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Mining History: Desert Fever
Inyo County:

Ryan Mining Camp

Borax mining in Death Valley, photo of Ryan Camp

By 1900 the Pacific Coast Borax Company realized that their mine in Borate would soon be exhausted, and started looking for new ore bodies in the Death Valley region. In 1903 they began development of the Lila C. Mine, where they discovered three beds of colemanite 6 to 18 feet wide and at least 2500 feet long. Steam traction engines hauled ore to Manvel, 100 miles away, until 1907, when the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad reached the borax area. A spur from the railroad connected the Lila C. Mine to the main line, allowing ore to be shipped that year over the Tonopah and Tidewater. The opening of the Lila C. Mine caused the price of borax to drop 2 cents a pound to between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 cents, causing a shutdown of the mine at Borate, and mines in Saline Valley and on Frazier Mountain. The Lila C. was worked until January 1915. The town of Ryan (Old Ryan) grew up around the Lila C. It had a small post office and 200 or so inhabitants.

With the discovery in 1914 of bigger ore bodies northwest of the Lila C., a new $400,000 concentration mill was constructed at Death Valley Junction. In January, 1915, the Pacific Coast Borax Company switched operations to the Biddy McCarthy, Lower Biddy, and Grand View mines. Old Ryan was torn down and hauled to the Biddy McCarthy to become New Ryan. Ore was hauled from the various workings of the several mines by a twenty-four inch gauge railroad to ore bins in New Ryan, then over the narrow gauge Death Valley Railroad to Death Valley Junction. When the Kramer borax mines were discovered and developed in 1927, the Pacific Coast Borax Company transferred all operations to the new area, closing down New Ryan in June, 1927. At the time of the closure the ore was averaging 26 percent borax.

ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - map/sat - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - book store
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - glossary - comments
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