Mining has a solid history here in the U.S. and with the progression of time and technology, the landscape of mining has changed. The Pine Creek Mine, known as “The Mine in The Sky” and located in the Sierra Nevada, west of Bishop, California, is a mine from the past that is now closed, but which has almost a century of history behind it. I will leave some links at the bottom of the page, that you can go to for more in-depth information, including pictures on this mine steeped rich in history; in the meantime, here are some interesting facts:
- The site was originally discovered in 1895 and was prospected for its gold and silver content, but didn’t perform well and went dormant until a claim was filed in 1916 by two partners, Billie Vaughn and Arch Beauregard, who found outcrops containing Scheelite and Molybdenum in 1918.
- Machinery was hauled in by mules over harsh pack trail to the mine and the mill went into operation in December of 1918 but closed two months later due to plummeting Tungsten prices.
- The Pine Creek mine was bought by The Natural Soda Products Company in 1922 who later changed their name to the Tungsten Products Company.
- The mine and mill went idle again in 1928 due to the 1927 Watterson Bank failure.
- The Pine Creek Mine went dormant and didn’t see action again until the US Vanadium Corporation (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation), acquired the property in 1936. They successfully developed the mine into a world-class producer of tungsten.
- In 1942, The Pine Creek Mine was the largest producer of tungsten in the United States.
- Operated by Union Carbide, the mine produced 162,000,000 tons of ore and 8,350,000 20-pound “units’ of tungsten oxide between 1940 and 1990 valuing over $400,000,000.
- The Pine Creek Mine was a major contributor to the local economy and supported generations of families who worked there.
- The Mine shut down in 1990 and during the ’90s the hazardous material was removed.
- In 2001, in an effort to reinvent itself, Pine Creek Mine, LLC proposed Pine Creek Mine Hydroelectric Project No. 12532 (Pine Creek Project), which would generate power from the water that accumulates inside the mine. After years of fighting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permit extensions, the final ruling denying a rehearing for the third request of preliminary permit extension was handed down in 2014.
- In its final ruling the Commission stated: “For the above reasons, we deny Pine Creek’s request for rehearing. We note, however, that holding a preliminary permit is not a prerequisite to pursuing a development application so that Pine Creek remains free to pursue the development of the Pine Creek Mine Hydroelectric Project and to file a license application.”
- On February 12, 2016, Pine Creek, LLC. Successfully filed an application, which was accepted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for their Hydroelectric Project.
Many mines shut down, their hazardous materials removed, and their buildings demolished. Few mines withstand the ability to reinvent themselves and only time will tell if The Pine Creek Mine will successfully become a hydroelectric producer, giving the town of Bishop, California another 100 years of rich history and economic support.