Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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A. Southern Panamints and West Side Road (continued)

12. Carbonate (Carbonite) and Queen of Sheba Mines

a) History

(1) Clarence E Eddy Locates Original Outcrop

The Carbonate Mine is situated on an east-trending ridge of the Panamint Range on the west side of Death Valley at an elevation of about 1,200 feet. Its workings are about 1/4 of a mile north of the Queen of Sheba Lead Mine tunnel and mill ruins. The area, about thirty-two miles south of Furnace Creek Ranch and thirty-seven miles west of Shoshone, is reached via a four-mile-long dirt road veering off southwest from Salt Well about 1/8 mile south of the Galena Canyon-West Side Road intersection. The track is now seldom used and extremely rutted from water and wind erosion.

The Carbonate Mine is the earlier of the two discoveries on this site. In the summer of 1907, when Clarence E. Eddy was exploring the southwest slopes of Death Valley, he and some associates began to develop a certain large galena outcrop about one mile from what later became the townsite of Carbonite. News of the strike attracted other prospectors to the scene; among these were Frank Stockton and a mining engineer named Chester A. Pray, who located the "Carbonite" Mine in 1908. The property was probably named for the type of ore found there--lead carbonate with silver. [284]

(2) Jack Salsberry Tackles a Multitude of Problems

The town and camp of Carbonite sprang up as a result of the interest manifested in the Carbonite Mine by Ed Chafey and Jack Salsberry (variously spelled Salisbury, Saisbury, Salisberry, and Salsburry), who formed the Carbonate Lead Mines Company of Death Valley with general offices in Manhattan, Nevada. [285] The problem that had hindered development of the area in the early 1900s--lack of transportation to a railhead--was immediately approached and just as quickly solved by the enterprising Salsberry. The mine was located about forty miles from the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad station at Zabriskie, so Salsberry proceeded to build a wagon road from Salt Well, four miles east of the mine, over the Black Mountains to the railroad, enabling the ore to be hauled by freight teams about thirty miles across Death Valley to the Amargosa Range where a gasoline tractor hauled it the last sixteen miles to town. (This is the same route followed by today's Salsbury Pass road.)

Salsberry's company next negotiated for 150 head of stock to transport the ore to the spot where it could be taken over by the tractor. It was anticipated that with this system ten carloads of ore a week could be sent to Salt Lake City smelters. [286] Forty to fifty head of horses and mules were acquired at first, working as four ten-animal teams, with plans made to utilize 200 more, each animal hauling half a ton. The capacity of the tractor was about ten tons, which would be increased as the road improved and was packed down with use. Intense heat was a serious problem for the mine workers, the thermometer often reaching 130°F. in the shade and at least once as high as 164°F. To protect themselves, the men lived and slept in the mine tunnels, which also contained the kitchen and boarding house.

By late fall of 1913 only two carloads of ore from the mine had left the Zabriskie station, but further development work was to be carried on throughout the winter months by an increased force of men. Because the ore body appeared extensive and rich in minerals, a loading chute for the large amount of ore expected to arrive soon from the mine was erected at Zabriskie by the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad. [287] By 1914 the camp was being referred to as the "latest sensation of the western mining world." [288] and the presence of extensive nearby deposits of lead, silver, gold, and copper seemed to promise another desert bonanza. The Carbonite Mine had now been developed to a depth of 300 feet, with lead and silver ore values reputedly running as high as two million dollars. The transportation force now comprised sixty mules and a twenty- or twenty-five-ton traction engine. (It was rumored at this time in the newspapers that the Southern Pacific Railroad was in the process of constructing a branch within fifteen miles of the town. Such a project never materialized.) The nearby camp was said to be "a typical desert metropolis, constructed with tents, rocks, tincans, dry goods boxes, whiskey bottles and anything that comes handy." [289] Water for domestic use was hauled in from Zabriskie.

As was the case with most desert boom towns of the time there were those who urged restraint and moderation in the assessment of future production:

A pretty story about the starting [of] a boom town in the heart of Death Valley is going the rounds. Diamondfield Jack Davis is mentioned as hiking to the new Eldorado, and it is not difficult to trace his fine Italian hand in the invention which has so much foundation as the beautiful mirages that are found in that section of the universe . . . . The truth about Carbonate Camp is good enough, but it will require time before the properties of that section are on a highly profitable basis. The question of transportation remains to be solved, and nothing short of the construction of a railroad can answer the purpose of hauling the ores to market. The traction engine that was supposed to work such wonders has not delivered the tonnage which was relied upon to make the investment more than fairly profitable and no substitute has yet been found for the humble horse and mule in negotiating the sands of the desert. A proposition to build a railroad is under contemplation by a combination of salt interests and the men behind Carbonate and, until this line is constructed, there will be no rush to Death Valley. [290]

