The Corona Mine in the Panamint Mountains has seen several periods of mining, with the earliest recorded workings dating back to 1899 when it was known as The Gem Mine, then the New Discovery, and later the Corona. The last mining efforts taking place in the 1980’s. Over the years of activity it has produced gold, silver, zinc and lead.
Jack Currant was the original locator of The Gem Mine. Currant was in need of a stamp mill; Charles Weaver, the Ballarat store keep traded his three-stamp mill to Currant for an equal partnership in the mine. They installed a waterwheel to power the mill, this was a first in Death Valley. By the winter of 1899 the crafty duo would be shipping several thousands of dollars in bullion on a monthly basis.
While little has been publicly documented, I did manage to find a short excerpt from the January 1951 edition of the California Journal of Mines and Geology, it doesn’t fill in much, but it does give us a glimpse of the mine in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s:
3 lode claims, Corona, Corona No. 1 and Corona No. 2 were purchased in 1949 from A.F. Troster on a deferred payment plan by John F. Lee, who assigned them to the present operator, Corona Mining Company, Trona, California, a mining partnership consisting of Rene Loustalot, John F. Lee and Fred Rosser. Troster obtained the claims, formerly known as New Discovery and Gem, by relocation.
The ore is contained in quartz veins, near the contact of a schist with a sheared granitic mass. This mass has intruded Paleozoic schist, limestone, and quartzite. Ore minerals are galena, chalcopyrite, pyrite, pyrrhotite, bornite, and sphalerite. The gold is associated with the sulphide minerals.
The creek-level adit on Corona No. 1 claim now extends 370 feet north, 110 feet farther than it did in 1938. Some ore was stopped above the tunnel about 100 feet from the portal, near an old stope mentioned in the earlier reports. Troster shipped 8 tons of ore containing gold with some silver, lead, and zinc, assaying $90.00 per ton to the American Smelting and Refining Company at Selby from this old stope. The vertical 220-foot shaft, unwatered and retimbered to a depth of 95 feet (February 1950), has levels driven on the 75, 125, and 200-foot horizons. A 50-foot-long ore shoot has been mined above the 75 and 125-foot levels, connecting with the surface tunnel about 100 feet from the portal. A hanging wall crosscut driven from the 200-foot station cut 8 inches of ore in a stringer zone, according to Troster. Several tunnels, on both the north and south sides of Jail Canyon, have been driven in previous years. On Corona No. 2 claim, north of the shaft and on the opposite side of a ridge, an 8 to 10-foot vein striking northward and dipping 75° W has been mined. Troster reports this ore to assay $10 to $12 per ton.
Troster sank a new 42-foot vertical prospect shaft 60 feet south of the main shaft; this exposed quartz vein, 2-3 feet wide, striking north and dipping 68° W. Old caved workings were encountered a short distance north of the shaft bottom.
Mine equipment consists of a Gardner-Denver 6 by 5½-inch compressor and a gasoline hoist, powered by a Best 60 engine.
A 25-ton mill includes a 12 by 16-inch Pilgrim crusher, a 4- by 6-foot ball mill, a rake classifier, a 4-cell Groch flotation unit, and a concentrating table.
Five men are employed.
Located in Jail Canyon; a rough almost non-existent (at times) road leads to a still standing cabin, and various mining equipment. The road has suffered from extensive wash outs over the years. Good route finding, and off-road driving skills will come in handy while trying to navigate to its isolated location.
The cabin underwent a restoration effort in 2007. It remains in decent shape today, and is a welcome sight to a desert traveler that is in search of a place to lay their head at night, or just take a break. Around the cabin are several cottonwood trees, fallen stone ruins, junked vehicles, and rusty mining equipment; which includes an ore crusher complete with the Chevy engine that once powered it.
A trail behind the cabin leads to a perennial spring, here the desert turns to an oasis of lush green vegetation. Hidden among this vegetation is the extensive ruins of the gold mill. The gold mill is considered by many to be the area’s most well-preserved mill. Gears, gadgets, wheels, wood, and rust make up this behemoth. Poking around in the shrubbery will reveal other treasures, such as a bulldozer, an aerial tramway cable wheel, and a four-cylinder engine.
For those looking to get underground, you will be disappointed to hear that the shafts have been bat caged.