Azurite copper ore from Copper Mountain

Azurite forms by the weathering of other copper minerals.  Copper ore minerals like chalcocite and bornite “rust” when they come into contact with oxygen in the air or groundwater. This causes their atomic structure to change to become brightly coloured azurite. Azurite is often found at the surface above buried copper deposits and is a useful clue for prospectors and geologists looking for new deposits.

This sample is from the Copper Mountain mine, about 20 km south of Princeton in southern BC.

Copper ore was first discovered in the area in the 1880s and attracted miners who quickly settled in two mining camps, “Volcanic” Brown’s Camp and E. Voigt’s Camp. These soon merged to become the town of Copper Mountain, which had its own post office and general store. Early miners extracted ore from underground workings, but most of the ore was mined from several open pits. The Copper Mountain mine was in production from the mid 1920s to 1957, when low copper prices and a dispute with the local railway company shut down production because operating costs were too high. Mining started up again in the mid 1960s and continued until 1996, when low prices closed the mine again. For a long time it seemed that was the end of mining at Copper Mountain, but production resumed in 2011 and continues to this day.

At Copper Mountain, copper ore is mined from several ore bodies contain that the copper minerals bornite and chalcopyrite, as well as pyrite. As is common at porphyry-type deposits like Copper Mountain, small amounts of gold and silver are also produced.

From the mid 1900s to 1996, over 2 billion pounds of copper were extracted from the various pits at the Copper Mountain mine. In 2017, the mine produced 75.8 million pounds of copper, 734,000 grams of gold and 8,616,000 grams of silver from 72.6 million tonnes of ore.

Specimen Information

Store: Pacific Museum of the Earth, University of British Columbia

Collection: UBC Collection

Accession #: 2610

Primary Mineral: Azurite

Secondary Mineral: –

Site Locality: Copper Mountain Mine

Location: Princeton, British Columbia

Special Features: n/a

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