Crater Sulfur Mine, Death Valley
GPS: 37.211856°, -117.688461°
The Crater Sulfur Mine area was discovered in 1917 and lies 48 miles east of Big Pine and five miles west of Death Valley’s north end in the Last Chance Range of Inyo County. The principal mineralization is along north trending faults extending three miles long by about a mile wide. This deposit is most likely the result of hot springs hydrogen sulfide gas reacting with gypsum, organic matter and carbonic acid. This was the largest sulfur deposit found west of the Mississippi River.
The start of real production came when in 1929 the Pacific Sulfur Company of New York began mining the six Crater claims. The town of Crater built to support the mine lasted only a few short years with and area population of only 36 folks. The town of Crater has since been torn down. In 1936-1937 Sulfur Diggers Inc. installed retorts and were able to ship 5,000 tons of 96% pure sulfur.
Later in 1938 the Western Mining Company added a 100-ton new retort and through the use of an open pit mine produce 10,000 tons of sulfur. At the time it took a 125 horsepower steam boiler for the retorts using over 3,000 gallons of water daily. Fifteen men worked the mine while a second fifteen worked the mill.
Many different owners and leasees have worked the claims over the years off and on. In 1953 a sulfur dust explosion temporarily shut down production when the mill was destroyed.
No real production has been reported since 1969 with total production of the Crater mine put at 58,000 tons of ore. As of 1984 it is estimated that there is still 3 million tons of 40% sulfur resources remaining at the Crater site.
If you visit the Crater Mine today the pit was enlarged to 200 feet across by 500 feet wide by 50 to 60 feet deep. Remains of the old processing equipment lay scattered around the area. This mine lies outside of Death Valley National Park on patented private lands.