Inyo Mine, Death Valley
The Inyo Mine represents both the earliest discovery on the west side of the Funeral Range, and also the only mine on that side which ever produced more than an occasional sack of gold. The first locations in Echo Canyon were made by Maroni Hicks and Chet Leavitt in January of 1905. By May of 1905, the prospectors had accumulated two groups of locations, consisting of twenty claims, they started to dig a tunnel on one of the claims in June.
By the first of February the shaft on the Inyo Mine was down to sixty-five feet, and that depth had been increased to 100 feet by March. At that time, nine men were employed at the mine, under the direction of Chef Leavitt, who was general manager of the company. In June, a big strike was made at the mine, as noted by the Rhyolite Herald "The Inyo Gold Mining Company has made the most phenomenal strike in the history of Funeral Range mining and one of the biggest uncoverings since the discovery of Tonopah Assays from the new strike, which was at the bottom of the new shaft at a depth of sixty-five feet, were close to $300 per ton."
But as 1907 opened, work began in earnest on the Inyo Gold. The company ordered a small gas hoist in early January of that year, and by the end of that month reported that it had three shafts exploring for ore at depths of 100, 73 and 30 feet, respectively. A boarding house had been built at the property for their convenience, Plans were also in the works to construct a commissary store, and the company ordered ore cars and tramway tracks to facilitate the removal of ore from the mine.
The Inyo Mine could not have chosen a worse time to go public, for the Panic of 1907 hit the district shortly after the company put its stock up for sale. Had the decision been made six months earlier, the Inyo mine could have taken advantage of the height of the Echo-Lee District boom, when stock in much less worthy mines was selling at fever-inflated prices. Now, in the fall of 1907, mines were closing and very few investors could be found who were willing to risk scarce investment funds in an outlying district. Now, instead of a fat treasury which would have enabled the company to continue its development work on an extensive scale, and to build its mill, the Inyo Gold instead was faced with bankruptcy.
Nevertheless, the company continued operations on a smaller scale until 1912. But then Inyo Gold had a revival. Unfortunately, that revival took place long after Death Valley mining had lost its appeal, and little notice of the subsequent activities at the Inyo Mine reached the local newspapers. Thus although we know that the mine was operated for several years in the 1930s, we have very little day-to-day knowledge of those operations.
In March of 1938, the Inyo Independent paper reported that the company was still operating, and had installed a ball mill at the mine, The mill was capable of treating twenty-five tons of ore per day, and water for operations was being hauled from Furnace Creek.
But the Inyo died hard. The mine was leased to two men named Thomsen and Wright in 1940, and they installed a small smelter high on a ridge one-half mile above the former mill site. There, for a short time, they attempted to smelt some of the high grade ore which they took out of a different portion of the Inyo Mine. Again, no production record is available for this effort, which had ended by 1941. A later mining engineer, who inspected this portion of the property, concluded that the furnace at the little smelter had been fired only once, which indicates that the last two lessees of the Inyo Mine were even less successful than had been their predecessors. This was the last attempt to work the Inyo Mine.
Due to the relatively recent date of the last attempts to exploit the Inyo Mine, historic structures at the property are rather extensive. At the mill site are the remains of the ball mill and its supporting machinery, and a complex of living and support buildings mostly collapsed. The mill ruins consist of the ore bin and chute, a jaw crusher and the settling plates--the ball mill apparatus itself has been removed. In addition a large metal tank and the old diesel engine which powered the mill still remain. Above the mill is the main mine complex.