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

13. Galena Canyon Talc Mines

a) Sites

Illustration 86. Map of Galena Canyon mining area.

(1) Bonny Mine

(a) History

The three adjacent claims comprising the Bonny Mine are located at the mouth of Galena Canyon on the south side of the road, their waste dumps glaringly visible from anywhere below Badwater. The claims were originally owned by Southern California Minerals Company of Los Angeles, whose only mining operations here occurred during 1954 to 1955, yielding approximately 2,300 tons of talc. The area was mined by dozer cuts on the surface and through adits and drifts underground. [326] The Bonny and Bonny #2 lode mining claims were subsequently patented by Pfizer, Inc., on 2 February 1976, and the Bonny #1 claim was acquired by them on 14 February 1966, but is not patented. The Bonny Millsites Nos. 1 and 2 were located on 3 November 1975. [327]

Since 1970 these pit and stripping operations have produced about 30,000 tons of talc from the mine, for a total value of over $1,600,000. Although there is no record of ore production for 1975, the site was being worked by dozers in 1977 and 1978. [328] In January of the latter year Pfizer began implementing its Proposed Plan of Operations by removing waste rock overburden in order to expose additional talc. The mine is currently an open-pit operation that is estimated to produce 9,000 tons annually. Underground development (room and pillar) is proposed to begin near the time of completion of the pit operations (projected at 1981). Twenty-five-ton trucks will be used to haul the ore to the company stockpile and mill at Victorville, California. [329]

(b) Present Status

Dozers at the Bonny Mine site today are continuing pit operations and are carving out terraced benches on the ridge at the mouth of Galena Canyon. This work is scheduled to continue until the depth of the ore bodies becomes excessive, necessitating mining by underground methods.

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

The Bonny Mine is not eligible for nomination to the National Register. It has no outstanding importance in Death Valley mining history, nor does it contain any, significant structures on site. An early prehistoric cave site was found west of the entrance to Galena Canyon, and two other small caves, one of which may have been inhabited by prospectors, were found on the north side of the mouth of Galena Canyon, but these would not appear to be affected by current mining activity. [330]

mine site
Illustration 87. Bonny talc Mine at mouth of Galena Canyon. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

(2) Mongolian Mine

(a) History

The Mongolian Mine Group, consisting of six contiguous claims, is located on the south side of Galena Canyon about one mile west from its mouth at an elevation of 1,800 feet. The claim group consists of the Mongolian lode mining claim (located 12 April 1928; patented 9 July 1963), the unpatented Mongolian No. 2, and Nos. 3 and 4 lode mining claims (located 10 and 30 October 1973), and the unpatented Mongolian Millsite Nos. 1-2 (located 13 March and 16 July 1976). [331]

The original claim was located in 1928, but not until the 1960s was a cut opened and the ore determined to be of sufficient quality and quantity to warrant a patent. Little progress in development and lack yet of a strong market for the talc impeded production for the next decade. Pfizer, Inc., began exploratory drilling operations in 1973 and a downdip stripping operation in 1974. This later phase had to be enlarged in late fall and early winter of 1975 because the more easily mined surface talc of the surrounding Galena Canyon mines had played out. The multiple-bench open-pit operation seen today is the result of an accelerated stripping program that was begun and completed before the moratorium period decreed by Public Law 94-429 had been instituted. [332]

So far, twenty-one acres of hillside have been disturbed by mining activity related to the Mongolian Mine. The Plan of Operations submitted for NPS approval proposes a five-phase program by which the waste rock overburden stripped from one section of the deposit would be used to backfill a previously-mined area. The entire program is contemplated to last through 1980, with reclamation beginning within six months of the end of activity. It would be judged complete after all benches were obliterated, the walls of the pit were sloped, the tops of the dumps were rounded off, and all areas were masked to match as much as possible the surrounding natural environment. This procedure is estimated to take one and one-half years. [333]

(b) Present Status

As seen from the Galena Canyon Road, this group consists of dumps and a terraced open pit.

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

The site has no historical importance and contains no significant structures.

