The Echo Mining District was a far cry from being successful, and was mostly composed of several small mines that never made it further than the development stages. The Inyo Mine was by far the most successful mine in the district, but even saying that is like trying to call a turd a rose.
Discovered in 1905 by Maroni Hicks and Chet Leavitt, the pair’s properties became the talk of the region – helping to create the short-lived Echo Mining District boom. In August the duo received an offer to lease their claim from Tasker L. Oddie (who later went on to be a Senator from the State of Nevada) for $150,000, and Bethlehem Steel mogul, Charles Schwab for $100,000.
Oddie went to work right away on his portion of the claim. He and his men managed to develop a 50-foot shaft, before walking away from the property just two months later, in November of 1905. As for Schwab, he never made good on his payment, and his portion of the claim remained undeveloped.
Hicks and Leavitt, then leased the mine, to two Colorado capitalists. They too backed out quickly, without ever making a single payment.
In December, L. Holbrook and associates, a group of Utah mining promoters, purchased the entire mine for an undisclosed amount of money, and incorporated the Inyo Gold Mining Company. Hicks took a cash settlement, while Leavitt retained his half, and opted to become the Vice President of the company.
The Inyo Gold Mining Company spent the next six years at the helm of the Inyo Mine, with little success. The financial panic of 1907 didn’t do the company any favors, having had just exhausted their working capital, and having gone public for the first time, in hopes of securing new funding.
The company had several men in employee over the years, and had even constructed a bunk house, and blacksmith shop.
In 1912, when the company abandoned the mine, it was estimated that three hundred and fifty feet worth of shaft work had been done, in addition to 700 feet of tunneling and 75 feet of crosscutting. No ore had ever been shipped.
From 1912 through around 1930, the Inyo Mine remained out of commission. It wasn’t until 1937, under the ownership of a Mrs. Gilbert, with a lease to Inyo Consolidated Mining Company that the Inyo Mine was back in full operation.
A report from The California Journal of Mines & Geology stated the following in regard to the operation,”The Inyo Consolidated Mine was working on the seventeen patented and five unpatented claims of the property. The principle development was an inclined shaft, 220 feet deep. Ore from the mine, was averaging about $25 per ton, and was being processed through the twenty-five ton capacity ball mill. The mill equipment consisted of a fifty ton ore bin, a six by ten jaw crusher, a thirty ton receiving bin, a reciprocating feeder, a three by six ball mill, amalgamation plates, two Simpson tables, and a drag classifier for dewatering. Water was still being hauled from Death Valley, and eight men were employed at the mine and mill.”
A short time after The California Journal of Mines & Geology reported on the Inyo Mine, it was again abandoned due to lack of funding. In February of 1939, the Inyo Mine would again be leased, this time to an unnamed individual. This unnamed individual may have been the first to actually make money at the Inyo Mine, having found a rich vein of ore, shipped thirty-six tons of ore worth $280 per ton to the smelter, for a gross profit of $10,080. Once the vein ran out, so did his luck.
In 1940 the mine was leased one final time to Thomsen and Wright. They built a smelter on site, which they would only fire once.
While the significance of the Inyo Mine as a working mine is questionable, there is still much to see of the historic structures that had been built to support mining activities. These structures which remain on site are by far some of the easiest to access for a visitor to Death Valley National Park, located in Echo Canyon, several miles up an improved dirt road.
Amongst the still standing structures is the skeleton of the ball mill, which was constructed during the early 1900s. A large portion of the mill was scrapped over the years, but the wood frame, diesel engine (which powered the mill), mixing vat, and various other elements remain intact – providing for a opportunity to get a rough idea of what the mill once looked like.
Several building structures, tent platforms, and dug-outs also remain – allowing for a glimpse of the camp at its various stages throughout the 40 plus years of operation. The buildings are all in very rough condition, due to years of abandonment and neglect – but their state of decay adds an element of intrigue, which would likely be lost if a full-scale restoration would be performed.
The Inyo Mine is a worthy place to spend an hour or two, for those that are interested in the Death Valley mining era, and are unable to traverse the backcountry due to their vehicles lack of ability.