Idaho-Maryland might live again |

Idaho-Maryland might live again

Courtesy of Searls Historical Library California Gov. Earl Warren, second from left, toured the Idaho-Maryland Mine prior to its closing in 1956.
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To Jack Clark, the prospect of re-opening the Idaho-Maryland Mine sounds as good as gold.

Clark, who worked at the mine for 13 years until it closed in 1956, believes Grass Valley could parlay the interest a Canadian-based company has in the dormant underground operation into a lucrative business that could boost the economy and bring the area back to its prospecting roots.

“The mines haven’t been worked out at all,” said Clark, 82, “There’s still a lot of potential in there.”

The Emgold Mining Corp., based in Vancouver, British Columbia, which has held an interest in the old mine for more than a decade, is asking Nevada County for a drilling-use permit that might lead to surface drilling. The company is asking to drill 750 feet below the ground to find out just how much gold is left in the mine, which, over the course of nearly a hundred years of operation yielded 2.383 million ounces of gold before it closed.

The mines in the Grass Valley district closed for good in 1956, when the U.S. government fixed the price of gold at $35 an ounce.

In today’s dollars, that amounts to more than $841 million worth of gold. There are millions of dollars left untapped, Clark believes.

Though it probably would cost millions to upgrade the 2,750 acres of tunnels in the mine, Clark and others believe it would be a prudent idea.

At the height of operations, when it temporarily closed in 1942 because of World War II, the mine had more than a thousand workers, most of them underground.

The Idaho-Maryland Mine included the Brunswick vein. There were many other mines during gold mining’s heyday, including the Empire, Northstar and Pennsylvania mines, stretching from North Columbia east to the town of Washington.

Clark, who retired as a safety engineer and underground superintendent when the Idaho-Maryland Mine shut down, said those interested in opening the mine shouldn’t be wary of safety regulations that have changed over the past half-century.

He has assisted Emgold with maps of the mine’s labyrinth of tunnels and channels, and helped explain different areas of the huge place.

“It’s been a valuable experience,” he said. “I’d definitely be in support if they wanted to open the mine again. It can only help this area.”

Though it has been more than 50 years since he worked as a mucker at the Empire Mine, Orlo Steele said the possibility of reopening a gold mine during a time of economic uncertainty could be a boon to the area’s economy. The precipitous fall of the price of gold was one reason the mine closed in the first place. With gold prices now strong in the face of a weak financial picture, the Idaho-Maryland Mine could be financially wise.

“It’s worth it to do some exploratory work,” Steele said. “(Mining) was a great tradition.”

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