Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mica Peak Vermiculite Mine

I ran across an old mining journal published by the Mackay School of Mines at UNR on the vermiculite mining in the Gold Butte area. While the History of Mining section was small it contained a lot of great information and also grabbed my interest as I have many fond memories of visiting the cabin growing up and exploring this area. It also mentions the owners of the mines at the time, Roxton Whitmore and Laura Gentry who were St. Thomas folks. These historic ties are what keeps the local sense of stewardship for our public lands alive in the local communities.

The best I could do to find a picture of Laura Gentry was this photo which states that she is the little girl looking through the fence. If my Whitmore friends are out there and can let me know whether this is correct or not I would appreciate it.
This is a picture of teh Harry Gentry Genral Store in St. Thomas.

The best I could do for Roxton Whitmore was this picture I have of his place in St. Thomas.

Gold Butte vermiculite deposits, Clark County, Nevada
Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada 1967

The Gold butte vermiculite deposits are in the central portion of the South Virgin Mountains in northeastern Clark County. They lie within a one-mile-square area of the Gold Butte 15’ quadrangle, in sec. 15 T. 19 s., 70E.. The area is accessible by way of a maintained county road that connects with US Highway 91 at  Mesquite, Nev; the distance from Mesquite to the deposits is 52 miles.

Intermittent attempts have been made to exploit the vermiculite deposits, but no record of production is available. The first carload of unprocessed vermiculite was shipped to Los Angeles in 1942, and at least several car loads were shipped out later for experimental purposes. A mill was completed in 1945 with a reported daily capacity of 25 tons. The material was mined by open put methods. It is said that no more than 5 tons production per day was obtained, and the operation soon ceased. Failure to clean and size the material properly, lack of capital investment, and extreme difficulties of transportation are probably the chief reasons for the limed production.

In 1962 two cabins and the remains of the wind-damaged mill are the only structures on the property. A mine pit, almost 300 feet long, and waste dumps are present near the mill. Elsewhere, shallow exploration test pits and trenches dot the area. In a well near the mill, the water level has been within 20 feet of the surface in summer. The mining claims are held by Laura Gentry and Roxton Whitmore of Overton, Nev.

If you look to the far left you can see the roof of the old cabin. Next time I go out I will try and get an updated picture from the same vantage point however for now this is the same angle looking from Google Earth.

 This is my dad Jack Nelson out at the cabins at the Mica Peak mine before the BLM torn them down. This picture was taken in about 2001.

There is still a little machinery scattered out in the hills from the old mill.

This map was included in the journal.