Mining History Association

33rd Annual Conference, June 8-11, 2023
Macey Center, New Mexico Tech

Socorro, New Mexico

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The 33rd Annual Conference of the Mining History Association will be held in Socorro, New Mexico, June 8-11, 2023.  Socorro was founded in the 17th century among the Piro peoples but abandoned after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, and not resettled by the Spanish until a century later.  A typical mining boom occurred during the last decades of the nineteenth century with smelters, stamp mills, branch railroads and nearby coal, silver, lead, and zinc mines.  Today Socorro is a modern town along I-25 with all the amenities for its 8,639 residents and visitors alike.  It is the seat of Socorro County and home to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NM Tech) with a student population of around 1,700.  Historic adobe structures around the plaza and at the San Miguel Mission church mix with the Victorian architecture of the mining boom period of the 1880s.  A historic walking tour that begins at the gazebo on the plaza provides visitors with a chance to see the town’s multi-cultural heritage.   The town museum, the former Hammel Brewery will also be open for visitors.

The welcoming reception will be held at the mineral museum of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, on the New Mexico Tech campus. Exhibits highlight the rich diversity of minerals found in the state and region and retell the area’s mining history.


The conference program will be held at the Macey Center, on the New Mexico Tech campus.  The center has a well-equipped auditorium and space in the lobby for vendors.  The Saturday presidential luncheon will be held at the center.


Whether on one of the planned tours and field trips, or just exploring on their own, attendees have plenty to see and do during their spare time at the conference.  Fort Craig Historic Site is nearby, site of the 1862 Civil War battle of Val Verde. Nearby ran the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail (The Royal Road to the Interior, Mexico City to Santa Fe), opened by the Spanish and used until the 1880 arrival of the railroad.  Along the Rio Grande is the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge for bird lovers.   The four-hundred-year-old parish of San Miguel Mission church is worth visiting. 


Tours will include nearby ghost towns such as Kelly, and the historic town of Magdalena, once a smelter town, mine supply center at the end of a railroad branch, and cattle trail town. The Very Large Array on the Plain of San Augustin. Operating mines (Dicalite perlite mine Socorro, NM), historic and geologic sites within the Socorro mining district, and more – all dependent on COVID restrictions that may still apply.


There is a lot more mining history worth exploring while traveling to or from Socorro.  Stay tuned as we update this page.


There is no designated conference hotel, but Holiday Inn Express is offering MHAers Wednesday through Sunday nights a conference rate of $98 ($112.40 with tax).   Call the hotel at 575-838-4600 and mention "MHA." There are double queen and single king rooms.  Socorro has many chain-hotel options, especially along the California Street corridor off I-25 as well as a few quaint bed and breakfasts.

For campers, there are several sites on public land outside Socorro, such as at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and at Water Canyon in Cibola National Forest. North of town is the Escondida Lake Campground.


MHAers driving from nearby states will find Socorro located along the Rio Grande valley at the junction of U. S. 60 and Interstate 25, about 75 miles south of Albuquerque, the nearest major airport.   MHAers will find all major airlines flying into Albuquerque’s “Sunport.”   All major car rental agencies can be found at the Sunport and within easy access of I-25.

Tips for Desert Travel
Located in the Chihuahua Desert, Socorro in the summer will be in the 90s, a dry heat that requires everyone to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated – 8 oz. of water 8 times per day at least.  Once the sun goes down the temperature can drop to a cool 50s-60s, so be prepared to put on a light wrap.

And a Note on Travel Time...
New Mexico is the fifth largest state, but thirty-sixth in population, about 18 people per square mile.  With most of the population living in the Albuquerque metro area, rural counties like Socorro have only 2.7 people per square mile. That means there is a lot of empty space out there, especially in southern New Mexico. Cars are few and the distance long from, say, Socorro through odd-named Truth or Consequences and by Hatch, home of the famous green chile farms, to Las Cruces, the next largest metro area. So, give yourself plenty of time to drive long distances, watch your gas gauge, take drinking water, and stop often to enjoy the history, culture, and scenery of the Land of Enchantment.



New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology campus with “M” mountain in the distance.


The Baca House typifies Socorro’s multi-cultural heritage.

Kelly Mine, Magdalena, NM, 1916. (USGS)

Kelly Mine steel headframe, once a major silver-lead and then zinc producer.


Tapping a furnace at the Billing Smelter, Park City, NM, ca1880s. (NMBGMR photo)


Mineral Museum of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.


The historic, stone Hammel Brewery is now the Hammel Museum of the Socorro County Historical Society.




The full Conference Program, Registration Process, and Tours and Field Trips are described in the Spring Mining History News.  It should arrive in your mailbox during the first week in April and will be on this website at that time.


