July 2006 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts




Mojave Expedition (11-12-05) photo gallery--Click the photo to go to the gallery



Burro Schmidt's

Tunnel Update

Burro Schmidt's "Famous Tunnel" now has a group of "friends" trying to preserve and protect the site.   

Click the photo to visit  their Website.



Click on the photo below to read more about Cerro Gordo.

Cerro Gordo now has its own Web site. Click the link below to visit.




The Panamint Breeze is a new publication highlighting the history and legends California and Nevada.  

Click on the logo for details.

The Mammoth Consolidated Mine

 by Cecile Page Vargo

          Tucked away on the mountain high above Old Mammoth, and modern day campgrounds, lies the site of the Mammoth Consolidated Mine, circa 1927 -1933. Today we can still go back to that time period, when the water wheels and horses of early day mining were replaced by gas powered machinery and modern transportation.

          The Mahan family was responsible for the Mammoth Consolidated, and donated the buildings and equipment that you see on the interpretive trail where remnants of buildings and machinery still stand. In 1927, A.G. Mahan Sr., his son Arch, and several partners purchased the claims under the full name of Mammoth Consolidated Mining Company. Samples taken early on indicated six tenths of an ounce of gold and one fifth of an ounce of silver per ton of rock. At 1927 prices that would be approximately $12.70 per ton. The mining company was located at the top of Red Mountain, which got it's name from the reddish orange iron sulphides in the rock. The iron sulphides made extraction of the gold ore more expensive, but the investors and owners were determined to keep the mine in operation as long as they could. About $100,000 of gold was pulled out, but it is doubtful that paid their expenses.

One of four wood and tarpaper bunkhouses where miners lived at the Mammoth Consolidated Mine. 

          The bunkhouses are the first buildings we come to as we begin the trail. Depending upon the time of year, there would have been anywhere from six to fourteen workers in the high sierra camp. Housing was provided in four tar paper-covered bunkhouses that were heated by cast iron wood stoves, but had no electricity or running water. The sun shining through the pocket windows and kerosene lanterns provided the only light in the buildings. A miner made $5.25 a day, which was good pay for the era. $1.25 of each days pay went towards bed and board.

          In addition to the miners, a cook, assayers, truck driver, blacksmith and superintendent lived at the camp. Mrs. Pemberton was a the cook. She was noted as a large woman that was not too friendly. Little complaints were made about the meals Mrs. Pemberton prepared on the old stove, probably because the men were afraid of her temperament.

          A.G. Mahon Sr. used a bedroom in the mining office, which consisted of the office itself and the two bedrooms. One bedroom was reserved for his use, the other was for visiting stockholders and potential investors. Son and daughter in-law, Arch and Gladys Mahan spent the warm months of the year in the lodgepole pine cabin that was built sometime around 1929. During the harsh winter months Arch would travel from Los Angeles every couple of weeks. Skis and snowshoes were donned for the last 30 miles of travel through snow depths which often reached as high as 25 feet and temperatures known to dip below minus 30 to 40 degrees. Arch carried the mail, payroll, and tobacco with him. Regular supplies were brought in by dogsled during the winters, by local residents, Bill Lewis and Tex Cushion.

          Much of the ore processing mill still remains. The actual frame that housed the 110 horsepower diesel engine and the equipment it powered was destroyed in an avalanche sometime during the 1940's. Large iron flywheels maintained smooth and continuous operation of the big single-cylinder engine. A smaller wooden bullwheel drove a 20 inch wide leather belt. This was connected to the largest pulley on the shaft. The rusty shaft remains, but the supporting 12 foot floor is long gone. From the shaft, more belts and pulleys distributed power to the machinery that was used to extract ore from the rock. 

The 110 HP Ingersol Rand diesel engine stands out amongst the clutter in the remains of the ore processing mill.

          Carts transported ore from the mines. These carts were pushed by the miners along a tramway to the processing mill. There it was dumped onto the large coarse steel grate known as a “grizzly”. The grizzly separated the rocks according to size, with the smaller chunks falling on through the grates and the larger chunks being rolled into the nearby jaw crusher to be turned into smaller chunks. A bucket conveyor lifted ore to a storage bin where it was then fed by small amounts into a barrel shaped container known as a “ball mill”. The ball mill here was five feet across and contained fist sized steel balls that pulverized the rock into sand as they bumbled over and over again. The concrete pillar supports for the ball mill still stand on the original old mill floor.

          Gold ore crushed to the consistency of sand came from the ball mill and was mixed with water to produce slurry. Larger grains were separated in a Dorr classifier. The Dorr classifier was a trough like device with mechanical racks. As the largest grains were separated, they were recycled through the ball mill.

          A slanting table covered with copper plates coated in mercury, also known as quicksilver, received the tiny ore particles as they were pumped into it. Mercury separated the gold from the minute sand particles to create a liquid gold-mercury mixture known as amalgam. The mercury was later separated from the gold in a small furnace in the assayers office.

          The sand particles that remained were washed in two slanted riffled tables at the bottom floor of the mill. These tables, named Wilfley concentrators, after the man that invented them vibrated back and forth sorting light waste material from heavier ore. The reddish brown concentrate was then shipped to Salt Lake City, Utah. The arsenic in the concentrate was removed for paint, and the remaining gold was returned back to Mammoth Consolidated Mining Company at Red Mountain.

          The opening of the mine tunnel, called the adit, is located at an elevation of 9220 feet on the mountain. It has been dug horizontally through solid rock for approximately 729 feet, following the ore vein. Eighty feet above the lower adit another tunnel runs parallel, cutting the vein at a higher level. The two tunnels are connected by a vertical shaft called a raise. The ore itself was dug out of large rooms, or stopes, which are off of the upper tunnel. This ore was dumped through the raise into a bin into the lower tunnel, and transported by ore carts to the mill. During the cold winters, ore was stockpiled for processing the following summer.

Snow drifts still cover the trail to the mine's lower adit in late June.

          A fire destroyed the wooden building which once protected the air compressor and the 100-horsepower diesel engine from weather. A portable air compressor was brought in to replace it. Both can be seen along the trail.

          Compressed air was brought inside the mine tunnels by pipe to power pneumatic drills. The drills bored holes into the rock. Dynamite was packed into the holes. Miners were prized for their ability to handle dynamite, as they drilled and set the right pattern of charges to fragment the rock into workable sizes, and extend the tunnel evenly in the right direction.

          With the Great Depression hitting in the 1930's, the Mammoth Consolidated ceased operations. By 1934,  Arch Mahan found more fortune in packing tourists into Devils Postpile by horse when he  purchased Reds Meadows Resorts. The mine property and equipment was leased out to various individuals over the years. In 1983 the Mahans took over the mine once again, and hired a caretaker to live at the camp. By 1989, the Mahan family donated what was left of the Mammoth Consolidated Mining Company  buildings and equipment, to the town of Mammoth Lakes.

          To find out more about this historic area, and how to get there, visit the Mammoth Ranger Station and the Southern Mono Historical Society Museum.


The Mammoth Consolidated Gold Mine, Mammoth Lakes California

Booklet provided at trailhead by Inyo National Fores,t Mammoth Ranger District


Mammoth Gold

by Gary Caldwell

Ginny Smith Books

Mammoth Lakes, 1990


Mammoth - Mono Country

by Lew & Ginny Clark

Western Trails Publication, 1981





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