San Manuel is in the broad San Pedro River Valley of
southeastern Pinal County. The town is approximately 140 miles
southeast of Phoenix and 40 miles northeast of Tucson at an elevation
of 3,500 feet. Two other communities, Mammoth and Oracle,
are located within a 10-mile radius of San Manuel and make up the
In 1944, Magma Copper Company purchased existing mining
claims in the area and launched a program of exploration and
development that resulted in the present-day mine, mill, smelter,
refinery and community. For the name of its new mine, Magma
retained the old claim name, San Manuel, patron saint of one of
the early day prospectors. Because of the isolation and immensity
of the new mining project, construction to provide adequate housing
for employees began in mid-1952. The town was later opened
for private home ownership and real estate development. It is now
100 percent privately owned.
Metal production is the most significant economic activity in Pinal
County and is a major influence in San Manuel. Magma Copper
Company operates underground and open pit copper mines, concentrator,
smelter, refinery and rod manufacturing plant. The refinery,
the largest such facility in Arizona, was completed in 1971 and
has an annual capacity of 300,000 tons. The smelter processes
1,200,000 tons of copper concentrates per year, 25 percent of the
entire U.S. copper smelting capacity. Much of the production is
continuous cast copper re-draw rod, while the remainder is in the
form of cathode copper. An important by-product is sulfuric acid,
which is produced at a rate of approximately 3,000 tons per day.
These facilities, in addition to the administrative offices, employ
3,500 persons. Several other smaller mines and quarries and working
cattle ranches are located in the area and provide additional
employment and income to San Manuel.
The San Manuel area has open land and a mature infrastructure
for industrial development, small research units, warehousing
and distribution centers. A warehouse certified by the New York
Commodities Exchange holds copper under futures contracts. All of
Pinal County is an Enterprise Zone.
San Manuel enjoys a mountainous setting near the many scenic
attractions in southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. One of the more
popular areas is Mt. Lemmon in the Coronado National Forest just
southwest of San Manuel. The spectacular Galiuro and Catalina
Mountains and rolling desert have attracted various TV and movie
companies to film on location in the area.
Scenic drives in the area include Pinal Pioneer Parkway, which
extends northwest to Florence, traversing a unique natural garden.
Virtually all kinds of desert flora can be seen along the main route
and easily accessible side roads. Mining and ranching activities in
the area also provide-and-basin ecological system and is noted for
its geological features. Biosphere 2 is 12 miles west.