Monday, August 22, 2011

Ghost Mine Monday - Confidence Mine, Big Cottonwood District

Well, here we are again. Another week, another blog post. What should we cover this week? A mine? Is that all you people can think about? I have so much more to offer! Fine, we'll look at a mine so you crybabies will get off my back. But that means you won't get to read about the time I tried to make crepes. I guess that's ok because that story would only make us feel bad.

Writing about mines is tricky. Some people don't like posts about mines. It doesn't have cats saying "I can haz" or stuff like that, nor does it have *ahem* blue content. In fact, I'm not entirely sure what it has. Huh. I've kinda run out of steam. Well, nothing to do but power forward! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you....

Yesssirree, we are about to embark on another journey into the cold clutches of lady earth. And our portal to earthly delights is named the Confidence Mine. Oh, look, here we are!

Friendly little place, isn't it? Going into mines can take some getting used to, and probably shouldn't ever be done anyway. But before we dive right in, we need a few facts. Facts are like little hammers we can use to bash in the nails of ignorance while we create the ship of enlightenment! Or something like that. I'm tired.

The first item we need to know is where the mine is. Well, that one is easy enough. It's in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Still confused? Let's look at the map!

The Big Cottonwood Mining District is located within beautiful Big Cottonwood Canyon. It's a feisty little geologic feature located not too far from downtown Salt Lake City, and is full of all sorts of wildlife that one would expect to find in the wilderness. It is called Big Cottonwood Canyon because it is located right next to a smaller canyon that has conveniently named Little Cottonwood Canyon. Actually, it's located right next to several smaller canyons, but I'm not in the mood to list them. Most are filled with rich people's houses guarded with big fancy gates with names like "Le Mason De Ted" or "Doctor Bill's Palatial Palace". As an interesting side note, these people don't like to buy Scout-o-Rama tickets, so don't waste your time. Anyway, I imagine that after nearly 170 years of constantly being reminded that it is the smaller of the two canyons, Little Cottonwood Canyon has got to be pretty upset, but what is it going to do about it? Glaciate us back into the stone ages? When your movements are measured in eons, it can be hard to exact revenge.

Anyway, now that we know where we are, let's look at a little history. The Big Cottonwood Mining District fired up around the year 1870. The initial prospectors were army scouts sent out by Colonel Patrick O'Connor, and then ran around digging holes here and there, laughing and swearing and doing whatever other things they did. As a reward for their efforts, they discovered several rich ore bodies just waiting to be plucked from the picnic basket of lady nature. The ore generally consisted of our old friend galena (you should read that post again) which was joined by the friendly minerals Chalcopyrite (it's basically just pyrite with copper in it), Sphalerite (zinc mixed with a blast of sulfur), and gold, precious, precious gold. Mining in the canyon continued at a stop-and-go pace until 1967, at which point people decided that skiing in the canyon was more fun than digging little holes in it. From that point onward the mines were forgotten, and the cursing, scratching, prostitute-frequenting miners were replaced by cursing, scratching, prostitute-frequenting lawyers and software designers. The district doesn't have a bad record though. Total metal production amounted to 30,600 ounces of gold, 17.5 million ounces of silver, 18.1 million pounds of copper, 252 million pounds of lead and minty topping of 4.7 million pounds of zinc.

So there we go, now we have the loin-cloth of geologic knowledge that will protect our midsections from the sexually-transmitted diseases of ignorance! The miners have all long left, but look what they left behind! Mines! Mines for us to foolishly explore! In we go!

Well, bad news right from the start. It appears that the Confidence Mine has a little water problem. That's going to happen in mines from time to time. But without water, we wouldn't be able to see the glorious birth of some new stalactites!

In a few hundred thousand years, you are going to have some hefty stalactites on your hands. But you won't get to see them because you'll be long dead. I guess geology got its revenge after all. Now here's something more human in origin...

Wooden stakes! Pounded into the solid rock! These were used to hold cords and powerlines off the floor and out of everyone's way. Now they are just sort...there.

Ah, what fun. Anyway, it's high time we learned where all this water coming from. Look! I think we are hot on the trail....

The water is coming from the very walls we are relying on for life!

Apparently the Confidence Mine has crossed into a rather sizable aquifer within the bedrock. But no time to dwell on that now! Look what we've just found!

That wooden box once held several mighty sticks of dynamite. While it can be fun to come across dynamite boxes, finding dynamite in a mine (which happens on occasion), is a lot less fun. You see, if dynamite doesn't get to fulfill its purpose within a few years of manufacture, it tends to get a little unstable. It's like a Golden Retriever puppy that never gets played with so it ends up being that dog that always seems happy to see you until you get near it and then bites off one of your brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hightops.

Let's continue down the way and see what we can see...

Huh. More water. That's not very interesting. We can see water in the toilet at home. Hey, now here's something...

Looks like we have ourselves some good old-fashioned miner graffito. Miners would burn these cryptic message into the walls using their carbide lamps. What message has this forgotten soul chosen to pass onto generations of the future? Looks like "9+h". As true now as when it was written.

