Frequently Asked Questions
Is the mine real?
Yes. The mine is really a former copper mine, mined from 1850 -1920. It was not just created for the purposes of having tours.
Why are there no stalactites or stalagmites?
These formations occur when the rock forming the opening of a cave is dissolved and then precipitates back out of the solution (Recrystallizes). We do not have these in the mine because the rock the mine is made of is basalt, which does not dissolve in water. Typically these formations are found in caves which are made of limestone (which is water soluble).
Is the mine a "cave"? What's the difference?
The mine is not a cave. Caves are natural openings in the ground, typically made of limestone. The mine was all dug by hand, while the rock is of course natural, the openings in it were cut by humans.
Is there copper still in the mine?
Yes. More then was ever dug out. However, while there is lots of copper still there, the cost of removing it and refining it would exceed the cost you could sell it for. This was the reason the mine went backrupt and closed in 1920.
Is it safe?
Yes. For a more detailed answer, please see our Safety page.
If the lower levels are flooded, how would they have kept the water out when they were mining?
They would have two options. It depends on how fast the water seeps in. If it is very fast, then they would have to use pumps. Often this was done in stages. One pump would pump say from the 3 level to the second- into a reservoir. Then another would pump from the second level to the surface. The second way (if the water was slow enough) was to actually use a special skip and bale the water out, one skip full at a time. This obviously would take that shaft out of operation so it would often be done on a Sunday when the mine was "closed" so as to not interfere with normal operations.
This is believed to be the steam pump on the second level.
What is the vehicle that takes us on the tour?
The vehicle is called a Pinzgauer. It is an Austrian built Swiss Military vehicle. The mine currently operates two- a 4-wheel and a 6-wheel version. It is an air-cooled 4-cylinder gas engine. The 6-wheel pinz (who goes by Heidi) was built in 1973 and purchased from an importer in Arizona. Find out more here.
Do all of the guides do all of the tours?
Yes, all of our guides are trained to give all of the tours we offer (or assist with the rappelling). For more information on our guides click here.
How did companies know where to build a mine?
The tools of modern mining geology and lode estimation did not exist in the 1850's. It was common for mines to look for ancient mining pits were previous peoples (maybe native americans, maybe others) mined the copper. These ancient peoples did this by digging as much of the dirt away as possible, then building a fire around the masses of copper.
When the copper and the surrounding rock was very hot, they would dump cold water on it. The hard brittle rock would shatter, but the malleable copper would not. This would either 1) Free the copper piece, or 2) Be repeated until the piece was freed.
When the industrial mining era started in the Keweenaw in the 1840's, companies would see where these pits were and often put their shaft right on top of them. This made the assumption that the copper exposed at the surface continued into the ground for some distance. This sometimes proved true, and sometimes the copper would die out only a hundred feet down.
Another method was for a company to dig a grid of trenches in the ground down to the bedrock. The miners would then look for where the copper veins would break the surface and start following them down into the ground. Again, the lodes were not always very consistent in copper concentration. As a result more then 3/4 of the mines in the copper country went bankrupt.
Are there any copper mines currently active in Michigan?
Not yet- The Eagle Project in Marquette County is a nickel mine, but they will also be getting copper (copper sulfide, not native copper like in the Keweenaw). This mine is just getting started and is expected to operate about 10 years. A second company, Orvana Minerals, is looking at building a copper mine near Ironwood called Copperwood, but this is still in the early stages. This mine would also be mining a copper compound and not native copper.
Who currently owns the mine?
See our Recent History page for the owners since the Adventure stopped mining.