|This is what's left of the ore hopper. To its right is a wooden headframe above a 200 foot deep shaft.|
County: Los Angeles
Primary Mineral: Gold
Years of Operation: Late 1800's through the early 1900's, Also mined off and on between 1936 and 1953.
Nearest City or Landmark: Acton
Depth: One shaft, reportedly 200 feet deep (poorly protected). There is also a 60 foot incline tunnel located a short distance below the ore hopper area.
|It's very rare to still find wooden headframes. Modern day headframes are made from steel or concrete.|
The primary name of this mine was the Hi-Grade, however it was also known as Don Mine. Although it is not directly located in Soledad Canyon the "Don" name most likely came from Don Manuel Ravenna, a Los Angeles merchant who organized the Soledad Mining Company after a copper deposit was discovered in nearby Soledad Canyon back in 1861. Gold and silver were also found at this strike. Over $300,000 was invested in mining this area. The primitive settlement of nearby Ravenna grew out of that mine site.
|This is what I call a "poorly secured shaft". The hole is over 200 feet deep, a disaster waiting to happen.|
By 1862 hundreds of tunnels had been dug in and near Soledad Canyon, but copper veins were not considered substantial enough to continue operations. Mexican "Californio" miners were suddenly thrown out of work, but many of them continued to mine for gold independently after finding gold-bearing quartz in the same area. They established ten milling arrastres, a primitive horse-drawn ore crushing method that preceded the stamp mill. By 1863 the area was revived by a substantial number of small-scale gold mining operations.
|I almost lost my camera getting this shot. If you fall down into this shaft there's no hope of survival.|
Dangers of Shaft Mining
In 1984 Roy Madsen, superintendent of the nearby Governor Mine was investigating a recently reactivated shaft when he noticed a lack of oxygen. The shaft he was exploring was only 30 inches wide. Madsen was able to climb a ladder to within reach of his co-workers who said that he was turning blue, crying out, "Bad air, bad air," before slipping from the hands of a fellow employee and falling out of sight. Some parts of the shaft were as narrow as 21 inches which made rescue impossible while wearing breathing apparatus.
|Just down the hill from the ore hopper is this 60 foot incline tunnel. It does not connect to the main shaft.|
The air in the mine contained less than 13% oxygen and the rescuers needed at least 20% to survive for short periods of time without their apparatus. One rescuer reported that some parts of the tunnel were so narrow that he had to take out his mouthpiece to move. He compared it to crawling through a sewer pipe. Roy had apparently failed to wear a safety line and was not using breathing apparatus. The mine was closed until his body was eventually recovered and the mine owner was fined $60,000 for safety violations.
|A look inside the incline tunnel. This mine used to have a gate at the portal, but I found no sign of it.|
On the day I visited the Don Mine site it was raining, hard. This made photography nearly impossible and exploration of the lower tunnel risky. Entering these mines on rainy days is not a good idea. When the ground above is saturated with water the risk of cave-ins increases greatly. Nevertheless I wanted to get a shot from the bottom of this short incline tunnel. Major cave-ins are relatively rare, but possible.
|Looking out from the bottom. This tunnel is full of tumbleweeds, old wood and a few random bones.|
History of the Don / Hi-Grade Mine
During it's period of greatest activity in the late 1800's, the Don Mine was owned by Henry T. Gage, the 20th Governor of California. He also owned the Red Rover, the Emma, the Puritan and the wildly successful New York Mine, which alone produced $1.5 million from 1895-97.
The Don / Hi-Grade Mine was a small operation that yielded ore valued at about $10,000 while active at several intervals from 1936 to 1951. It was leased out and worked briefly in 1953, but has sat idle since.
|Henry T. Gage, California's 20th Governor, one time owner of this mine. On the right is his campaign button.|
Additional Photos - Don / Hi-Grade Mine
All watermarked photos are copyrighted and cannot be used without my consent.