(3) Mammoth Mine

(a) History

The Mammoth Claim Group, located 1-1/2 to 2 miles west from the mouth of Galena Canyon at an elevation of 1,400 feet, consists of the Mammoth and Mammoth No. 1 lode claims, patented 9 July 1963. The first underground exploratory activity here took place in the late 1950s, but actual underground mining operations were not undertaken until ten years later when Kennedy Minerals Company and C. K. Williams and Company initiated development of over 1,600 feet of underground workings. In addition, metal ore bins and other necessary facilities were erected and access roads built.

The new underground workings consisted of a main adit with associated raises connecting sublevels, opening the way for future room-and-pillar mining. A lower adit was projected below the main one in hopes of intersecting the ore body, but it failed to locate any talc. A few other smaller exploratory openings were also made, with total production during the 1960s reaching about 5,000 tons. From 1970 to 1974 the mine was idle, and then, in mid-1975 and early 1976 Pfizer, Inc., which had gained control of the property, sporadically activated the mine by mining and shipping small test loads procured in the vicinity of the old main adit by means of an open cut or pit. About 200 tons of ore have been produced since, with a resulting total surface disturbance to the entire area of 3.75 acres.

The proposed production schedule for the Mammoth Mine called for reopening the area early in 1978 with a force of two to four men. During the first three months of preliminary work necessary before commencing underground open room-and-pillar operations, it was expected that only a minimal production level could be maintained. By mid-1978, however, a production rate of 10,000 to 12,000 tons per year would be anticipated from the six to eight miners employed five days a week. Twenty-five-ton trucks, hauling two loads a day, would transfer the ore to the company's grinding plant at Victorville, California. The production rate of the mine, whose projected life span is at least fourteen years (longer if added reserves are found), is estimated to reach 20,000 tons a year. Reclamation will follow the termination of operations and will involve the rounding off of road cut crests and dumps, the reduction of high retaining banks, and removal of man-made structures. [334]

(b) Present Status

The Mammoth Mine workings today consist of active open-pit and underground operations. Man-made structures on the access road include two talc bins, consisting of two metal tanks with a wooden framework for a tramway trestle on top, and a small wooden shelter that once housed a compressor. Both structures probably date from the 1960s. An older adit, the second one dug in the 1960s in hopes of intersecting the talc body, with an associated waste dump, is visible east of the metal talc bins and lower in elevation.

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

The Mammoth Mine site is not historically important nor does it contain any significant structures.

(4) Death Valley Mine (White Eagle Claim)

(a) History

Galena Canyon is located immediately north of Warm Spring Canyon in the Panamint Range, and is reached via a gravel road leading west one-eighth of a mile north of Salt Well Tanks. The American-Italian Talc Company displayed initial interest in the talc deposits in the Panamint Range several years before the Warm Spring talc operations commenced, and laid claim to several areas in Galena Canyon. Incorporated with headquarters at Tonopah, Nevada, on 15 March 1927, the company boasted a capital stock of five million dollars, divided into five million shares with a par value of one dollar each. Beginning business with one thousand dollars in capital, the company proceeded to acquire claims in the Panamint Range and in the Black Mountains west of Tecopa. [335]

The first notice of the company's operations found in contemporary newspapers or journals was an article in the fall of 1929 stating that the American-Italian Talc Company was assembling a work crew and preparing to make shipments from its mine in Galena Canyon. The vice-president of the company stated that it had several orders to fill, one of them for 1,000 tons of ore. The exact production level reached by the Death Valley Mine at this time is unknown, but it was probably not more than a few hundred tons. [336] For the next few years operations were evidently suspended, during which time the American-Italian Company went defunct, emerging again in the summer of 1933 as the Death Valley Talc Company. The authorized capital stock was changed to $500,000 divided into 500,000 shares with a par value of $1 per share. S. D. Pipin, former president of the American-Italian Company, continued in this position in the new organization. [337]

mine site
Illustration 88. Death Valley talc Mine in Galena Canyon. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

A 1933 letter from the vice-president of the new Death Valley Talc Company to Superintendent White at Sequoia National Park (Death Valley at this time being administered under a joint superintendency with Sequoia National Park) informed him of the company's takeover of the American-Italian Company assets and of the new company's intention to ship some ore to the east within a few days' time. A camp had been established in the vicinity of the mine consisting of "four frame buildings fully equipped with cooking utensils, beds, stoves, mattresses, outhouse, blacksmith shop, tools, storage cellar, loading platforms, etc." [338] The remote location of the deposits has always presented some problems for the owners. This was most serious during the earlier days when transportation facilities were not as advanced or dependable. This concern was voiced by Mr. Umbdenstock, who requested help in improving the road from the valley floor to the mines.

