Mining in Northern Sonora


The town of CananeaAs we know, the economic development of the Porfirian regime wasn´t based only in railroads, but also in mining. That´s why we cannot understand the history of the Porfirian regime as well as of the revolution if we don't know the actors behind these enterprises.

William Cornell Greene had bought in 1898 a group of mining claims in Cananea, most of which beloged to the widow of Gral. Ignacio Pesqueira (1820-1866), an ex Sonora Governor.

Two years later, he incorporated the Cananea Consolidated Copper Co, and with the help of one of the great US mining companies, Phelps Dodge, he built starting in 1903 several foundries and a concentrating plant at Cananea.

By the end of the first decade of the 1900's, the company had turned into one of the main copper producers in the world, while the town by 1906 had 20,000 inhabitants, the largest city in Sonora.

To be able to export to Arizona the copper that Cananea produced, in September of 1900 Greene acquired a concession to build a railroad between Cananea and Naco (around 40 miles).

However, in 1907 he lost the control of the mining company, and it passed to Thomas F. Cole, a figurehead of John D. Ryan, who the previous year had been named President of the Anaconda Copper Co. both associated to the Amalgamated Copper financial complex


Jesus Garcia monument in NaozariThe Douglas family was behind the other great mine of Sonora, Nacozari.

James Douglas was a Canadian mining engineer who had developed the copper mines of Arizona, and in 1885, when the Phelps Dodge company organized the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Co, in Bisbee, Arizona, James Douglas was named it's President, and between 1908 and 1916 he would also be the President of the Phelps Dodge itself.

This company had acquired some mines in Sonora: in 1895 the Moctezuma Copper Co, who also owned Pilares de Nacozari, founded around 1867 by U. B. Treaner as the Moctezuma Concentrating Co. However, it's control passed to the Guggenheim family enterprises, who sold it to the Phelps Dodge.

Even more, as we already saw, in 1903 the Phelps Dodge had also bought stock shares in Greene's Cananea, and to develop Nacozari as well as Cananea, the Phelps Dodge Company saw the necessity to build an outlet of it's products to Arizona, so in 1904 they built a railroad line linking Agua Prieta (in the border), to Nacozari (some 75 miles in length).

In November 7, 1907, a railroad worker, Jesus Garcia, sacrified his life when he drove out of town a train loaded with dynamite who had caught fire. The photo shows the monument erected to him in the site of the explosion.

Then, the revolution would follow, and one of Douglas sons, Walter, would administer Nacozari, following his father in 1916 as President of the Phelps Dodge, while his elder son, James, would found the town of Douglas, Arizona, right at the border and neighboring Agua Prieta, Sonora, as well as establishing banks in Bisbee and Douglas.