On-Line Conference Registration


Conference Registration wIll be available at the Conference


Conference Program



Welcoming Reception (Included in Registration Fee)

Bureau of Geology Mineral Museum, Thursday, June 8, 2023, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM.

The reception venue is the famous mineral museum sometimes called “Coronado’s Treasure Chest.”  Its collection started in 1889 and now contains over 18,000 specimens.  Spectacular specimens are on display from Magdalena Mining District which will be visited on June 11, 2023, and the Santa Rita District, visited during the MHA Silver City conference, among others. But there is so much more to see.  In addition to its focus on New Mexico, specimens are on exhibit from throughout the U.S. and worldwide.


Awards Banquet

Fidel Center, Friday, June 9, 2023, 6:00 PM Social Time, 6:30 PM-9:00 PM

Presentation of the Mining History Association Awards.

Banquet Speaker: Rick Hendricks, Director of the New Mexico Archives Department and former State Historian, Santa Fe: “A Glimpse of Mining History in Spanish and Mexican New Mexico: No, Really.”


Presidential Luncheon

Upper Lobby of the Macey Center, June 10, 2023, 12:00 PM-1:30 PM

The “Passing of the Pick” to the incoming MHA President.

Luncheon Speaker: Dr. Dana Bennett, “‘The Constant Battle of the Mine Operators for Protection of the Industry’ in the 20th Century: The Case of the Nevada Mining Association”



Walking Tour of Socorro’s Historic Plaza Area, Thursday, June 8, 2023, 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM.

Tour fee $10 fee per person (Limit 20 participants)

Tour guide Robert L. Spude

From the gazebo on the historic plaza in Socorro’s old town, the walking tour will explore historic sites and structures representative of the rich cultural history of Socorro.


The tour will highlight the impact of the arrival of the railroad and the mining boom of the 1880s on the historic architecture and landscape, along with some legends of vigilante violence and folk tales. We will walk through the San Miguel Historic District stopping at the 1880s adobe Garcia Opera House with its historic theater.  Next, we walk through the Elfego Baca Heritage Park named for the famous lawman and stop at the historic San Miguel Mission Church.  All are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, an 1840s small smelter site will be pointed out with discussion of archeological evidence of Mexican period mining and smelting.


The tour will return to the plaza via the 1918-1919 Val Verde Hotel, also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the early brick business blocks of Manzaneres Street that once served as gateway for travelers from the railroad depot to the plaza. Our tour will end back at the Gazebo on the plaza. Lunch on your own.

Garcia Opera House.

Elfego Baca Park honors the frontier famous lawman.

Historic view of Manzaneres Street.



Socorro Town and Mining District Sites Tour, Saturday, June 10, 2023, Half Day, 2 and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

$40 fee per person (Includes bus transportation, Limit 52 participants)

Tour guides Robert L. Spude, Virginia T. McLemore, and Socorro County Historical Society volunteers

The tour starts at the Macey Center, right after the Presidential luncheon (a second bus pick up at 3 p.m. will be arranged for those attending the business meeting). We will take the bus through campus to the historic plaza and surrounding historic district and historic homes past the San Miguel Mission to the Hammel Museum.  The museum is a former brewery built to serve the mining boom of the 1880s, the Gay nineties, and on until prohibition.  Besides brewery remnants, exhibits tell the history of Socorro.


The next stop will be the abandoned railroad grade and ruins of the silver-lead Billing smelter (1882-1893), a major plant during the 1880s mining boom built by Gustav Billing who relocated here from Leadville. A walking tour of the site is optional, depending on the heat of the day.


The last tour stop will be for a peek into the modern open pit Dicalite Perlite Mine on the edge of town. It is the most extensive perlite mining operation in North America. Wondering about perlite? CLICK HERE to find out about its many uses.  You are probably already a perlite user.  Socorro is a major producer of this mineral, all from the same mountain as several of the early silver mines.  The historic mines date from the Spanish era through the Mexican and early American periods to when Coloradans rushed in and operated the 1880s Merritt and Torrance mine and mill sites. The tour ends back at the Macey Center.  Dinner on own.


Note: The Hammel Museum will be open to all conference participants between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM, not just the tour group. 

See the photos of the Hammel Museum and Billing Smelter at the top of this web page.



San Miguel Mission Church.


Dicalite Perlite Mine.



Magdalena, Kelly, and the Very Large Array Tour, Sunday, June 11, 2013, All-Day, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Tour Fee: $40 per person (including a box lunch)

Tour guides Robert L. Spude, Catherine H. Spude, and Virginia T. McLemore

This carpool tour will use mostly U. S. 60 and other paved roads, reasonably good, but dusty, gravel county roads, and a mile of graded and drained rough road to the parking lot of the church at Kelly ghost town.  Our first stop will be at the historic depot (now library) and the Boxcar Museum in Magdalena, former railroad terminus, cattle trail town, and supply center for the surrounding Magdalena Mining District.


