San Bernadino County California Gold Production


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Gold deposits are scattered throughout San Bernardino County. They occur in the Slate Range in the northwest, the Whipple Mountains in the southeast, the San Gabriel Mountains in the southwest, and the Clark Mountain area in the northeast. The report of Wright and others (1953, p. 53-86) has been the source of information on the geology and gold deposits of this county.

As early as the 1850's, placer gold was mined at several localities, but lode mines have been the most important sources of gold. Of the many mining districts in the county, the most important are the Dale, Holcomb, and Stedman. Production from 1880 through 1959 was 517,000 ounces; nearly all production was from lode mines. Production has declined rapidly in recent years. Only 102 ounces of gold was produced in 1958, mostly as a byproduct from silver ore in the Rand district. Production for 1959 was combined with other counties.

San Bernardino County is characterized by numerous steep mountain ranges separated by arid basins, many of which are undrained. Exposed in the higher ranges are metasedimentary rocks of Archean and Algonkian age. These rocks are overlain by thick sections of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks that range in thickness from 9,000 feet in the northeastern part of the county to more than 22,000 feet in the north-central part.

Mesozoic sedimentary-rocks as much as 4,000 feet thick are found in the northeastern part of the county. Metavolcanic rocks of Triassic or Jurassic age are found in a few localities in the western part of the county. Numerous quartz monzonite stocks and small batholiths of late Mesozoic age intruded the sedimentary rocks, and most of the ore deposits are genetically related to mineralizing solutions that emanated from these plutons. Tertiary volcanic rocks form several mountain ranges in the northeastern, west-central, and south-central parts of the county.

Numerous gold and silver deposits are associated with these rocks. Large basins were formed in Tertiary time, and in these, thick deposits of interbedded saline and alluvial sediments accumulated.


The Dale district, in T. 1 S., Rs. 11 and 12 E., about 15 miles southeast of the town of Twenty-nine Palms, began producing gold as early as 1893 from the Brooklyn mine. In the early 1900's production from the Supply and Nightingale mines made the district one of the more prosperous in the county. Production declined after World War II, and the district has been almost dormant in recent years. Total gold production through 1959 was about 63,500 ounces.

Bedrock in the district, as noted in mine descriptions by Wright, Stewart, Gay, and Hazenbush (1953, p. 70-86), consists of quartz diorite, ande-site porphyry, and granodiorite. The gold deposits are in quartz veins cutting these rocks. Gold occurs in the free state with iron and manganese oxides in some mines; in others, the gold is associated with sulfides.


The Holcomb district is 20 to 25 miles northeast of San Bernardino, in Tps. 2 and 3 N., Rs. 1, 2, and 3 E.

Activity in this district began in the 1850's, when the Ozier mine was the major producer of gold ore (Wright and others, 1953, p. 77). In the late 1860's, when the gravels of Holcomb Valley were found to be auriferous, prospectors flocked into the area and in a few years took out about $7 million (about 340,000 ounces) in gold (Vaughn, 1922, p. 409). The large placer production seems somewhat questionable, because nowhere else in the literature is any mention made of the Holcomb Valley placers.

The lode mines flourished until the early 1900's but have been virtually idle since then. Only 3 ounces of gold was reported from the district during 1950-59. Data are incomplete for the early years, although Wright, Stewart, Gay, and Hazenbush (1953, p. 70-86) estimated the output of a few of the lode mines. Total gold production, including Vaughan's estimate of the early placer output, was about 400,000 ounces, of which about 54,500 ounces was from the lode mines.

The geology of the area has been described by Vaughan (1922, p. 344-411). In the vicinity of the mines the country rock, which is primarily a sequence of Paleozoic sedimentary formations, is complexly folded, faulted, and intruded by the Cactus Granite of Jurassic age. The sedimentary rocks are the Arrastre Quartzite of Early Cambrian age, the Furnace Limestone of Late Cambrian and Ordovician age, and the Saragossa Quartzite of Silurian or Devonian age.

Most of the deposits are in quartz veins along limestone-granite contacts or are associated with limestone beds transected by granitic dikes. A few deposits are in thick quartz veins in quartzite. The ore minerals are pyrite, galena, sphalerite, chalcopyrite, pyrrhotite, and free gold. Azurite and malachite are found in the oxidized zones. Considerable amounts of contact metamorphic minerals such as garnet, epidote, wollastonite, and tremolite are found locally with the ore deposits.


The Stedman district is about 7 miles south of Ludlow, in Tps. 6 and 7 N., R. 8 E.

Total gold production, entirely from lode mines, has been in excess of $6 million (291,000 ounces), more than half the total recorded gold production of San Bernardino County (Wright and others, 1953, p. 71). The Bagdad-Chase mine, which is the principal mine, was discovered in 1903, and during 1904-10 it produced $4 1/2 million in gold. Large quantities of copper and silver were also produced from this mine. After 1940 the mine was operated by lessees; however, no production was reported during 1950-59.

The geology of the Bagdad-Chase mine was described briefly by Wright, Stewart, Gay, and Hazenbush (1953, p. 71, 82). The ore is in a mineralized breccia zone between a body of quartz monzonite and rhyolite. The breccia is composed of fragments of both rock types cemented by silica, which carries gold and oxidized copper minerals.

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