Evidently the failure of the traction engine to transport a satisfactory amount of ore resulted in the addition of two motor trucks to the route. [291]

Four months later Salsberry's transportation fleet had been increased to sixteen large trucks that carried ore daily from the Carbonate Mine to Zabriskie, which, incidentally, was now teeming with activity occasioned by incoming men and freight and outgoing ore shipments. Fifteen mines were operating in the vicinity and utilizing the little railroad station as their supply point. Currently shipping one carload of ore per day, the Carbonate Mine was considered profitable since lead was bringing from $57.50 to $75.00 per ton. Salsberry had even constructed a small hotel for his workmen at a midpoint between his mine and Zabriskie (its exact location could not be determined by the writer), where two cooks were required to serve just the sixty truckers employed by the company. Twelve more trucks were being ordered around this time. [292]

(3) Progress of the Carbonate Lead Mines Company

In August another in a continuing series of reports on the progress of the Carbonate Lead Mines Company appeared. Only three miners were required to keep full the ten trucks, of 6-1/2-ton capacity each, that were currently hauling from the property. Ore from the mine, which had now undergone about 900 feet of development work and which showed a vein from 2-1/2 to 15 feet wide, was averaging about 37% lead, 20 ozs. in silver, and $5 in gold, resulting in a value of about $40 per ton of ore. Since transportation averaged only about $12 per ton, the company was realizing a nice profit from this mine. [293]

In 1917 the workings at the Carbonate Mine were described by the California state mineralogist: development consisted of three tunnels (upper, 100 feet long, 60 feet below apex; second, 150 feet long, 30 feet below first; lower [main], 300 feet long, 100 feet below second); the ore recovered was dumped into a bin outside the lower tunnel, from which it was loaded into four-ton motor trucks. Because these shipments were now costing about $15 a ton, the trucks were being replaced by caterpillar-type tractors--a move that would hopefully lower transportation costs. About forty tons of ore a week, averaging 35 percent to 40 percent lead, were being shipped to the U.S. Smelting and Refining Company in Salt Lake City. Only four men were employed by the mining company, whose home office was now evidently in San Francisco. [294]

From 1915 to 1918 the Carbonate Mine produced about 11,000 tons of ore averaging 15 percent lead and S oz. of silver per ton. [295] By 1920 the operation was reported to be idle, although one reference during this time period mentions the "caterpilar" road to the Carbonate Mine as being a good one, which tends to indicate that the mine was active sporadically. The Carbonate Mine was again mentioned in 1923, with the implication that it was still producing. [296]

(4) New Sutherland Divide Mining Company Takes Over

In that year notices were appearing on the transfer of ownership of several mining locations in the general area of the Carbonate Mine. On 1 June a quitclaim deed was granted by R.(oger) H. Downer, A. I. D'Arcy, and Nettie H. D'Arcy of Goldfield to the New Sutherland Divide Mining Company, the Nevada corporation that superseded the Carbonate Lead Mines Company in ownership of the Carbonate property, for the July 1, 2, and 3 lode mining claims "situated 10 miles south of Bennett Hole, on the east slope of the Panamint Mountains, in an unknown mining district; also July 4, 5, 6 and 7 lode mining claims, situated 4 miles west of Salisbury Wells, on the east slope of Panamint Mountains, in an unknown mining district." [297]

In November 1923 an M. (?) H. Downer of Goldfield deeded to the New Sutherland Divide Mining Company the Ajax Nos. 1-3 lode mining claims five miles southwest of "Salisbury's Well." [298] The following month the U.S. Smelting, Refining. & Mining Company contracted with the New Sutherland Divide Mining Company to take over operation of their lead mine, the smelting company realizing 51% of the profits. The wartime production of the mine had been 1,950 tons of lead and 97,000 ozs. of silver, and a profitable amount of ore still existed on its dumps. [299]

It appears that the Queen of Sheba workings, about 1,500 feet southwest of the Carbonate Mine, were a further extension of exploratory work on the latter and were in the same ore zone, so that the two actually comprised one extensive mining operation. When exactly this later lode was opened up is uncertain, but definite mention of it by name appears in 1924, describing it as consisting of nine claims owned by the New "Southerland" Divide Mining Company of San Francisco, but recently leased to the U.S. Smelting, Refining & Mining Company of Boston. The ore on these claims was said to be rich: 6,500 tons of sorted ore that had been shipped to the Salt Lake City smelter averaged 40% lead and 20 ozs. silver per ton. At the prices later reached for lead in 1926, this amount of ore could have grossed over $500,000. [300]