The Confidence Mine belonged to a group named the Union Associated Group. They were probably a stogy group, sitting around smoking their over-sized cigars, talking about how well their coal monopolies were doing. The mine was founded in 1930, and the workings included two adits (that's what mining folk call horizontal shafts), and a single winze (those are what mining folk call smaller vertical shafts within the mine that are used to access lower levels. This is opposed to a "raise" which is the same thing except used to access higher levels). The reason the whole thing was here was because the prospectors saw this vein...

While that vein didn't have any massive gold nuggets on the surface, miners were always willing to chase them into the hillside in the hope that they may start to have something useful in them later on. Sometimes they will chase it using multiple tunnels, which is what they did here. In fact, let's just draw the thing out so we can get a handle on what's going on.

There. The good news is that all those pictures above came from Adit #1! We still have a bunch of mine to explore! In we go!

Look at this! Not more than 30 feet into the mine and we've already hit miners gold!

That is an inclined winze! Those metal rails are probably part of an old ladder. I say maybe because I'm not sure what I'm talking about. Anyway, what I AM sure of is that this shaft has been reclaimed by the water it was stolem from all those years ago...

Ahh, what fun. I don't know what's down there, but I'm suspecting that there was a reason they dug this thing. People are lazy creatures, and digging pits for no reason is rarely an activity we engage in. Or at least I don't, I can't speak for the rest of you. Weirdos.

Let's move on. Deeper and deeper into the mists of questionable quality!

Ooooo..look! Old wooden railroad ties! Still in place after all these years! Now if only we could find railroad rails. Maybe they will show up later. But for now, we've found something else to occupy our time!

It's a stope! I can't remember if we've covered what a stope is already. But if we haven't, it's a cavern created when miners dig out all the ore. It's like how you feel after getting dumped. A sad mockery of the confident person you used to be. Sounds like you need a trip to the Confidence Mine! Onwards! Look at this!

This part of the mine has kinda caved in. Cave-ins are what cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up as soon as you enter a mine. The hilarious thing is that you are far more likely to die from falling down an abandoned shaft or breathing bad air than you are to die from a cave-in! Ahhhh, go ahead and laugh at yourselves for being so foolish, then let's move on.

Look at this! Another stope! Also there seems to be another tunnel heading off to our right! What mysteries await us down that tunnel? Nazi Gold? Inca Jewels? Or is it something dangerous like a rabid bear, evil Santa, or a Nissan Cube? Let's boldly go where no one has gone...for a while!

Turns out that there was nothing down that tunnel at all. Just some scary darkness. A little further down the tunnel was a hole that lead down into the bowels of nature. I didn't take any pictures of it because I was too busy trying to get away from it. Sometimes mines have unmapped holes. Let's go down the main tunnel some more. I have a feeling we are about to find something awesome. Like good Santa.

Nope! It was the original rails for the ore carts! Still in place! Usually the mines would pull up their tracks whenever they could because you could sell them for money. Mines were largely ventures that were operated with the intent to make money. That's an important thing to remember. But what about the people who used to work these tunnels? What other artifacts can we find that tell us about them?

Well, we know that they drank Schlitz Beer! This can may indicate that someone was in this mine at some point in the 60's or 70's. Unless the miners in the 1930's discovered some way to obtain beers of the future, which I doubt. Who knows though. Hey, maybe that's what this other mysterious panel of miner's musings is all about.

Looks like we have the letter "S" as well as what may or may not be a crude drawing of an ample buttocks. And to think that these poor miners were born too early to enjoy the song "I Like Big Butts". Don't cry now! We've got to finish off the mine!

Oh, here we are. That my friends, is a backfilled tunnel. Sometimes the miners would do this with their waste rock if they had decided that a particular part of the mine wasn't going to work out. You can't tell from the picture, but there is water squirting out from all over the place, so I'm guessing there is some water behind that playful little wall. Let's retreat to a safe distance and take a moment to learn more history.

The confidence mine was not a huge producer. In fact, it was not even a large producer. It was more of a small producer. Leaser mined a little ore in 1931, and in 1932 it produced a small lot of ore that assayed at $30 to $40 a ton in gold, 100 to 150 ounces of silver per ton, 30% lead and 7% copper. These numbers were measure in 1932 dollars, which would be more like $3000 to $3400 per ton in gold nowadays. These numbers are very impressive, but I don't know how much of the ore they were able to pull out of there. I guess it doesn't matter as in 1934 S.A. Parry, president of the Union Associated Group bought the farm and all mining at the Confidence Mine was ended. Now it's all flooded.

And so ends the saga of the Confidence Mine. Our shoes are wet, but our souls are enlightened with geological empowerment! Now, I'm going to go get a burrito. Good day.


stevevdg said...

I just stumbled across your blog and find it very enlightening. I too enjoy exploring deep within mother earth. Please Mr. geologist man, could you give me directions to this confidence mine?

Cheetah said...

Howdy Stevedg!

I have a little bit of bad news. I went up to explore the Confidence claims just last week, and found that they had been reclaimed. A concrete fortress had been built around the entrance to both adits. I don't know if DOGM did this, or the property owner, but this mine is most certainly no longer accessible.

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