Breakfast Club
An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn


The Knife & Fork



Breakfast Club Visits Bagdad, Tours Copper Mine


17 Apr 2010
by Warren McIlvoy

If one were to ponder about flying to a unique and seldom mentioned fly-in destination, one could only think of Bagdad (not Baghdad), Arizona. It has been quite a while since our last visit some time during the mid 1990's. I had an old business card from our tour guide at the last fly-in but I was not sure that any of the phone numbers were still current. With a little trepidation, I called the listed number and behold, some one responded. I related to him about our fly-in group and that we would like to revisit Bagdad and take a tour of the copper mine following breakfast like we had done in the past. I was greatly surprised to learn that the person on the other end of the line was none other than Bob Delgado, the same person that I had dealt with some 15-years ago. Bob stated that we would be limited to only 35 people as they only had three tour vans. I gave Bob our intended fly-in date and time of arrival and from there, are systems were a go.

The morning of our fly-in arrived with outstanding flying weather with little to no wind and skies clear enough to see all the way to the middle of nowhere. Our direct course would take us between Yarnell and Peeples Valley and just to the south of Hillside. I was hoping to get the altimeter setting from Prescott but the mountains were to high to get radio reception. I had remembered from the weather briefing that PRC was at 30.09 and since the two airports were only 800' apart in elevation, I figured that this would be a good setting to use. The winds were predicted to be calm at our arrival time so I got on the radio on our "group flight following" frequency to let every one else know that we would be using left traffic for runway 5 with that altimeter setting. Since Bagdad was only about 90 miles from DVT, it did not take very long to get there; just long enough to get the engine oil nice and "toasty".

As expected, there was no other traffic in the pattern and I was the first to arrive. After landing on runway 5, I rolled-out to the ramp exit that is about 2/3's of the way down the 4600' runway. After parking, I notice that the altimeter was spot on the airport altitude so the 30.09 setting was a good choice. I secured the airplane and grabbed my hand held radio and took on the roll of "Bagdad Unicom". As planes turned off at the ramp exit, I directed them to the limited parking slots on the ramp. Eventually we had airplanes "double stacked" as there were no more places to park.

Before the last of the aircraft had arrived, Bob and his "fleet" of vans appeared on the scene for the short ride to our morning destination for breakfast. In all, we had 32 people show-up for the event which helped to make the vans a little less cramped.

It only took a few minutes to arrive at the Circle Bar Steakhouse where Bob had arranged for a buffet style breakfast. The Circle Bar does not normally serve breakfast so we had the place all to ourselves. They had arranged two long tables with seating on both sides and the table with the important items was right behind us. The folks at the Circle Bar fixed-up a heaping helping of scrambled eggs, sausage patties, bacon, biscuits & gravy, hash browns, coffee and orange juice, and a fresh fruit tray. The Circle Bar folks did well for a restaurant that does not ordinarily serve breakfast.

Here is a snippet of history regarding Bagdad:
         "Bagdad was the last modern day, independent copper mine that started out as a prospect and was developed without the support of a major company or sister companies into a respectably-producing copper mine. It maintained its independence for about 90 years when it merged with Cyprus Mines Corporation in 1973." (excerpt from "Some Talk about a Copper Mine")

Bagdad was named in 1882 for a copper claim by W.J. Pace and J.M. Murphy. In 1910, a post office was established.

Bagdad was initially identified in 1880 by John Lawler. Because of its isolated location and low grade, however, ore was not developed. Although the Giroux Syndicate gained rights to the mine in 1906, it was not able to do much. Between 1906 and 1927 a number of companies tried to work the mine with the greatest (yet still unsuccessful) effort being that of the Lewishon interests.

In 1927 the Bagdad Copper Company began operation. The beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, slowed but did not stop their efforts. The company managed to continue development through the 1930's and, in 1941 received a government loan that enabled them to add new equipment. Since the low grade ore made underground mining unprofitable, General Manager, Ernest R. Dickie, began converting to an open pit operation. Dickie used large trucks for haulage, and Bagdad became the testing ground for much of the c
hange taking place in large ore trucks. All underground mining at Bagdad had ended by 1950."

