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Ajo, Arizona
—  CDP  —
Location in Pima County and the state of Arizona
Coordinates: 32°22′53″N 112°52′10″W / 32.38139°N 112.86944°W / 32.38139; -112.86944
Country United States
State Arizona
County Pima
 - Total 28.1 sq mi (72.7 km2)
 - Land 28.1 sq mi (72.7 km2)
 - Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 1,759 ft (536 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 3,705
 - Density 131.9/sq mi (51.0/km2)
Time zone MST (no daylight saving time) (UTC-7)
ZIP code 85321
Area code(s) 520
FIPS code 04-00870
GNIS feature ID 0000538
Ajo plaza in 1990
Ajo and the New Cornelia mine. NASA photo

Ajo is a census-designated place (CDP) in Pima County, Arizona, United States. The population was 3,705 at the 2000 census. Ajo is located on State Route 85 just 43 miles (69 km) from the Mexican border. It is the closest community to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.



Ajo (pronounced ah-ho) is the Spanish word for garlic. The Spanish may have named the place using the familiar word in place of the similar-sounding O'odham word for paint (oʼoho). The Tohono O'odham people obtained red paint pigments from the area.

Native Americans, Spaniards and Americans have all extracted mineral wealth from Ajo's abundant ore deposits. In the early nineteenth century, there was a Spanish mine nicknamed "Old Bat Hole" that was abandoned due to Indian raids. The first Anglo to pass through the Ajo area, Tom Childs, Sr., found the deserted mine complete with a 60-foot (18 m) shaft, mesquite ladders, and rawhide buckets in 1847. He did not stay long at that time, because he was on his way to the silver mines near Magdalena de Kino, Sonora.

Three and a half decades later, Childs and his son returned with a friend and started developing the abandoned mine.

In the year 1884, the camp at Ajo was practically abandoned. Not a soul was in camp when Tom Childs Sr., and his son arrived. With them was Washington Michael Jacobs of Tucson, Arizona...Childs and Jacobs located the mining claim which constituted most of the old Ajo group of mines. They made a permanent camp and worked the mines... - The Ancient Mines of Ajo by Dan Rose

High-grade native copper made Ajo the first copper mine in Arizona. Soon the Arizona Mining & Trading company, formed by Peter M. Brady, a friend of Childs, worked the rich surface ores, shipping loads around Cape Horn for smelting in Swansea, Wales, in the mid 1880s. The mine closed when a ship sank off the coast of Patagonia. Long supply lines and the lack of water discouraged large mining companies

With the advent of new recovery methods for low-grade ore, Ajo boomed. In 1911, Col. John Campbell Greenway, a Rough Rider and star Yale athlete, bought the New Cornelia mine from John Boddie. He became general manager of the Calumet and the Arizona mining company and expanded it on a grand scale. In 1921, Phelps Dodge, the nation's largest copper company, bought New Cornelia and the mine became the New Cornelia Branch of Phelps Dodge, managed by Michael Curley. For several decades more than 1,000 men worked for Phelps Dodge in the open pit mine. The mine closed in 1985, following a bitter strike and a depressed copper market. Ajo is now home to many retired people, to Border Patrol agents, and young families.

Plants of the Sonoran Desert thrive at Ajo, including saguaros and ocotillos. The Ajo lily or Desert lily, an onion-like plant, also grows in the area.

Ajo and the surrounding area is the only place in the United States where the mineral papagoite can be found.


Ajo is located at 32°22′53″N 112°52′10″W / 32.38139°N 112.86944°W / 32.38139; -112.86944 (32.381348, -112.869407)[1].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 28.1 square miles (72.7 km²), all of it land.

The mineral ajoite was first found at the New Cornelia Mine, Ajo.[2]


As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 3,705 people, 1,659 households, and 1,088 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 132.0 people per square mile (51.0/km²). There were 2,485 housing units at an average density of 88.5/sq mi (34.2/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 78.70% White, 0.24% Black or African American, 6.88% Native American, 0.30% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 9.15% from other races, and 4.64% from two or more races. 37.57% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 1,659 households out of which 19.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.4% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.4% were non-families. 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.74.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 20.6% under the age of 18, 4.9% from 18 to 24, 17.2% from 25 to 44, 25.3% from 45 to 64, and 32.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 52 years. For every 100 females there were 90.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.3 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $25,618, and the median income for a family was $29,310. Males had a median income of $28,000 versus $18,571 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $14,548. About 16.5% of families and 22.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 36.5% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.


Ajo Unified School District is the only school district in Ajo, Arizona. There is currently an elementary school, junior high school, and high school, all of which are located in the same area. The high school currently has a football team, volleyball team, basketball team (both boys and girls) , baseball team (boys), softball team (girls), golf team, and track & field. They are known as the Ajo Red Raiders.


  1. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  2. ^ W.H. Blackburn and W.H. Dennen, (1997), Encyclopedia of Mineral Names, Ottawa, Mineralogical Association of Canada
  3. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  

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