|Summary / Abstract
||Central Mexico's mining districts, opened centuries ago during the Spanish conquest, still form the backbone of metal mining in the country today. Beginning at Chihuahua City, the Second Mexican Mining Rail Excursion traveled southeast from camp to camp through this major mining area to Taxco. Improved exploration, exploitation, and beneficiation methods have permitted continuous mining of many old deposits, and led to the discovery of new ones. Minerals not sought by early miners-lead, zinc, copper, and fluorite-now contribute substantially to mining activity in central Mexico.
Of Mexico's five physiographic provinces, the rail excursion passed through two: the Mesa Central, and the Sierra Madre Occidental.
The Mesa Central province is a wide tableland with basin and range topography, containing important base metal deposits. Mining in this region is primarily of limestone replacement ore bodies. Massive deposits form horizontal mantos or vertical chimneys. In northern Zacatecas, the Santa Eulalia and Naica mines demonstrated this character.
The Sierra Madre Occidental lies west of Mesa Central in northern states, then widens to almost the entire width of the country from outside Mexico City to the southern border. The area consists of volcanic beds, several kilometers thick. These intermediate volcanics are primarily andesitic, of Tertiary age. Resting on older strata of adjoining physiographic divisions, the volcanic beds are overlain by a thick series of acidic flows and tuffs.
Economic mineralization in the Sierra Madre Occidental is vein-type, primarily gold and silver. Mines at Fresnillo, Guanajuato, Pachuca, and Taxco contribute to the claim that this region is the center for precious metals in Mexico. A third type of mineralization, contact metamorphic deposits, is commercial at Santa Eulalia.
First Stop, Santa Eulalia
Mine tours began with the Santa Eulalia unit, located 25 km east of Chihuahua City. Mining in the region dates back to the early 1700s. The oxidation zone was worked until 1790, but mining declined until Asarco arrived in the early 1900s, building a selective flotation plant for treating primary sulfides. Asarco still owns 34% of Industrial Minera Mexico, S.A. (IMMSA), operator of the Santa Eulalia mine.
Santa Eulalia currently has a milling capacity of 850 t/d. The San Antonio and Buena Tierra mines provide feedstock. Head grades at San Antonio, the mine participants toured, average 80-120 g/t of silver, 1.5-4.5% lead, 4-16% zinc, and 0.1-2.5% copper. Tin and vanadium were also recovered between 1930 and 1940. Estimated proven and probable reserves total about 7.6 Mt, although 1.8 Mt of reserves are located in areas of high water pressure and volume, which makes extraction difficult.
Water is a significant production problem at the San Antonio mine. In one area, an AX drill hole encountered 2.6 m3/min (700 gal/min) at a pressure of 2.5 kPa. Precautions are taken to cope with the problem: protective drilling in advance of blasting is performed;