Michigan Copper - America's First Mining Boom
CopperTownUSA is a Michigan based company that crafts and sells copper jewelry. We also celebrate all of the unique powers found in copper, our favorite precious metal! That being said, we wanted to educate everyone about Michigan's rich history in the copper business.
Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula (the northernmost part of the upper peninsula) has copper mines that date back to approximately 5,000bc. The identity of these original miners remains a mystery to this day, as they seemed to have vanished without any trace of anatomical remains of civilization. They left behind only trinkets and tools made from Lake Superior's unique native pure copper along with abandoned mines. Some of these artifacts have even been discovered in prehistoric cultures all throughout the North and South American Continent!
What makes Michigan's copper so special is that it is the only place in the entire world where pure native copper is commercially available in abundance. Perfect conditions formed by Lake Superior and excessive lava flow created copper-bearing rocks. Flows of lava created percolating hot waters that rose from vast depths and brought copper in solution, and as it cooled, the waters filled fissures and gas cavities (amygdules) with pure copper, making the greatest deposit of native copper in the world!
In 1842, the Keweenaw Peninsula was relinquished to the United States by the Chippewa Indian tribe. Reports of the precious metal-rich land began to swirl and by 1843 people were sailing to the Keweenaw Peninsula from all over the world to "strike wealth." The Keweenaw Peninsula was dubbed "Copper Country." Small towns and hundreds of copper mining operations were built in Michigan along Lake Superior's coast. The rush lasted over 100 years and at its peak, approximately 95% of America's copper was coming from Michigan. The unearthing of copper provided 10 times more wealth than the gold rush of California.
Around 1968, after producing 14 billion pounds of copper, the easy to access to pure native copper was about depleted at a commercially abundant level. There is still native copper available, but it is much further down in the ground and the industry has leaned towards mining in states like Arizona or Utah where lower quality sulfide copper is abundant and closer to the earth's surface. Now, most of the Michigan copper mines are abandoned, and the towns that once thrived have now become ghost towns. Today, you will find museums, tours of some mines, and some scenic views in quiet small towns mostly inhabited by descendants of the copper rush scattered throughout "Copper Country."