Inyo County California Gold Production

Posted July 16, 2009 in Gold Mining


Click here for the Principle Gold Producing Districts of the United States Index

Gold has been produced from numerous mines scattered throughout Inyo County, but, unfortunately, details of the geology and production of individual districts are incomplete.

From 1880 through 1959, a total of 496,000 ounces of gold was mined in the county. Most of this was lode production, but a considerable quantity was a byproduct from lead-silver, tungsten, and copper ores. Mining began as early as 1861 (Knopf, 1918, p. 105) in the Russ district in the Inyo Range, but production data for these early years are incomplete.

The lode deposits are scattered throughout numerous mountain ranges in the county. The most important gold-producing districts are the Ballarat and Wild Rose in the Panamint Range, the Chloride Cliff in the Funeral Range, the Resting Springs in the Nopah Range, the Sherman in the Argus Range, the Union in the Inyo Range, and the Willshire-Bishop Creek, an important tungsten district on the east slope of the Sierras. In the early days, gold placers were worked on a small scale in Mazourka and Marble Canyons, on the west and east slopes of the Inyo Range.

The Ballarat (South Park) district, at about lat 36°00' N. and long 117°10' W., is in the Panamint Range in south-central Inyo County.

The Ratcliff mine, the chief mine in this district, was located in 1897 and in the next 6 years it produced gold valued between $300,000 and $1 million (Norman and Stewart, 1951, p. 47-48). After an indefinite period of inactivity, the mine produced $250,000 in gold from 1927 to 1942 (Norman and Stewart, 1951, p. 48). A much more conservative estimate of $500,000 as the total production from the entire district was given by Nolan (1936b, p. 39). The district was active on a small scale in 1959.

The Ratcliff ore body is in a north-trending vein in country rock that has been described variously as a biotite schist, sericite schist, metaquartzite, or conglomerate schist (Norman and Stewart, 1951, p. 48). The vein consists of quartz lenses and masses containing gold associated with pyrrhotite, pyrite, and chalcopyrite.

The Chloride Cliff district, at lat 36°40' N. and long 116°55' W., is on the slope of the Funeral Range.

The district, discovered about 1903, had a total gold production of about 60,000 ounces through 1959, mostly from Keane Wonder mine. Most of the activity in the district occurred before 1916 (Nolan, 1936b, p. 36), and since then there has been only sporadic small production.

Only brief accounts of the geology of the district were found in the literature. Nolan (1936b, p. 36) reported that the deposits consisted of gold-bearing quartz veins in Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. Norman and Stewart (1951, p. 38) stated that lenticular quartz ore bodies are enclosed in schist at the Keane Wonder mine.

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Related Towns:

Darwin Cerro Gordo Ballarat Skidoo Leadfield

Did You Know.......

A mine is a hole in the ground, owned by a liar.
-Mark Twain


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