Fodor's Expert Review El Chino Mine
The wrenching 1954 movie Salt of the Earth chronicled the Empire Zinc Mine strike that took place less than 1 mi away, in Hanover, and while that mine is long gone, the ups and downs of the El Chino Mine reveal a similar and compelling story about economy, race, and politics in Grant County. Now owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, the vast, open-pit mine—commonly referred to as the Santa Rita Mine, for the little village that was founded here in 1803, and was literally swallowed as the pit expanded in the mid-20th century—is 1,500-feet-deep and 1½ mi across. It cuts back or ceases operation when the price of copper falls too low. Copper mining in the region dates back centuries, and began in tunnels that were labored over first by indigenous populations, then by the Spanish and Mexicans. The observation point offers interpretative signage; monthly bus tours (reservations essential) provide a fascinating in-depth perspective.