By the time America entered the Second World War, the Quincy Mine was on its last legs. The economic calamity of the Depression had taken a heavy toll on the copper industry, forcing Quincy to cease its mining operations until the situation improved. With the war came new government contracts for copper that allowed Quincy to resume mining again. But the contracts were temporary, and with their demise so to did mining atop Quincy Hill.
That might of been the end for “old reliable” if it were not for the company’s discovery of an even richer lode then the Pewabic itself within its land holding – Torch Lake. Up till then conventional milling technology could only remove at best 90% of the copper from stamp sand. By the end of the war, new technologies had been developed that greatly increased that figure. By applying these new techniques to Quincy’s old stamp sand deposits, the mine could continue to produce copper at less then half the price of conventional shaft mining. Using a government loan, Quincy built itself a Reclamation plant to process those sands, and proceeded to mine their massive stamp sand deposits along Torch Lake. Quincy’s demise had been averted.
The mining of Torch Lake did not require drills but instead relied on the use of large boats called dredges. Essentially large vacuums, these boats could suck up sands from the bottom of the lake by means of a long snout lowered down into the water. The recovered sands would then be sent back to shore along a floating conveyor belt. The belt was supported by a long pontoon line stretching between the shore and the dredge. On shore those sands would be reprocessed at the Reclamation Plant.
The dredge seen on shore today is in fact Quincy’s second dredge (Dredge No. 2), its first one having sunk while in lay-up over the winter. This second dredge was first used by C&H to reprocess their own sands before it was sold to Quincy. The second hand dredge continued to serve Quincy for close to a decade before it too sunk during a winter lay-up. By that time copper prices were too low for even Reclamation to pull a profit so Quincy abandoned both the Dredge and Reclamation plant.
NOTES: Today the old dredge continues to lay beached up on the Quincy stamp sands where it originally sunk several decades earlier. Canted precariously to one side, most of the wreck is visible above the water line including most of its superstructure along with its massive boom which is now stuck in its down position. The wreck is owned by the county and is off-limits to the public.
FOR MORE INFO: Get another look at the Quincy Dredge as it appears today at Copper Country Explorer.