; I was probably about 12. My father and I were visiting my uncle, who lived near Reno, and we all went for a drive to see Fort Churchill and then to this huge open pit copper mine near Yerington. I recall very little now, but I’ll never forget the dump trucks—big as houses, they were.


Today there’s just one good place for looking down into the pit, this overlook at the far west end, at the edge of Weed Heights. Two old tires frame signs that tell us about the pit.

One summarizes the history:

“ANACONDA: from mine to consumer. December 1951 to June 1978. Exploration work revealed some 40 million tons of oxide ore and 15 million tons of sulfide ore.

“After the government’s plea for copper, Anaconda decided to develop and mine the ore body. An expenditure of $40,000,000.00 [exactly?] of Anaconda money was for development work, plant construction and construction of the town site of Weed Heights before any copper could be produced.

“Starting in June, 1952 the pit operated 6 days a week and delivered 13,000 tons of ore daily to the crushers.”

The other recites some impressive numbers:

“THE PIT. One mile long … 1/2 mile wide … 810 feet deep. Water is approx. 450 feet deep.
PRODUCTION for 25 yrs. thru. 1977
1,744,237,000 pounds of copper
103,834,000 tons of oxide ore
58,589,000 tons of sulfide ore
189,034,000 tons of waste
MARKET VALUE … total for operation was $765,504,000.
Net proceeds tax $7,523,000.
Profit from net proceeds $212,979,000.
The mine employed 400–450 employees.
WEED HEIGHTS was named after Clyde E. Weed (chairman of the board) of Anaconda Company.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s web site contains some additional history about this place.

What came out of the pit is spread all over the land north and south of it. Here is one tiny bit, the southernmost end of the tailings pile.


We are here:


Tim Messick Photography • Graphics
Copyright © 2012 Tim Messick. All rights reserved.

About Tim Messick

Photographer, cartographer, and botanist/naturalist. Home is in Davis, California. Home-away-from-home is the eastern Sierra Nevada. Compiling a flora of the Bodie Hills.
This entry was posted in Photography, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.