There’s trouble at the mill

20-Stamp Ore Mill
20-Stamp Ore Mill

The Superstition Museum held a mining exposition today. Vendors included rock hounds, a local mining supply store with top-notch metal detectors on display, among others. The museum is raffling off a 1/4 ounce gold nugget from a local claim.  On display (for one day only) for only the third time ever is a solid gold matchbox crafted from gold that was stored under the Lost Dutchman’s bed. The matchbox is valued at more than a million dollars, so security was tight and plentiful.

The gold matchbox
The gold matchbox

The owner of the matchbox is anonymous, and wishes to remain so for obvious reasons.  It is the only proof that Jacob Waltz actually had gold.  Whether it came from the fabled lost gold mine, was pilfered, found or otherwise remains a mystery.

For the record, Jacob Waltz was never lost, it is the legendary goldmine that is lost. Waltz, actually a German emigrant, knew the Superstition Wilderness as well as any man alive. That he came into possession of really fine quality ore is fact. The origins of his cache is shrouded in mystery and folk lore.

The high point of the day was the running of the stamp mill. This 4-bank stamp mill is the only mill in the state of Arizona with a working bank. Each bank has five stamps. Crushed quartz ore is fed into the mill, and the 1000-lb. stamps pulverize the ore into a slurry. and gold is extracted from the slurry was is pumped into a cyanide tank.

The mill began life in 1914 in Bland, New Mexico. It ran for a little over two years, and processed 33,000 tons of ore. It was donated to the museum in 1988. The mill was disassembled by volunteers, and moved 500 miles to Apache Junction, where it resides today.

Completely restored by volunteers, it became operational this year. The process began as rocks of quartz were fed into a crusher, which breaks the stones into baseball sized chunks, which are then loaded into a cart, pulled up to the mortar box which distributes the ore evenly below the stamps.  The men that operated the mill were paid $1 or $2 a week, and I have to imagine there were many nicknamed “Lefty” or “Stumpy” as the occupation was extremely hazardous.

I will post a video of the mill in operation later today, after my videos are uploaded.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Captcha * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.