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ARIZONA

The Lost Tungsten Mine of the Saucedas

THE TALE

The mountains and deserts of southwest Arizona contain some of the most rugged and forbidding country in North America. Topography, climate, and wildlife combine to make it a very dangerous area to prospect in. A host of venomous creatures haunt this region. These include the small, straw-colored scorpion Centruroides sculpturatus, the deadly Black Widow spider, the highly venomous Gila Monster, the Sonoran Coral Snake, and some 16 species of rattlesnake. The mountains are barren and nearly waterless. The climate is characteristic of the Sonoran Desert which actually extends into southwest Arizona.

 

The Sauceda mountain range stretches for over 20 miles in a northwest-southeast trending direction in the southernmost part of Maricopa County. The range is highly weathered and dissected and is dominated by two small peaks, Hat Mountain with an elevation of 2717 feet and Tom Thumb at 2818 feet. The area is quite remote. The nearest towns are Gila Bend, located about 20 miles north of the range, and Ajo which lies 20 miles southwest.

Ajo would figure prominently in the history of the lost mine. It was from Ajo that a prospector named Linger would begin his mineral-seeking forays into the desert.

Sometime around 1916, Linger prospected the Batamote Hills and then the mountain range to the northeast known as the Saucedas. In the Hat Mountain area, Linger discovered a rich mine. The deposit did not contain gold or silver, but tungsten. Linger worked the mine for a short time but unfortunately the tungsten market declined after the end of World War I. Linger abandoned the mine and passed away shortly thereafter. But when World War II began, the demand for tungsten skyrocketed. Linger's widow tried to relocate the mine but was never able to find it. It has never been found to this day.

MINING HISTORY

The first prospectors to enter the land that would become Arizona were Spaniards from Mexico. As early as 1582, the Espejo expedition discovered silver in the Jerome area. When the American army entered Mexico City at the end of the Mexican War, old Spanish maps were discovered showing the location of nearly 100 mines in the American Southwest. Spanish explorers and prospectors left their mark on many of Arizona's mountain ranges. When the Americans first came into the country they found abundant evidence of early Spanish mining activity.

 

The nearest mining district to the Sauceda range is at Ajo, located about 20 miles to the southwest. Spanish prospectors first found silver here back in 1750. A century later, American prospectors rediscovered the old workings and found a few more of their own. Several famous Arizonans prospected the Ajo Mountains at this time including Charles Poston, Herman Ehrenberg, and Pete Brady. The Ajo District turned out to be quite rich. The massive New Cornelia ore body was mainly copper, but the oxidized zone of the deposit contained minor amounts of gold and silver. Nearly one million ounces of gold were gleaned from the Ajo copper mines, but almost all of it was produced as a by-product of the smelting process. As it turns out, placer deposits of gold in the Ajo area were practically nonexistent.