The first rush of copper prospectors to the Keweenaw found nothing but struggle and failure. Millions of dollars worth of investments were whittled away by the high costs of shaft sinking and the erection of necessary infrastructure. Resources often ran dry before copper in any significant quantity could be mined. Investors out east were loosing faith in the notion of making any money from Lake Superior copper, and began pulling out of the endeavor all together. With mine after mine closing its doors and investors calling it quits, the future of the Copper Country looked bleak. That is until the arrival of the Cliff Mine in 1845.
The Cliff Mine became the first copper mine in the Keweenaw to make a profit, paying the district’s first dividends in 1849. For the next 20 years the mine continued to pay those dividends, paying back investors a total of over $2.5 million dollars – 22 times their initial investment. The secret to the mine’s success was due to a highly rich fissure vein consisting almost entirely of large pieces of mass copper, some weighing as much as 50 tons and measuring over 100 feet across. In fact these large pieces of copper became the mine’s most costly obstacle, as cutting them down into more manageable sized was time consuming and costly. Even so, the Cliff went on to become one of the riches mines ever opened in the Keweenaw.