By 1938 the company's property in Galena Canyon included ten claims. Eight men ran a grinding plant where material ran through a "40-ton bin, steel chute about 100 ft. long, to hammer mill, elevator, to air separator where minus 200 product is taken out to two other air separators, products minus 400 and minus 700 mesh; oversize to 6 by 5 pebble mill, discharge back to air separation system. Products are sacked by hand. Sixty h.p. Venn-Severn oil engine supplies the power. Capacity 36 tons per day. [339]

About the year-to-year operations of the mine little could be found, so that only broad comments can be made on the subsequent progress of the company through the years. From 1937-to 1942 the mine yielded about 7,500 tons of talc, some of which was mined by the Pomona Tile Company which leased the property from 1940 to 1942. The mine was then either idle or only sporadically worked until 1953 when the eleven claims were sold to the Kennedy Minerals Company, which began active and continuous operation of the mine, producing another 55,500 tons of commercial talc by 1959. The total number of claims under their ownership had reached twenty-four by 1968, including mine workings and prospecting excavations. [340]

(b) Present Status

The five talc mines currently active in Galena Canyon--the Bonny, Mongolian, Mammoth, White Chief, and White Eagle--are owned by the Minerals, Pigments, and Metals Division of Pfizer, Inc., which also has controlling interest in talc claims in the Ibex Hills and Saratoga Springs areas. The Death Valley Mine is part of the underground workings of the White Eagle Mine, whose operations to the east involve downdip stripping operations in an open pit. These five operations are located on three adjacent fault blocks, with the White Eagle and White Chief mines being the two talc-bearing sites on the middle fault block. Deposits here have been mined mostly by downdip stripping. [341]

The northern segment of the talc zone in this middle fault block is the one containing the Death Valley Mine, including about thirty patented and unpatented claims. This site has yielded, by underground mining methods, practically all of the commercial talc produced on this claim before 1960. The earliest section of the mine, high up on the hillside, is known as the "Pomona workings," and consists of a 250-foot-long inclined shaft, which is eventually intersected by a 150-foot-long adit. The principal mine consists of three levels of drifts, adits, and winzes. [342]

The most imposing structure at the Death Valley Mine today is a large wooden two-section ore bin: one double bin with two to four chutes on the right and a smaller one-chute ore bin to the left. Also visible are at least four adits, a working platform area on top of the bins on which are located a storage dugout, a small office structure, two ore cars, a metal bunk, and ore scoops. Remains of a large-diameter pipe line advance down the hillside north of the main portal and over the dump pile. [343]

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

The Death Valley Mine does not meet the criteria of evaluation for the National Register due to a lack of associative significance in the mining history of Death Valley. Dates of construction of the large ore bin are unknown, but a large grinding plant had been built somewhere in the area by 1938. No evidence of this building was found. Because the remaining structures at the mine are remnants of the oldest talc mining operation in Galena Canyon, with initial work dating from the 1920s, it is recommended they be accorded a treatment of benign neglect. Some interesting pieces of mining equipment on site (ore cars, forge, etc.) should be examined relative to possible interpretive use. This mine is part of an active talc operation and it is possible that Pfizer would donate some of these old items. [Note: Archeologists from the Western Archeological Center found remains of a mining camp with stone foundations near an ore chute thought to be on the White Eagle Claim. These have not been seen by this writer, but reportedly appeared to be relatively recent in origin (1950s). According to survey maps seen by this writer, the site is located between the Mammoth and Death Valley mines near the Kennedy Minerals camp.]

The Kennedy Minerals camp, one-quarter to one-half mile east of the Death Valley Mine, is a small community of white frame and corrugated-metal residences built in the 1930s. It is undoubtedly the camp referred to in 1933 as being used by the Death Valley Talc Company and located near their steatite deposit (Death Valley Mine). This complex is not historically significant. It has lost much of its structural integrity and is currently in a state of decay. Other type specimens of early talc camps exist within the monument in a better state of preservation.

mining relics
Illustration 89. Ore car and workshop on platform area, Death Valley talc Mine, Galena Canyon. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

Illustration 90. Kennedy Minerals Camp, Galena Canyon. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003