When we visited Bagdad in the mid 1990's, it was still part of the Cyprus Mines Corporation but later became part of the Phelps Dodge Mining Company and some years ago, Phelps Dodge merged with yet another company thus becoming Phelps Dodge Mac MoRan Copper Company.

The City of Bagdad is wholly owned by the copper company, lock stock, and barrel. The miners and their families all live in company owned housing but I have no clue as to what the rents are. The various business that serve the community may be independently owned but the property belongs to the company. You may live in the company housing as long as you work for a local business or one of your family members work for the copper company. Bob Delgado, though retired, as a benefit, is "grand fathered" and can live in the company housing as long as he lives. The lone school consists of grades K-12 and serves the town population of about 1500 people of which 500 work directly at the mine.

On our earlier tour, we viewed the mine more or less from the top that included a stop at the primary crusher, a drive over the leach field, a walk through the Electrowinning plant, and a walk through the concentrator. This time however, we actually went down into the pit itself and stopped at an overview where we got a pretty good panoramic view of the entire operation. The primary is no longer on the tour as it was now near the lower part of the pit making access for a tour impractical. We did go to the Electrowinning plant but we did not walk along the tanks or enter the building where the cathodes are used to collect the copper particles. We did do an extensive tour of the maintenance building where the huge ore haulers are serviced. To see the huge machines in pictures is one thing but to stand next to them is a different story. Even the front loaders dwarf anything that you might have seen on a construction site. It is almost mind numbing to try to comprehend the shear size of the equipment that is used in a typical mine operation. From the maintenance building, we drove over to the concentrator but did not walk through it. The Ball Mill that is part of the concentrator consists of a series of huge rotatingdrums that are approximately 18-20' in diameter that is constantly being fed the raw ore. As the drum rotates, the ore is pounded by steel balls and as the ore is broken into smaller bites, it is fed into yet another drum where the process continues. After the ore leaves the last of the ball mills, it is then fed into a series of huge tanks that processes the ore into what is called "copper concentrate". We were informed that at this point, the concentrate is about 30-35% copper.

From this point on, the copper concentrate is trucked to the smelter in Superior where the concentrate is turned into copper ingots. They used to truck the material to the town of Hillside to the rail head where it was shipped to smelters around the world but is now done "at home".

Although the tour was abbreviated somewhat from our earlier tours, it was still fascinating to see close-up the world of open pit copper mining. One little side note is that our tour guides were of one family. Bob Delgado's daughter, who works at the mine in the IT department, and her uncle. It just seems like you just can't get the "family" out of the mining business.

The Bagdad Bunch

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 93MB, BC-1 & 1.5
  • Roger Whittier and Dave Brickner in 706CD, BC-122
  • Gary & Jan Riley in 152BR
  • Roger & Joanna Pries in 13806, BC-806
  • Jerry & Judy Breeyear in 2626R
  • Harold DarcAngelo in 320HD, BC-32
  • Peter & Nancy Petrus in 8108X
  • Don Graminske in 9064V, BC-16
  • Scott Hauert in 5327G
  • Larry Jensen in 14LJ, BC-65
  • Sean Gallagher and Kristina LaJeunesse in 8483R
  • Adam Rosenberg in 4372J
  • Ken Calman in 104MA
  • Jerry & Dianne Kapp in 5658K
  • Greg Coomans and Manthou Tsiduris in 2493Q
  • Jerry & Nancy Grout and Bill Strong in 1129T
  • Paul Fortune in 31870, BC-201
  • Larry and Aaron Berger in 7077V
  • James Abraham and Mike Hence

What's Next?

Our May event will be an over-night event to Safford, Arizona with a repeat of the "cowboy" cookout breakfast at the City Hall Annex. After a hearty breakfast, we will proceed "up the hill" to tour the telescopes on top of Mount Graham. If nothing else, this should be a truly fascinating event. In June, the Breakfast Club will travel to cooler climes of the White Mountains with a visit to Show Low and breakfast at Aunt Nancy's. That all for now but remember, fly safe.

To view photos of the Bagdad event, click on the link below.