U. S. Smelting and Refining originally planned on spending a vast amount of money to develop the Queen of Sheba, which was regarded as the largest body of proved commercial-grade ore in the Death Valley region; when its connection with the mine began to be used for stock-jobbing purposes, however, the company surrendered its lease. [301] By 1925 D'Arcy and his Victory Divide Mining Company had reached an agreement with the Sutherland Company and initiated a twenty-five-year lease beginning 27 August 1924 on the Carbonate-Queen of Sheba. By this agreement Victory Divide would undertake exploration, mining, development, and treatment of the ore and the owners would receive royalties of 12-1/2% of the ore value after a deduction for smelting costs. From 1917 to 1925 the mine produced about 200 tons of crude ore. [302]

In 1926 the Victory Divide Company was concentrating on the Queen of Sheba group of claims, which, it had recently been determined, were not in the main ore body, although twenty-two feet of mill-grade ore had been found. The primary vein was determined to be in a tunnel on up the mountainside, which the company hoped to intersect by pushing forward in the main Queen of Sheba tunnel. Lead was now selling at the highest peacetime price ever, which was expected to soon equal that for copper. Because silver was found in conjunction with the lead ore at the Queen of Sheba, the company expected to realize large profits after erection of a mill. [303]

In March 1926 the Victory Divide Company was concentrating on the twenty-two-foot-wide vein of ore struck earlier, which by this time had been proven to extend at least several thousand feet and which measured from twenty to twenty-five feet wide. Thirty to fifty thousand tons of ore were expected from the vein, which was assaying 15% lead and 10 ozs. silver (worth about $35 a ton)--an excellent showing and better than that ore being mined in the principal camps of Utah and Idaho, whose best ore averaged about $15 a ton. R. H. Downer, the well-known mining engineer from Goldfield, who was also a director and consulting engineer for the Victory Divide Company, was instructed to make intensive studies of the company's development operations and of the surface and underground geology of the mine in order to ascertain the areas of ore occurrence and thus facilitate the development work. His studies were expected to show that the Queen of Sheba silver-lead deposit was one of the most extensive in the United States:

The work to date has demonstrated [sic] the orebody to be about 25 feet in width, proved at numerous places along the course of the vein, both by surface and underground workings, for a length of between 1,500 and 2,000 feet. This undoubtedly constitutes one of the most continuous bodies of highgrade silver-lead ore in the west, and in view of the favorable conditions in connection with the occurrence, it only remains for the management to open up the mine in an aggressive way to enable it to commence production on a large scale. [304]

Downer's findings seemed to support the opinion voiced by the company and the newspapers that the Carbonate-Queen of $heba Mine was "destined to be one of the biggest silver-lead producers of the United States." The reserves already blocked out were estimated at between 1 and 1-1/2 million dollars in value. [305] A month later lead-silver ore assaying $30 to $90 a ton in lead and silver and containing appreciable amounts of gold was uncovered in the Queen of Sheba south drift--"the greatest lead discovery made in recent years in the Southwest." [306] This strike encompassed the Ajax Claim southwest of the Queen of Sheba tunnel where work was still continuing in an effort to intersect the rich orebody showing on the surface. The situation in the Queen tunnel seemed to be constantly improving:

In one place in the tunnel the ore body has been found to be twenty-two feet in width. A drift on the ore to the north for a distance of seventy feet showed average values of from $15 to $20 to the ton; while to the south twelve feet of ore is said to have been uncovered assaying $35 to the ton. Six feet further on, according to the mine superintendent, the face measured eighteen feet, the ore returning assay values of $88 per ton, with improvements being noted as work progresses.

The company has under consideration the construction of a large concentrating plant, as water is easily available [Salt Well]. [307]

Although work was now focusing primarily on the Queen of Sheba, in June samples were taken from an old 100-foot tunnel on the Carbonate Claim. It was found the ore averaged better than 8% lead and 4 ozs. silver for the entire length of the tunnel. [308] In its main workings at this time the company reported it had 50,000 tons of ore blocked out, averaging 15% lead and 7 to 10 ozs. in silver, assaying $30 to $35 a ton. The vein had been followed at least 3,000 feet and the main tunnel was still being advanced. Victory Divide Mining Company shares were listed on the exchange and its stock continued active. [309]

