Emerson Ray placed a claim in 1948, on the Cima Cinder Mine. Ray was a bit of mining mogul, holding seventy-seven claims in the desert region, mostly consisting of cinder mines. The Cima Cinder Mine began production in 1954, it was considered a profitable mine for the duration of its existence, having multiple sources that the cinder was sold to for the manufacturing of cinder blocks.
After the passing of Ray, the mine was passed down to his daughter, Lorene Caffee. Caffee continued the tradition, and held the only operating mining claim within the boundaries of the newly created Mojave National Preserve in 1994. Despite the claim having been found as valid, and patentable their application was never signed by officials in Washington DC, based on the political decision to no longer grant mineral rights to private individuals and companies on federal land.
Officials at the Mojave National Preserve allowed mining to continue at Cima Cinder, providing several extensions of a temporary plan of operation. In 1999, the Center for Biological Diversity along with the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Barstow-based Citizens for Mojave National Park filed a lawsuit again the National Park Service, for allowing mining to take place at the property without a permanent plan of operation. In reality it was a ploy to remove something that the organizations saw as a stark contrast from the California Desert Protection Act.
The day before that lawsuit was filed, the Superintendent of the Preserve paid Caffee a visit, officially ended their forty-five year family mining operation. Caffee has fought back, but with little success. A press release by the Center for Biological Diversity provides some details about the lawsuit. Whether you believe that the actions taken are right or wrong, one has to consider the financial distress placed upon a family that had long owned and operated a successful mining venture, only to be left with nothing.
Today, a visit to the Cima Cinder Mine is a depressing look at what many would consider a government land-grab. The skeleton of a once profitable mine sits in shambles, deteriorating, and rusting into a desert graveyard. One has to wonder how the mess that was left behind is any better, if not worst for the environment than the activities that took place here fourteen years prior.
Several structures remain in various states of decay, the living quarters in many cases looking as thought everything was left as it was on the day that the Caffee family was forced to walk away. Food in the refrigerator, wall decorations still hung, tables and chairs, beds, and living room furniture all sit in place – only now covered in a layer of rodent piss, and feces. Outside the small patches of garden and fruit trees continue to grow, only now with nobody to pick them. Vehicles litter the property, rusting away, while the fluids that once helped them run, drip and contaminate the fragile desert soils.
Where the family once mined, and milled, the equipment still sits. Monstrous industrial scale mining equipment, rusting and fading away with nowhere to go. It is a sad state, sad in many ways.