The American Smelting and Refining Company was founded in 1888 by Henry H. Rogers, William Rockefeller, Adolph Lewisohn, Robert S. Town, Anton Eilers, and Leonard Lewisohn. From 1901 to 1958, American Smelting and Refining was included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
In April 1901, the Guggenheim Brothers gained control of the company, and in 1905, bought the Tacoma smelter from the Bunker Hill Mining Company. ASARCO eventually controlled 90% of the U.S. lead production, essentially becoming a smelter trust.
On January 11, 1916, sixteen ASARCO employees were killed and mutilated by Pancho Villa's men near the town of Santa Isabel, Chihuahua. It was one of the incidents that sparked the Mexican Expedition, a United States Army attempt to capture or kill Villa.
Based in Tucson, Arizona, the company grew to conduct mining, smelting, and refining of primarily copper. Open-pit mining is primarily utilized as the most efficient method of recovering this metal; the company's three largest such works are the Mission, Silver Bell, and the Ray mines in Arizona. The company had also operated in silver mining in Idaho. Its mines produce 350,000,000 to 400,000,000 pounds of copper a year.
ASARCO conducted solvent extraction and electrowinning at the Ray and Silver Bell mines in Pima County, Arizona, and Pinal County, Arizona, and operated a smelter in Hayden, Arizona. It also had a smelting plant in El Paso, Texas, operations of which were suspended.
In 1975, the company officially changed its name to Asarco Incorporated. In 1999 it was acquired by Grupo México, which had begun as Asarco's 49%-owned Mexican subsidiary in 1965.