HOUGHTON - After workers discovered mine shafts approximately two weeks ago at the site of the new A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum, the shafts are being cemented shut with 700 tons of concrete - but for a moment of time, scientists at Michigan Technological University pondered what is to become of the finding.
Two mine shafts were unearthed at the site on Sharon Avenue adjacent to the Advanced Technology Development Complex and the mines are believed to date back to the 1860s.
After digging in the Michigan Technological University Archives, Ted Bornhorst, curator of the mineral museum, discovered there are four shafts in the surrounding area, ranging from 80 to 200 feet in depth.
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Crews with Moyle Construction use concrete Tuesday to cap the unearthed mine caps at the site of the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Technological University on Sharon Avenue adjacent to the Advanced Technology Development Complex. The two mines discovered date back to the 1860s.
"There were two discovered," Bornhorst said.
Pat Martin, department chair of social sciences at Michigan Tech, said many professionals in the department discussed how to use the discovery.
"There's no way anyone would advocate saving everything," Martin said.
Martin said he's interested in the protection and preservation of such findings, however, the concept is not always feasible and the project needs to be on schedule to be completed.
"In a ideal world, I'd love to see it preserved," he said. "In a real world, it's one of many hundreds in this region."
Martin said it would be impossible to pull a lot of the shaft out of the ground anyway, as it is mostly lined with wood. However, just having knowledge of these mines and knowing their sites are helpful in an educational setting.
"It's too late to do any preservation," he said.
A shaft's presence was not well-known, but Bornhorst said the mine was fairly insignificant in the big picture of mining.
"We could have known it was there," Bornhorst said. "But they built the ADTC and they didn't know it was there."
The mine shaft operated for two years, under the boundaries of the old Isle Royale Mining Company, before closing. The mine was named for brothers John and Austin Mabbs. Bornhorst said in 1865, a vertically standing single mass of copper weighing 2,300 pounds was taken out 70 feet below what was the main "F" shaft. The buried "F" shaft is the shaft located under the edge of the future museum.
"The mine started in September 1864 and they worked it until March of 1867," he said.
The shaft soon after flooded, was drained and was used again in 1875 for an unknown period of time, Bornhorst said.
"It was likely short," he said. "Maybe a year or so and then that was the end of it."
Despite producing nearly 24,000 pounds of copper, the mine still wasn't making money, he said.
Bornhorst said now the plan is to put in place a special display at the museum using several specimens of native copper from the mine Moyle Construction collected at the site.
"We're going to put a sign on the outside for sure to designate that the 'F' shaft is down there," he said.
Stacey Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.