The state mineralogist reported in the fall of 1926 that six men were pushing development work at the Carbonate Mine, now known as the Queen of Sheba Group of Mines, in three tunnels that had been driven on the ore body, and that another lower excavation was still being advanced to intersect ore bodies worked in the upper tunnels. [310] By December, in an attempt to garner enough funds to carry on development work until a milling plant could be financed, the Victory Divide Company issued Assessment No. 6 of one cent per share to its stockholders (proceeds from Assessment No. 5 had supported the mine for over a year). [311] From 1930 to 1931 around 3,300 tons of ore were mined from the Carbonate, but from 1932 to 1935 production dropped significantly to less than 1,000 tons. [312]

(5) Waning Years

In 1932 the Carbonate, or Queen of Sheba, was again described as having only three tunnels: the upper, 60 feet below the outcrop, was 100 feet long; 30 feet below that was the second, 300 feet long. Although the report said that the lower tunnel intended to tap the ore bodies worked in the upper tunnels was the fourth one, it was probably only the third tunnel. Operations had been suspended by this time. [313] By 1936 the Queen of Sheba Group was listed as the only important property at "Carbonate," and was said to have been sporadically active since 1918, with a total production of about $200,000. [314]

In 1938 the Carbonate Mine was still owned by the New Sutherland Divide Mining Company, but was now under lease to a John P. Madison and H. L. Hellwig, who had evidently been shipping from there for the last seven years. In May their equipment consisted of trucks, a compressor, air drills, and cars; ten men were employed. The ore was still hauled by truck to Zabriskie for shipment to the Salt Lake City smelters. Development on the Carbonate Claim consisted of a series of stoped tunnels to a vertical depth of 150 feet and a long crosscut tunnel below which no ore had been encountered. The Queen of Sheba had a tunnel 1,000 feet long with a few crosscuts--no ore had been developed here. By October Madison had crosscut west about 40 feet 200 feet above the old tunnel and had stoped some ore from 2 to 8 feet wide in drifts from the crosscut. The ore now being found was generally of a higher grade than in the past. The property was being only sporadically worked, however. [315]

The next few years are scanty in information on the mine, which remained mostly inactive. A letter from the Death Valley National Monument superintendent to a Mr. D. C. Wray of Las Vegas concerning the possibilities of improvement of the road into the Carbonate Mine indicates that some mining activity was continuing here during World War II. [316] The New Sutherland Divide Company resumed work in 1944, and after extensive sampling, the mine was reopened by means of three 100-foot crosscut adits with many drifts; rises totaling 2,500 feet were driven at 50-foot vertical intervals. [317] A year later the Mining Journal reported that the New Sutherland Divide Company had suspended operations for the summer, but that about sixty tons of ore had been shipped daily from the Queen of Sheba prior to that, the material being trucked to Manix, California, for rail shipment to the smelter. [318]

In 1948 the Queen of Sheba ore assayed 7% lead and 5 to 10 ozs. of silver per ton, but shipments were small. The Carbonate Mine was reopened in 1948 and ore concentrates assayed 35 to 40% lead. [319] During 1947-48 a long-awaited flotation mill was built, intended to treat 100 tons of ore a day. The plant included a 10- by 20-inch jaw crusher, a 5- by 7-1/2-foot Marcy ball mill, a Bendelari jig, a classifier, agitators, flotation cells, concentrating tables, and a disc-type filter. A 250-kw GE, diesel-powered generator supplied power. Water was pumped from Salt Well, four miles east, against an 1,150-foot hydraulic head. Construction of this plant resulted in a short flurry of activity, but although several hundred tons of ore were mined and milled by the New Sutherland Company from 1948 to 1949, mining operations finally ceased in mid-1949. [320] In 1950 the interest of the New Sutherland Company was relinquished to Mr. William Friml of Hollywood. The property was then leased to the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company from 1952 to 1953, and some drilling was done, but no new ore bodies were found. In 1961 a Mr. Ray Bennett of Westminster, California, leased the property.

Total production of the Queen of Sheba has reportedly been 16,000 tons of crude ore yielding 5,000,000 lbs. of lead, 100,000 ozs. of silver, 1,500 ozs. of gold, and 146,000 lbs. of copper. Ore from the mine has averaged 15.5% lead, .5% copper, 6.3 ozs. of silver, and .09 oz. of gold per ton. [321]

mine site
Illustration 82. Carbonate Mine workings on hillside northeast of Queen of Sheba Lead Mine. Photo by Park Ranger Warren H. Hill, courtesy of DEVA NM.

