Monday, June 7, 2010

Seen in the Field: A Preserved Headframe

This headframe-ore bin from the mercury diggings at the [Paradise Peak] mine-site provides a strong contrast to the mining and ore processing techniques used in the industry today. The bucket was used to lower miners into the shaft and to lift out mercury ore which was then dumped into the ore bin for later handling. Though the technology of mining has changed, the perseverance and determination of the Nevada Prospector has never wavered. FMC Corporation has preserved this headframe - ore bin in recognition of Nevada Prospectors' dedication to their profession in years past, present, and future and for their continuous contributions to the mining industry. [sic]
Whew! I think the sign verbiage must have been written by someone in the PR office back east.

There are several interesting stories behind this sign, which is located just outside the fence of the old Paradise Peak Mine millsite about eight miles south of Gabbs in west-central Nevada (MSRMaps aerial B&W, Google Maps aerial color). One story tells of the old mecury miners, who stopped their underground diggings within 50 feet (or less) of gold ore, not knowing it was there; another story tells of the two Nevada Prospectors who brought company geologists into the district, which caused the claims to be staked, which caused the soil samples to be taken, and so on. There are many stories about the discovery of the gold deposit, about the geologists who discovered it, and about those who didn't. I won't get into all of them here — I'd need to do just a little more research. One discovery story keys in on the several names by which the ore deposit has been known.

After gold was discovered outcropping on top of a small, now mined-out hill, the geologists who did the discovering exclaimed, "Even a blind pig could have found it!" They said this because the mineralized knob or small hill was easily visible from the Pole Line Road — the main dirt road between Gabbs and Tonopah — and because rock samples from the top of the hill contained as much as 0.25 ounces per ton gold. (I think some samples ran as high as 0.35 opt Au.)

The unnamed knob was located near the north edge of the Granny Goose Well 1:24,000 quadrangle — the knob was split in half by two topo maps, and it was within three miles of the corner of four sheets, thereby meeting one of the rules every mine needs to meet (see below). The mine was first called "Granny Goose" or "The Goose" for short, named after the well or the topo sheet. Corporate types back east decided that "The Goose" didn't match their company image, so various fake names, labels, and other appellations were considered until the alias "Paradise Peak" — stolen from a nearby, often snow-covered peak located several miles to the northeast — was selected. The topographically misleading name fooled a few geotypes into looking for the newly discovered deposit in a totally incorrect location.

In order to preserve some sense of accuracy, and to register outrage at the incorrect labeling of their gold deposit, certain geologists wore football jerseys sporting the team name The Goosers, and some wore baseball caps imprinted with hill, headframe, and the saying, "Even A Blind Pig Could Have Found It!" Sometimes the knob was called Blind Pig Hill, most often it was just called The Knob.

The hill is entirely gone now, replaced by a relatively small hole in the ground. Stripping ratio, because the ore deposit stuck almost completely out of the ground the way it did, was almost negative (well, not really, that's a mathematical impossibility).

Some Locations:

Granny Goose Well - U.S. Board of Geographic Names

Granny Goose Well - 1:24,000 USGS Topographic Map, 1980.

Granny Goose Well - MSR Maps.

The knob and original location of the headframe - MSR Maps, the south end of the knob and headframe on the 1980 Granny Goose Well topo map.

Paradise Peak, the peak, and the Paradise Mine (not the Paradise Peak Mine) - on MSR Maps.

Some References:
John, D. A., 1988, Geologic map of Oligocene and Miocene volcanic rocks, Paradise Peak and western part of the Ione quadrangle, Nye County, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey, Miscellaneous Field Studies Map MF-2025, scale 1:24,000.

Sillitoe, R. H., and Lorson, R. C., 1994, Epithermal gold-silver-mercury deposits at Paradise Peak, Nevada; ore controls, porphyry gold association, detachment faulting, and supergene oxidation: Economic Geology, v. 89, no. 6, p. 1228-1248 [links to abstract].

Some Requirements for Finding a Mine:
  1. Be located within 5 miles of a paved road. ✓ The ore deposit was 2 air miles from pavement, 5 miles on dirt from pavement, and less than a mile from a main gravel road.
  2. Be located at or near the corner of 4 topo sheets. ✓ In fact, the ore deposit was bifurcated by two topo sheets and within three miles of the corner of four.
  3. Be located less than 30 miles from a bar. ✓ The knob was about 7 miles from a then active, now defunct bar and mini-mart.
The now defunct bar, where many rounds of no-slop, bank-the-eight were played (Austin Rules).

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