Next, our group will drive three miles from Magdalena to the parking lot at the Kelly church, its last standing structure in the old townsite.  We will make a brief stop at the Graphic Smelter site (later Ozark flotation mill site) on the way to Kelly.  At Kelly we will divide into two groups, the first for those interested in mining camp archeology of Kelly, its cemetery and streetscape, and the second for those interested in the Kelly area geology and minerals, and history of the mine and mill site above the town.


After lunch, we will drive thirty miles west to the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) Visitor Center. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory includes 28 25-meter radio telescopes in a “Y” shaped array.  Scientists use the array to study the cosmos.  The VLA Is funded by the National Science Foundation.  The group will leave the VLA by 4:00 PM for the sixty-mile, hour return drive to Socorro, reaching the Macey Center around 5 PM. If participants wish, they may depart the tour early in your own vehicle at any time, for example, to catch a plane in Albuquerque.

See other photos of the Kelly Mine at the

top of this web page.


Kelly Mine near Magdalena.

Main Street of the Mining Camp at Kelly,
ca 1900.


National Radio Astronomy Observatory – Very Large Array on the Plains of San Augustin, west of Socorro.


AREA VISITOR INFORMATION (with website links)

New Mexico Tourism Department

Ghost Town Guide for Socorro County

List of Attractions, Socorro Tourist Office: Bosque del Apache NWR; El Camino Real Historic Trail Site; Fort Craig and Val Verde Battlefield; Garcia Opera House; Hammel Museum; San Miguel Mission and more.

Mineral Museum, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology History

Socorro Town Bike Tour

Trinity Site

Very Large Array (VLA) Tour



Eveleth, Robert W. “Gustav Billing, the Kelly Mine, and the Great Smelter at Park City, Socorro County, New Mexico” in Chapin, C. E.; Callender, J. F.; [eds.], 1983, Socorro Region II, New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 34th Annual Field Conference, pp. 89-95.

L’Aloge, Bob, The Incidents of New Mexico’s Nightriders, a True Account of the Socorro Vigilantes (Sunnyside, WA: BJS Brand Books, 1992)

Christiansen, Paige W., The Story of Mining in New Mexico (Socorro: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, 1974)

Loughlin, G. F. and A. H. Koschmann, Geology and Ore Deposits of the Magdalena Mining District, New Mexico, U. S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 200 (Washington: GPO, 1944)

McLemore, Virginia T. and Mark R Bowie, Socorro Area Guidebook, (Socorro: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, 1987

Harden, Paul and Dr Peggy Hardman, “Where was Park City and the Billing smelter”?

Hoffman, Gretchen K., Mining History of the Carthage Coal Field, Socorro County, New Mexico, New Mexico Geological Society Guidebook, 60th Field Conference, 2009.

Park, John R., New Mexico Mining Heritage Guide (South Miami, Florida: Stonerose Publishing, 2003)




New Mexico Mining Museum, Grants, NM-Interprets the uranium mining industry history with exhibits and an underground uranium mine.  An hour west of Albuquerque, the museum is worth a side trip on the road to Socorro.


The Best Ghost Towns in New Mexico - The state tourism bureau’s column “New Mexico True” rated the best ghost towns.  We can quibble a bit, but overall, these ghost towns are worth a side trip.  Their selection can be found on this link:  We like Kelly, Mogollon, Chloride, White Oaks and more - far, but not too far from Socorro.


Santa Fe - The tourist draw for most visitors to New Mexico, Santa Fe is two hours north of Socorro via I-25.  Art, history, and its tri-culture roots make this a top-rated visitor destination, and well worth the side trip.


Salinas Pueblos Missions National Monument-A side trip from Albuquerque then along the Salt Missions Trail National Scenic Byway winds through mountain villages and former missions of Abo, Quarai, and Gran Quivira, now part of the national monument, with a visitor center at Mountainair, all part of the story of the Spanish era salt trade into central Mexico.


UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and Taos Pueblo are all designated World Heritage Sites, each with its unique legacies, natural, prehistoric cultures, or prehistoric to modern living culture.  Much information can be found on the web about these sites.


Albuquerque - It is the largest metro area in New Mexico and an hour north of Socorro via I-25.  Around the old town district is the art and history museum, natural history museum, children’s museum, and atomic museum, all worth a visit.  South of old town is the zoo and aquarium.  The annual balloon fiesta is October 1-9, 2022.

See the Mining History Association Facebook page for more updates about the Socorro conference and the region’s attractions.



Barbara Clements, Chair
Jane Bardal
Virginia McLemore
Bob Spude


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