Cima Cinder Mine (Mojave National Preserve)

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.

 

Industrial scale mining equipment, now abandoned and rusting away.

Industrial scale mining equipment, now abandoned and rusting away.

 

At one time this massive hopper would have filled delivery trucks with cinder.

At one time this massive hopper would have filled delivery trucks with cinder.

 

 

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.

 

The Caffee family was forced to walk away.

The Caffee family was forced to walk away.

 

Personal effects still fill the living quarters.

Personal effects still fill the living quarters.

 

A water tank, and a modern era mobile home.

A water tank, and a modern era mobile home.

 

A Datsun, is one of several vehicle in the automobile graveyard.

A Datsun, is one of several vehicle in the automobile graveyard.

 

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.

 

The workshop at the mill.

The workshop at the mill.

 

Under the collapsed awning of the workshop.

Under the collapsed awning of the workshop.

 

The inside of the workshop.

The inside of the workshop.

 

Vehicle graveyard, part two.

Vehicle graveyard, part two.

 

Most mines consist of a hole in the earth, cinder however is mined by removing the cinder from the sides of a cinder cone.

Most mines consist of a hole in the earth, cinder however is mined by removing the cinder from the sides of a cinder cone.

 

The end.

The end.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

  • LaraHa

    i was working for the desert dispatch when all of this was going down. we did a nice story on the plight of the Caffee family. do you know what ever happened to them?

    • Greg

      My Dad and his wife live in Inyokern, CA now living off social security.

  • pat

    Yeah, I don’t see how letting it all deteriorate and go to ruin, is better than letting them keep it running and in good repair.