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Mining History: Desert Fever

Kern County:

KERN COUNTY-Looking towards the future

Kern is Southern California's “Golden County.” If a gold rush in the California Desert is eminent, it will manifest itself first in Kern County. Gold mines near Randsburg and Mojave contain large reserves of gold ore considered low grade 40 years ago (when gold was worth $35 an ounce and silver, less than $1 an ounce). They are certainly not low grade any longer-and it is quite possible that gold mining will be revived in Kern County on a large scale within years, even months, if present economic conditions persist.

Placer gold is abundant in Kern County but a lack of water presents recovery problems that will make mining this gold on large scale difficult, but not impossible. High-grade gold veins and gold placer pockets yet to be discovered in supposedly worked out mines and districts will provide many small miners and mining companies with modest profits over the next ten years. A few lucky individuals could make fortunes in Kern County during the next gold rush.

Part of the Yellow Aster's glory hole was tested and estimated to contain millions of tons of ore averaging .02 ounce of gold per ton. When screened it ran as high as .06 ounce. The Golden Queen (Kern's second largest gold mine) like the Yellow Aster, was forced to shut down by L-208 in 1942 when it was producing 300 tons of ore a day. Production at the Golden Queen since then has only been 8,000 tons of ore worth $20 to $25 per ton (at $35 an ounce gold). Ore still remaining in the Golden Queen is estimated at $350 to $430 per ton. The Tropico Mine, inactive since 1952, has a tailings dump from its custom mill that contains an estimated 3.75 million dollars in gold at 1975 prices.

Just across the Kern—San Bernardino County line; the Kelly, or California Rand Silver Mine produced over 16 million dollars before production dropped off in 1929. High grade gold ore was discovered on the 19th level of the Williams vein but being too far from the main shaft, the state mine inspector halted work for safety reasons. Silver prices having dropped to 28 cents an ounce, the owners did not wish to sink a new shaft, and sold the mine. Lessees had extracted less than $750,000 in ore from 1933-1937 and no real production has since occurred.

Due south of the Kelly lies the Atolia District. Except for a brief activity during the Korean conflict in the 1950s, and in 1973 when Mines Exploration Inc., was reprocessing old mill tailings, no real production has occurred in this tungsten area since World War II. In 1940, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that, “The Atolia District is not exhausted , but the easily, discovered and richest ore bodies have probably been mined. Future production can be expected from the extension of present ore bodies in depth, new ore shoots in known veins and ore shoots in veins to be discovered... The Flatiron, Papoose, Paradox, and Amity mines have the best chance for future production and will probably provide the bulk of the output.”

Low grade uranium ore is found at several locations around Kern County. Kern will become a modest supplier of this commodity as demand for it increases in order to meet the growing energy needs of our nation. Kern will continue to supply borax, borates and petroleum products for many years to come.

Mines such as the Yellow Aster, Golden Queen, Tropico, Kelly, Atolia and many more are by no means mined out. Today's prices for precious metals are making these mines much more profitable now than they were during their boom days.

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