mine site
Illustration 83. Queen of Sheba Mine and Mill site, 1962. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

mining relics
Illustration 84. View north showing stone ruins, appliances strewn about, and flotation mill ruins. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

b) Present Status

The site designated "Queen of Sheba Mine" on the USGS Wingate Wash quadrangle map consists of two separate mine operations. The earlier Carbonate Claim, comprising three adits and about 1,600 feet of horizontal development on four levels, is on the south slope of an east-trending ridge northeast of the Queen of Sheba Mine, whose workings extend higher up on a hillside on an east slope of the Panamints about 1,300 to 1,500 feet southwest of the Carbonate. These latter workings comprise four adits driven southwest into the ridge where four levels provide access to 1,900 feet of level workings. [322] As of 1976 the Roy Group of fifteen lode claims, located during 1971 and 1972, incorporate the old Queen of Sheba and Carbonate Mine workings. (The Roy Millsite claim covers Salt Well Tanks.) [323]

The structures on the mine site as of 1 April 1978 included two wooden shacks, a loading dock, some stone foundations (possibly dugouts or crude smelters), a large and more recent corrugated-metal industrial building, and the ruins of the flotation mill, above which an adit is visible on the hillside. [324] The two wooden cabins south of the mill ruin probably functioned as residences; appliance parts are strewn on the ground outside. Inside the two rock and mortar foundation ruins are pieces of charred timber. The ruins appear round, though slightly irregular, in outline.

The mill structure is quite imposing due to the presence of four levels of cement floor foundations, a great deal of the wooden framework, and various machinery items still on site. The metal shed and flotation mill ruin probably both date from the 1940s. All that remains of the structure below the ore bin shown in a 1962 view (Illus. 76) as having high wooden timbered walls is a cracked clay floor about two feet high and twenty to twenty-five feet in diameter through which water or some other liquid was routed. A rotating apparatus of some sort that once stood up in the center of this structure has fallen over. Water from Salt Well, although it could not be used for drinking purposes, was used to power the mill at the Queen of Sheba. The water had to be pumped in two stages against an 1,150 to 1,200-foot head.

North of the Queen of Sheba workings are those connected with the Carbonate Mine. These consist of three tunnels with a reserve bin below the lower tunnel from which ore was loaded onto trucks and hauled to Zabriskie.

ore bin and mill ruins
Illustration 85. View easterly of Queen of Sheba ore bin and mill ruins. Road in left background leads to Salt Well. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

c) Evaluation and Recommendations

Ward C. Smith, in a report on mineral resources within the monument, points out that several major lead, silver, and zinc producers exist- in Inyo County within a belt extending across the monument lands from the old deposits at Cerro Gordo on the west to Tecopa, southeast of Shoshone, outside the monument's eastern boundary. Within Death Valley three large lead deposits exist--the Queen of Sheba Mine and the Ubehebe and Lippincott mines near Ubehebe Peak--of which the first has been the most productive, yielding approximately $300,000 worth of ore prior to 1944 and about 16,000 tons of crude ore (five million pounds of lead) during its lifetime. Second in productivity is the Ubehebe Mine, which has furnished approximately 3,500 total tons of ore (two million pounds of lead), and trailing is the Lippincott Mine, whose total tonnage production is unknown but whose output has been valued at around $80,000. [325] The Queen of Sheba (Carbonate) Mine has had a long and varied history dating from the early 1900s through the 1970s. Its importance in Death Valley mining history relates to its status as the most productive lead mine in the monument, both in amount of ore produced and in its total value. For this reason it is being nominated to the National Register as being of local significance.

The mill-associated buildings that remain standing at the Queen of Sheba site (shacks, metal shed, mill ruins) date primarily from the 1940s, although their exact date of construction could be as early as the late 1930s. In the early 1900s a rude mining camp of undetermined size existed in the vicinity, but no traces of it were found. Whether the two stone dugout foundations date from this period is unknown, because no artifacts were found in association that might be used to date the structures. Several items of old mining machinery lie in various stages of disrepair on the site and should be examined by someone knowledgeable in early mining techniques and equipment. Some of these pieces might be useful for interpretive efforts or for research purposes.

The writer suggests that this property be used to interpret the lead-silver phase of mining activity in Death Valley. One of the monument's unique attributes is the wide variety of minerals that have been sought after and exploited here, and these should be indicated to the visiting public, who should also be made aware of the diverse types of milling operations used to process the many metallic and nonmetallic elements. The only other lead mines in the monument are in the Ubehebe District and, inaccessible to most tourists. In addition, neither of them supported as large or as enterprising a reduction plant. It is also recommended that some type of interpretive marker be erected, possibly at the junction of the mine's access road with the West Side Road, identifying the site and briefly highlighting portions of its history. Because the rough condition of the road to the mine tends to discourage visitation, emphasis should be laid on interpreting the site in more detail at the monument visitor center.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003