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NEW MEXICO

The Lost Silver Lode of Carbonate Creek

THE TALE

New Mexico has always been a silver state. A number of famous mining districts were founded on the white metal, including Chloride, Black Hawk, Hermosa, Burro Mountain, Georgetown, and Lake Valley. Some of the silver deposits were incredibly rich. The Hawk mine on Bullard Peak is a case in point. The ore body consisted of nearly pure silver at the surface. The miners soon discovered that this was only the tip of the iceberg. It turned out that the tenor of the ore persisted at depth, extending for over 20 feet below the surface. Chloride is the home of the fabulous "Bridal Chamber", one of the richest bodies of ore ever discovered. Located in 1884, the legendary underground grotto was literally coated with silver chloride.

The Black Range is truly silver country. Home to several silver-producing districts including Chloride, Kingston, and Hermosa, the range has produced a stream of precious metal. Needless to say, the region has more than its share of lost mines and hidden lodes. One of them lies in the Kingston Mining District, near the southern end of the Black Range.

Some lodes or veins are lost before they're found! That is, sometimes prospectors find the erosional remnants of a vein but are unable to locate the source itself. This happened in the Klondike, in western Australia, and it also occurred in the Carbonate Creek area of New Mexico.


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1882 was a pivotal year in the history of the southern Black Range. It was in August of that year that the rich Solitaire Mine was discovered by a prospector named Jack Sheddon. Prospectors and mining men poured into the southern part of the range. Soon to be called the Kingston Mining District, the area would eventually produce over $6 million worth of silver. During that same year, another amazing discovery took place on Carbonate Creek, only 3 miles north of Kingston. Two prospectors named Shedd and Henry stumbled on a field of incredibly rich silver-bearing "float" along the Carbonate Creek drainage. (It is possible that Jack Sheddon was one of the discoverers of the Carbonate Creek deposits; the surnames "Shedd" and "Sheddon" are extremely similar.) The ore was composed of acanthite or silver sulfide, one of the richest ores of silver. Pieces of float ranging from marble-size to huge 250 pound masses were found scattered on the surface! Eventually, more than 80,000 ounces of silver were recovered, but curiously the source of the acanthite float was never found.

MINING HISTORY

Silver mining in New Mexico began fairly late in the state's history. It wasn't until 1863 that the first significant silver deposits were discovered near present-day Magdalena. By the 1870's the pace had quickened. A number of rich deposits were uncovered, including those at Pinos Altos, Lake Valley, and Hillsboro. By the following decade, silver was king in New Mexico.

The history of mining in the Black Range of southwestern New Mexico really begins with the discovery of massive silver deposits along the eastern flank of the range during the late 1870's. In quick succession, silver strikes occurred at Chloride, Hillsboro, Hermosa, and Kingston. It seemed like the whole eastern flank of the range was laced with silver! The Hillsboro strikes occurred in 1877 followed closely by those at Hermosa and Chloride. The Hermosa deposits consisted of native silver, cerargyrite, embolite, argentite, base metal sulfides, and various carbonates hosted in early Paleozoic dolomites. The Hermosa "block" of Paleozoic sediments measures approximately 10 miles north to south and 2.5 miles at its widest point, east to west. The most important zones of mineralization seem to occur at the intersection of faults.

Silver mining in New Mexico began fairly late in the state's history. It wasn't until 1863 that the first significant silver deposits were discovered near present-day Magdalena. By the 1870's the pace had quickened. A number of rich deposits were uncovered, including those at Pinos Altos, Lake Valley, and Hillsboro. By the following decade, silver was king in New Mexico.

The history of mining in the Black Range of southwestern New Mexico really begins with the discovery of massive silver deposits along the eastern flank of the range during the late 1870's. In quick succession, silver strikes occurred at Chloride, Hillsboro, Hermosa, and Kingston. It seemed like the whole eastern flank of the range was laced with silver! The Hillsboro strikes occurred in 1877 followed closely by those at Hermosa and Chloride. The Hermosa deposits consisted of native silver, cerargyrite, embolite, argentite, base metal sulfides, and various carbonates hosted in early Paleozoic dolomites. The Hermosa "block" of Paleozoic sediments measures approximately 10 miles north to south and 2.5 miles at its widest point, east to west. The most important zones of mineralization seem to occur at the intersection of faults.