Ranchers began its evaluation of the Bluebird Mine in late 1963. The property which included some 400 acres, adjoined one of the country’s leading producers – Inspiration Consolidated Copper Company. Such proximity led many to equate availability with undesirability. However, a relatively short period of exploration and metallurgical evaluation and a simultaneous assessment of other environmental elements led Ranchers to acquire the property and to expand its operation. The objective steady, continuous production, at a substantial level. The property was to become one of the first medium-sized copper mining operations to rely solely upon heap leaching as a means of production.
Ranchers Exploration and Development Corporation obtained a 90-day option on the Bluebird property from Stovall Copper Company in January 1964. A 6,000 foot drilling program was initiated, and it was soon evident that the deposit consisted entirely of oxide ore. The economics of both vat and heap leaching were studied. Costs relating to mining, crushing, ore, waste and tailings handling, leaching, and recovery were examined closely. Leaching factors which received the most attention were acid consumption and costs and labor, power, and water costs. Since precipitation using iron was believed most feasible at the time, iron consumption and