We’ve explored hundreds of abandoned mines now and, still, I never fail to be impressed by the innovations developed by miners… This resourcefulness seems to hold across both very old and very modern mines and across all types of mines. It is a characteristic inherent in miners themselves. A pressurized well tank repurposed as as a skip car/ore bucket, for example? Come on, how many times have you seen that?
Judging from the woodwork and style of the ore bin, I’d estimate that the bulk of the work done at this mine was before World War II. As with most abandoned mines, they are worked off and on depending on technology and commodity prices. Some of you may not know that the price of gold used to be fixed. During the Great Depression, the government repriced gold at a much higher level (devaluing the dollar) and this unleashed a flood of gold mining activity. Parts of California, for example, barely noticed the Great Depression due to the resulting boom in gold mining. Order-L208 issued by the War Production Board (see below) in 1942 killed this renaissance in gold mining, but it was glorious while it lasted… Many of my favorite abandoned mines to explore in the Sierras had work done during this time (given the amount of water in the Sierras, older mines that were not rehabbed in the 1930s have rarely survived to this century – especially the underground placer mines with their ancient river channels).
What was this “Order L-208” all about? Issued by the War Production Board, a government entity created in 1941 to assist with converting America’s civilian industry to wartime production, the War Production Board gave priority to the mining of industrial metals, which had useful military applications, and labeled gold mines as “nonessential.” As such, Order L-208 prohibited owners of “nonessential” mines from taking any action to “acquire, consume, or use any material, facility, or equipment to break any new ore or to proceed with any development work or any new operations in or about such mine...”
This program did not even work particularly well as miners that knew a lot about mining gold, didn’t know so much about mining lead, copper and other industrial metals. So, when these gold miners were ordered to start working at other mines, they could only do so much.
After the gold mines were forced to close, many caved and/or flooded since mines require constant upkeep… Furthermore, much of the equipment at the mines was repurposed or scrapped for the war (one reason why many old mines have the rails missing). As such, reopening the gold mines after World War II was a challenge. Some mine owners had lost everything when their mines were ordered closed, many experienced miners were killed in distant lands (one of the managers at the 16-1 Mine in Alleghany – one of my favorite mines - was taken prisoner by the Japanese and murdered)… Probably the largest factor though was simply the cost. The price of gold remained fixed at the level set during the Great Depression, but costs had continued to rise. Higher costs for everything from labor to fuel to equipment, combined with hugely expensive damage done to the mines by years of neglect was often an insurmountable obstacle. Accordingly, most mines were permanently abandoned and this smaller scale mining of gold and silver has never fully recovered from the decision to close the mines (despite many of them still containing rich deposits of gold and silver).
Getting back on track after that long detour… Yes, obviously, someone has been mining at the mine in this video more recently than the 1930s – probably within the past 20 years or so… Bear in mind, though that it is difficult to tell as things simply do not age underground in the dry, desert mines.
My point in discussing the 1930s was that it appeared that the bulk of the work at this gold mine had taken place in the early(ish) 1900s, not that ALL work had taken place then. The deposit may have been discovered and worked earlier. Obviously, the ore at this mine assays out to a decent value for more recent miners to go through the trouble of setting up the system they did and doing the mining that they did.
Lastly, and unrelated to mining, I would like to wish all of my dear viewers the best during this interesting time in human history. I never thought I’d see some of the things we’re seeing now in my lifetime, but here we are... Our ancestors overcame far, far worse, however, and so can we.
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You can see the gear that I use for mine exploring here:
And a small gear update here:
You can see the full TVR Exploring playlist of abandoned mines here:
Thanks for watching!