Nevada has always been a haven for mining men and prospectors. Fueled by a succession of silver, gold, and copper strikes, the economy of Nevada continues to be dominated by the mining industry. The state of Nevada has witnessed three truly momentous mining booms in its history. The first occurred during the two decades following the 1859 discovery of the famous Comstock silver lode near present-day Virginia City. The rich silver mines of the Comstock Lode poured out a river of the white metal for 20 years. The flood of Comstock silver literally changed the world. It forced a decline in the price of silver on the world market which rippled throughout the mining industry.
The second mining boom of world-shaking consequence occurred during the first decade of the twentieth century, from 1900 to 1908. During this eight year period, a number of truly staggering discoveries were made in the south-central part of Nevada. Four of them were bonanzas. These included the incredibly rich silver and gold deposits at Tonopah, the even richer Goldfield deposits, the lode and placer deposits at Manhattan, and those at Round Mountain, 12 miles to the north. Goldfield produced some of the richest ore in the history of mining. Averaging more than $100 per ton, the Goldfield ores sometimes ran as high as $12,000 per ton!
The third great mining boom in Nevada history began in 1987 with the development of the famous Carlin Trend in the north-central part of the state. Here the gold ore is similar to that of the great porphyry copper deposits of the world in that they are extremely low-grade, averaging only $6 per ton of ore. But the reserves of ore are astounding. When first discovered, the overall reserves were estimated at a whopping 40 million ounces of gold! The Carlin gold deposits have elevated the state of Nevada to world prominence in gold production.
The three great mining booms of Nevada rejuvenated the state's economy and spurred prospectors on to search for new mineral deposits. The effect of a new discovery was truly amazing. In the ten years following the Tonopah strike of 1900, more than 100 new mining camps and towns sprang up in Nevada. Prospectors literally poured over the mountains in search of mineral wealth. The Tonopah discoveries were a heady tonic for the local prospectors and mining men. For one prospector in particular, the lure was irresistible.
Tim Cody was one of hundreds of prospectors working in the mining camps of west-central Nevada in the winter of 1908. It had been 8 years since the Tonopah strike, 6 years since the Goldfield strike, and only 2 years since the Manhattan and Round Mountain discoveries. Cody's blood was up. He was resolved on finding his own mine. To that end, he began to prospect the remote Cedar Mountains, south of Goldyke, Nevada. As his base camp, Cody chose the area near Stewart Springs, located about 15 miles south of Goldyke and only 12 miles or so from the small mining camp known as Pactolus. Eventually, Cody was forced to break camp and return to Goldyke for supplies. On his way north, he was caught in one of the many snowstorms that sweep this part of Nevada during the winter. He soon found himself lost. After struggling through the blizzard for several hours, Cody stumbled upon an abandoned mine tunnel in the mountains. He decided to wait out the storm in the shelter of the mine.
The next morning, Cody climbed a nearby ridge to get his bearings and to search for any recognizable landmarks. On his way up, he discovered the mother lode! There at his feet was a rich ledge of gold-bearing quartz. Cody gathered up a handful of samples and continued up the ridge, a very happy man. From the summit, he could see Paradise Peak looming to the north and the Shoshone Mountains rising up from the Ione Valley to the northeast. To the northwest, in the distance, Cody could just make out Rawhide Peak and Big Kosock Mountain. Satisfied with his bearings, he climbed back down the ridge, reinspected the ledge of gold, and made his way northward out of the mountains. Eventually he reached Goldyke.
There, Cody's ore samples created quite a stir. He quickly sold his stash of gold ore, resupplied himself, and headed south to the Cedar Mountains. But unfortunately he was unable to locate the abandoned mine or the ledge of gold. He tried time and again to find the ledge but always failed. It still remains hidden today.
The history of mining in the Great Basin of North America extends back centuries to the time of the ancient Paleolithic Indians. These early inhabitants utilized obsidian, agate, jasper, quartz, and other forms of SiO2 to fashion tools and ornaments. Turquoise was also used by the Indians who revered its sacred sky-blue color. The turquoise deposits at Crescent Peak are a case in point. When American prospectors finally stumbled on them in 1889, they found abundant evidence of early Pre-Columbian mining activity. Precious and base metals were also utilized by the Indians, although apparently to a much lesser extent. Several of the great silver deposits of Nevada appear to have been worked by the local Indians prior to the white man's appearance. These include Pioche, Pahranagat, Robinson, Belmont, and White Pine.
Evidence of early Spanish mining activity in Nevada is less certain. It is probably safe to assume that Spanish prospectors were in southern Nevada by the late 1770's, but they seem to have missed all the major mineral deposits. In any case, it wasn't until the Americans appeared that Nevada began to give up her hidden wealth.
Nevada has been blessed with three major mining booms in its history. Each has had a far-reaching effect on the mining industry and the world's economy. The first of these mining booms began in 1860 and lasted twenty years. It all started with the fabulous Comstock silver strike of 1859. This mountain of silver literally put Nevada on the map. Prospectors and mining men streamed into the territory. Soon, they were combing the nearby mountains and deserts in search of the white metal. Many rich deposits were discovered in the aftermath of the Comstock strike. These include the silver deposits at Humboldt (1861), Esmeralda (1861), Reese River (1862), Union (1863), Candelaria (1863), Pioche (1864), Eureka (1864), Belmont (1865), Manhattan (1867), and White Pine (1868). The silver ore recovered at White Pine was some of the richest ever found in Nevada, but there wasn't much of it. It would be 34 years before the White Pine silver ore would be eclipsed in purity and richness. That would come during Nevada's second great mining boom.
The second of Nevada's great booms occurred just after the turn of the century, from 1900 to 1908. A number of fabulous discoveries were made during this period including those at Tonopah (1900), Goldfield (1902), Bullfrog (1904), Manhattan (1906), and Round Mountain (1906). The Goldfield ores turned out to be the richest in mining history. The average value of Goldfield ore was nearly three times that of Tonopah and nearly twice that of the Comstock!
The third great mining boom in Nevada's history began in 1987 and continues to this day. The early booms from 1860 to 1880 and 1900 to 1908 have received a great amount of acclaim through the years. And rightly so. But the truth of the matter is that the north-central part of Nevada is ultimately proving to be much richer. Although the gold occurs as small, disseminated grains scattered throughout the rock, there is an incredible amount of it. The total reserves are staggering, making Nevada one of the three great gold-producers of the world!
The Cedar Mountains themselves are host to a very small mining district known variously as the Bell District, the Simon District (named for the small mining town that sprang up nearby), the Cedar Mountain District, and the Omco District (named for the Olympic Mines Company of San Francisco). Like most of the mining districts of Nevada, the Bell District was first plumbed for silver. It wasn't until 1880 that small gold deposits were first discovered in the volcanic rocks of the range. Thirty-five years later, the richer Omco deposits were located along the northern edge of the range. Only about 34,000 ounces of gold are recorded for the entire district.