La Paz County
One of the earliest prospects in the state, an operation of 500 people once worked this scenic area.
Planet is a former copper mining town located on the south banks of the Bill Williams River in western Arizona. The area’s unique geology and proximity to California allowed this site to be one of the earliest prospected in Arizona. Planet sits 20 miles east of Parker and produced over three million pounds of copper in its lifetime.
The Planet area was first prospected in 1863 by Richard Ryland. At the time, the country was engulfed in the Civil War and copper was in high-demand in California. Eager San Francisco investors were interested in early Arizona prospects. Martin & Company employed nearly 200 Mexican miners at Planet to feed demand. From 1864-1867, Planet was churning out high grade ore which assayed between 15-40% copper. By 1867 ownership had changed hands and the town was now booming. 500 people lived in the area and the mine produced over $500,000 in ore. At the time, Planet was one of the rowdiest camps outside of Wickenburg.
Ore from Planet was hauled to Aubrey Landing on the Colorado River where it was then shipped by boat to San Francisco. Some ore would make also begin makings its way to the same smelter used by its neighbor, Swansea, to Swansea, Wales. Almost as quickly as it boomed, the town went bust as the high-grade ore ran out. The mines soon closed in 1868, but not for long.
In 1884, mining efforts were revived and the town came back to life. A smelter was built on site as the mines were worked deeper and the roads were improved. Reworking the slag dumps also helped produce additional copper ore that was missed by the inefficient work of the former company. Over 6,000 tons of copper were pulled out up to this point. The price of copper however continued to fall and the mine was worked intermittently. In March of 1902 a post office was established on site. Several general stores were also built.
By 1921, it appeared as though Planet had been played out. The post office was discontinued. Planet’s neighbor, Swansea, would be much more productive in the following decades. Although the mine would be reworked up until 1937, success was limited and the townsite was soon abandoned. During WWII the mines around Planet were surveyed to see if they would be viable for the war effort, however nothing would ever come of that.
With such a rocky history, Planet remains one of the earliest mining efforts in the Arizona Territory. In total, the area would produce over 3 million pounds of copper. Workings went down to the 350’ level with countless drift tunnels. The mine still sits on private land today and numerous adits remain gated off. Today, a few ruins sit at the end of a scenic canyon on the south banks of the Bill Williams River. Up until very recently, the Planet and nearby Planet Ranch area were gated off to the public.
Planet can be accessed via mostly easy dirt roads from Parker. The 30 mile drive begins on Shae Rd. and continues east to the Swansea Junction. From there, the road heads north, through a scenic canyon to the Planet townsite. It can also be reached easily from the ghost town of Swansea eight miles to the southeast. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended for the drive. We visited Planet on our 2019 summer special along the Arizona Peace Trail and you can see footage here. Please be respectful of all posted signs and fences in the area.
“Planet Mine (Planet Copper Mine; New Planet Mine), Planet Mine Group (New Planet Mine Group; Great Central Mine), Planet, Santa Maria District (Planet District; Swansea District; Bill Williams District), Buckskin Mts, La Paz Co., Arizona, USAi.” Mindat.org, www.mindat.org/loc-52755.html.
Ascarza , William. “Mine Tales: Planet Copper Mine One of Arizona's Oldest.” Arizona Daily Star, Tucson.com, 24 Feb. 2014, tucson.com/news/local/mine-tales-planet-copper-mine-one-of-arizona-s-oldest/article_403eb21b-4d9e-5a08-9089-a8fc91e882e7.html.
Stanley W. Paher (1990), “Western Arizona Ghost Towns”. Nevada Publications. Page 39.
James E. & Barbara H. Sherman (1969), “Ghost Towns of Arizona”. University of Oklahoma Press. Page 122.