After exploring what was possible to explore (or that we were willing to explore) off to the left side of the main hub of this gigantic mine, we made our way back over to explore the right side. This meant heading down the large passage taking off from the underground workshop… The number of drifts and inclines fanning out in all directions was staggering and we had to stay focused in order to maintain some order in our exploring. Fortunately, we were able to get into areas of open stoping (with natural support) on this side of the mine and to see some of the minerals the miners were seeking. Additionally, on several occasions, we were able to look up to (or down to) different levels in this mine, suggesting that the underground workings were even greater than we had already imagined. Interestingly, this side of the abandoned mine was in far better shape than the other side and we encountered hardly any water.
I should mention that with this mine I have edited many, many hours of exploring down to a manageable clip that shows the noteworthy features, but spares my dear viewers the tedious viewing of us walking, walking, walking and walking some more (and then walking some more) down miles of featureless drifts.
The primary mineral extracted at this mine was zinc, but copper, lead, silver and even molybdenum, among other minerals, were recovered as well.
Headframe Hunters, who was kind enough to do some research on this mine for us, had the following to share on the geology of the mine:
“It was a mid-grade zinc mine - the primary zinc ore type mined is sphalerite (zinc sulfide, commonly called jack), which explains the acid mine drainage and hydrogen sulfide you encountered. The deposit is probably an igneous-hosted hydrothermal vein-type deposit; a limestone-hosted MVT like we have in Missouri would have buffered out all the acid.”
Ultimately, this mine closed due to a period of low zinc prices rather than because the mine was played out. There are actually a significant quantity of valuable minerals still underground at this abandoned mine.
* Thank you to Headframe Hunters and Mines of the West for the information they were able to dredge up on this abandoned mine *
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Growing up in California’s “Gold Rush Country” made it easy to take all of the history around us for granted. However, abandoned mine sites have a lot working against them – nature, vandals, scrappers and various government agencies… The old prospectors and miners that used to roam our lonely mountains and toil away deep underground are disappearing quickly as well.
These losses finally caught our attention and we felt compelled to make an effort to document as many of the ghost towns and abandoned mines that we could before that niche of our history is gone forever. But, guess what? We have fun doing it! This is exploring history firsthand – bushwhacking down steep canyons and over rough mountains, figuring out the techniques the miners used and the equipment they worked with, seeing the innovations they came up with, discovering lost mines that no one has been in for a hundred years, wandering through ghost towns where the only sound is the wind... These journeys allow a feeling of connection to a time when the world was a very different place. And I’d love to think that in some small way we are paying tribute to those hardy miners that worked these mines before we were even born.
So, yes, in short, we are adit addicts… I hope you’ll join us on these adventures!