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Report - Mammoth Mine (in Galena Canyon), Death Valley, California, USA

747_kirki

Death Valley is Mine
28DL Full Member
#1
One of a number of mines in the Galena Canyon area, which used to be owned by pharmaceutical firm Pfizer. Whilst you might not associate this firm with mining, they used to extract talc from these mines – the kind used on a baby’s bottom, apparently. Talc is a soft, lightweight sparkling mineral. In the Death Valley context, it was referred to as ‘White Gold’.

Galena Canyon makes for a really interesting visit. It’s accessed from the West Track dirt road across the Death Valley basin. On leaving the West Track, it lies up a 5 mile rough road, akin to driving across a beach covered inn a mix of small stones and boulders. It’s a rough ride and real puncture territory:
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On approaching the Mammoth Mine you cannot help but notice two large rusting tanks standing upright on the hillside. It’s a bit Fullers Earth Works-esque… You can drive up to them via a steep narrow cliff ledge – it used to be the main access road but maintenance of this track has long since stopped.

Unlike the neighbouring talc mines in this area (which we didn’t get a chance to see – again – tight on time!), the Mammoth orebody was worked from underground tunnels. These tunnels remain partially open, although the local advice is to avoid entering them under any circumstances. The talc came out of the underground works in small ore cars which were pushed onto a platform above the twin tanks, where the ore was stored for transport to market.

As strange as it may sound, prior to the passing of the Mining in the Parks Act 1976, talc miners could lawfully haul away thousands of tonnes of this material; however today, the collecting of even one small piece is illegal.

Anyway, on with the explore pics – all taken on a trust Caxio Exilim compact (no tripod) - hope you like…

The two talc storage tanks:
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Amazing view over to Badwater – the lowest point in North America. In summer, the temperature in Badwater is routinely 120 degrees each day. In 1913 it maxed out at 134 degrees – the hottest on record. It was so hot birds were falling dead from the sky:
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Walk the plank, anyone?
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Follow the track up passed the tanks and it takes you to another level – where the talc mines were:
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The entrance to the first mine is massive compared to many of the gold and silver mines we saw in Nevada. However, a few feet inside the opening the mine has collapsed and there is no access:
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Roof structure over the only part of this tunnel which remains open looks somewhat ropey:
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Neighbouring opening is partially collapsed at the opening, so you have to scramble down to get in. This tunnel passage appears to go on for quite a way, but since it curves around to the left quickly, natural light in this mine is very limited:
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Walk up another level up the hill and there was once another mine opening – this time the entrance and shaft have totally collapsed. The timber structure remains in pieces on the floor:
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Fuel tanks sit rusting at the start of the road up to the mine – presumably fuel for the trucks coming to the mine was bunkered here:
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This was the only trail on this trip on which we met some other explorers /visitors. A fleet of five Jeeps from a nearby Nevada 4x4 club were leaving the mine just as we arrived. They were all driving heavily modified Jeeps with big fat spongy off-road tyres, suspension lifts, front-end mounted recovery winches and all had two-way radios. They seemed surprised to find two Brits in a rental SUV out so far from the main roads and touristy spots…:thumb
 

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