The image shows parts of the ASARCO plant, probably in the 1950s. In 1887, the Kansas City Consolidated Smelting and Refining Company (later the American Smelting and Refining Company, or ASARCO) copper and lead smelter was constructed a few miles west of downtown El Paso. The facility was a custom smelter that processed several different metals from ore that came from diverse sites. Although lead and zinc were extracted at the site, copper was the main product in the later years of operation. In 1945 the El Paso Herald-Post called attention to the poverty in Smeltertown, which was the village where the workers and their families, mostly Mexican, lived. In the early 1970s the site became the center of an environmental controversy. It was found out that many of the residents suffered from lead poisoning due to the huge amount of lead emission. In 1975 an injunction ordered ASARCO to modernize and make environmental improvements, which were not done due to the high costs. Against their wishes the residents were forced to move; their former homes were razed, leaving only the abandoned school and church buildings to mark the site of El Paso's first major industrial community.

Area: Central / Smeltertown

Collection: Historical records of the former ASARCO El Paso smelter site

Source: University of Texas at El Paso Library - Special Collections Department

Reference ID: MS585-1317

Uploaded by: El Paso Museum of History


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