Sierra Grande Mine

Lake Valley Silver 1Lake Valley Silver 2

Without a doubt the most famous (and in many quarters, infamous) mine in the Black Range is the Sierra Grande Mine on the northern edge of present day Lake Valley (I say “present day Lake Valley” because the town actually picked up and moved from time to time).  The mine complex, or parts of the complex, went by a variety of names, including; Sierra Grande, Grande, Thirty Stope, Carolina Workings, Bridal Chamber, Twenty-Five Cut, and (but probably not limited to) Twenty-Five Stope.  The location of the part shown here is depicted on the maps to the right.

Watching the history of Lake Valley unfold is an interesting benefit of reading the Black Range Newspaper.  For instance, the November 2, 1883 issue of the Black Range newspaper reported that “At an election or the Sierra companies in Philadelphia on the 15th ult. R P. Smith was elected president of the Grande company, E. Yarnall president of the Bella and Prof. E. D. Cope President of the Apache. The companies resolved to try and get the A. T. & S. F. railroad company to build a road from Nutt to Lake Valley.”  In one paragraph, Cope (see the Lake Valley Tales) and the Nutt-Lake Valley Spur are both mentioned.  The November 30, 1883 issue reported on another Lake Valley townsite move.

The primary commodity mined at the site was silver and for a (short) while it was a major producer in the west, the legend of the Bridal Chamber is a major bit of local lore.  It is said to have produced about 3.7 million ounces of silver from its start to 1934.  Other reports, see George Harley’s “Bulletin 10”, state that the Lake Valley District produced about 5 million ounces of silver between 1878 and 1893 (half from the Bridal Chamber) (page 179 of reference).  The mine is no longer in operation.  Since 1974, the holdings have been owned by the Fisher Estate with a home office in Illinois.

At page 180 of Bulletin 10, George Harley, provides a map of the workings (below), based on that the photograph shown below is probably of the 25 cut.

Sierra Grande Map


DSC04624 - Version 2

Some of the “old timers” in the area have told me that what is depicted here is a manganese mine.  Manganese oxide was mined in the area to the northeast of Lake Valley, especially during the Second World War - and thus in their memories or in the memories of their parents.  In the general area; gold, silver, manganese, zinc, vanadium, lead, and copper were all mined.  And pyrolusite (a manganese ore is listed as an ore from this mine).  Water became a problem at the 150 foot level of these mines.  Bulletin 39, page 126 - 7 notes that “Large bodies of manganese oxide ores occur in the mines. Most of the ore is of such grade as to require concentrating before being marketable. During World War I some ore was shipped to the steel mills, and during World War II approximately 30,000 tons of ore was sent to the stockpile at Deming.  During the war period large reserves of manganese ore were proven by the U. S. Bureau of Mines, and studies were made of methods for concentrating the ore. (See Apell et al., 1947; Dean et al., 1948.) In 1953 Haile Mines, Inc. erected a sink-float concentrating plant at Lake Valley, which presently is treating such ore successfully.”  Bulletin 39 was published in 1954.

© Robert Barnes 2018-2023