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Book digs into mine’s history

Jack Clark can visualize every tunnel and cross-cut in the Idaho-Maryland Mine, even though he hasn’t gone down the main shaft since the mine shut down in 1956.

As the mine’s former safety engineer and surveyor for 13 years, Clark traveled freely throughout the tunnels on every level of the gold quartz mining operation, which reached a depth of 3,280 feet and covered 72 miles. Most employees at the mine, including shift bosses, were usually confined to a certain level or tunnel.

Clark’s expertise led him to write the book, “Gold in Quartz: The Legendary Idaho-Maryland Mine,” published in 2005 by Comstock Bonanza Press. Clark said that he spent more than 20 years researching and writing the book. After he left the mine, he worked as the safety engineer for two Bay Area corporations before returning to Grass Valley to work for the Nevada Irrigation District. He retired in 1985.



“There’s so much history at the Idaho-Maryland,” said the soft-spoken Clark, 86. “I didn’t want it to be lost.”

The book covers the mine’s operations from its beginnings in 1851 to its closing in 1956. During a recent interview, Clark recalled his least favorite part of the job, handing out pink slips during the last five months that the mine was open when he worked as the underground superintendent.




“They knew that I had nothing to do with it, and they expected it, but it was something I didn’t enjoy,” he said.

The mine closed not for a lack of gold, but because the U.S. government fixed the price of gold at $35 an ounce in 1946. The fixed price remained in effect until then-President Richard Nixon ended it in 1971. Gold’s low price, coupled with the rising cost of timber and explosives necessary for tunneling, made gold quartz mining unprofitable in the mid-1950s.

Today’s gold price of $595 an ounce has brought new investors to the Idaho-Maryland mine, and Clark has proven himself to be an invaluable resource to the Idaho-Maryland Mining Corp., the mine’s new owners, whose parent company is the Emgold Mining Corp. of Canada.

For the past two years Clark has consulted with the mine’s engineers, answering questions about everything from the pumping system to the condition of the tunnels.

“They have maps, they have the reports – but they haven’t been there,” said Clark, confident in his knowledge of the mine’s maze of tunnels, which have been filled with water for more than 50 years.

Currently the city of Grass Valley is conducting an environmental review of the company’s proposal to re-open, which measures the environmental impact to the area.

“As miners disappear, often the knowledge from old mines is lost,” said David Watkinson, vice-president of operations at the Idaho-Maryland Mining Corp. “It’s so great to have the ability to talk to him, especially when we’re looking at rehabilitating the mine.”

The Idaho-Maryland Mining Corp. estimates that there are 1.4 million ounces of gold left in the mine. As profitable as the enterprise might be if the mine re-opens, Clark has no interest in profiting from his consulting work. He said that the company offered him stock, but he refused.

“I don’t want anything in return,” he said. “I just want to see the mine reopened.”

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To contact Staff Writer Jill Bauerle, e-mail jillb@theunion.com or call 477-4219.


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