Old Nevada gold mine eyeing profitable rebirth

SEARCHLIGHT — For more than a century, the Quartette Mine has gone through good times and bad.

The gold mine on the southern edge of Searchlight was an economic boom for the region, starting in the 1890s. By 1913, setbacks hit. Workers clashed with the owners in labor disputes and mining equipment sabotage. To settle its debt, the owners deeded the property over to their lender, the Searchlight Mercantile Co.

One hundred years and three generations later, a combination of family ties, unusual geology and years of exploration appears to be on the verge of turning around the gold mine’s fortunes.

If all goes well, it will be processing ore in September under the watch of L.R. Tad Tinnell, president of Jetco Enterprises Inc. Eventually, the company plans to dig an open-pit mine at the site after going through tailings and ore that’s close to the surface.

“It just so happens these old-timers had a series of setbacks back then,” Tinnell said in an interview. “That’s preserved the ore for us.”

It’s one of a couple of new mining efforts in the region. Another is north of Searchlight, with yet another across the Colorado River and east of Bullhead City, Ariz.

NOT MANY GOLD MINES HERE

Gold mining is rare in Southern Nevada. The area generally lacks the rock type that contains gold deposits. Restrictions on federal wilderness areas and protections for the desert tortoise also play a role.

Gold veins in the region are generally small and erratic in length and height, said Bill Durbin, a geologist and chief of Southern Nevada operations for the Nevada Division of Minerals.

“When that was exhausted, they packed up and moved elsewhere,” he said, referring to the Quartette Mine.

Tinnell has long eyed the mine. From 1993 to 1995, he explored and drilled on the property, which was still owned by Searchlight Mercantile. He abandoned this exploration after a cave-in during some underground mining.

He has returned to the mine as the price of gold has increased in recent years. While the price has dropped in the past year, it is still well above lows reached in the 1990s.

In August 2011, Tinnell got a lease from the owners: family members of his former wife and also descendants of B.F. Miller, the original owner of the Searchlight Mercantile.

“I’m happy for the whole family,” Tinnell said. “They’ve waited for a hundred years to get something out of this place.”

Mine returning to life

Two years ago, the mine was a barren patch of desert populated with jackrabbits and rattlesnakes. A rickety wooden hoist for hauling ore still lingers on the landscape, a remnant of the region’s mining history.

Now, eight workers are setting up equipment at the mine. Thirty employees will handle the ore in a 24-hour operation, which will process 10 tons of ore an hour.

The mine has tons of tailings from past mining to go through. Tinnell pointed out signs of precious metals — white lines along ridges and blue and red markings on rocks. Initially, the company expects to handle 3,000 to 6,000 ounces of gold and silver a year.

First, the rock will be blasted and crushed into gravel and turned into powder. Powered by a 500-kilowatt diesel generator, the mine will use a gravity separation process to sift the gold, silver and copper from lighter minerals. The ore will go through a self-contained water system, that separates out the heavier and more precious metals. The water, which has no chemicals, will be reused throughout the process. Initially, the operation’s mill will process 10 tons of ore an hour.

From there, the powder — a mix of gold, silver and base metals — will be melted into bars and shipped to a refinery, which will separate the minerals.

MINE RICH IN HISTORY

Signs of the mine’s history abound. The equipment is new, but rests on century-old foundations.

That story isn’t lost on Caydn Mulligan, 22, the son of Heidi Mulligan, a stockholder of Searchlight Mercantile. Caydn and Tim Gertz, two future employees at the mine, are great-grandsons to B.F. Miller.

“Obviously, he saw something in it,” said Gertz, 25. “We had a chance to come out here and work on the same land our family has owned for going on 100 years.”

The tailings aren’t the only part of the mine with potential. Eventually, Tinnell intends to have an open-pit operation that is about 400 feet deep and 500 feet wide.

The county has approved his application for a permit. Other environmental and federal permit applications are pending.

OTHER MINES

That’s not the only mine effort underway in Searchlight. The county in May approved an application for a permit for a project on the north end of Searchlight, near U.S. Highway 95. The goal of that project, overseen by Nevada Milling & Mining, is to produce gold at an old mine from the early 1900s, using a similar gravity method to process ore. About 40 to 60 employees are anticipated, according to county documents. The company couldn’t be reached for comment.

Northern Vertex, a Canada-based company, plans to expand Moss Mine, an old gold mine 5.7 miles east of Bullhead City, following research at the site that started in 2011.

The mine is expected to produce between 40,000 and 50,000 ounces of gold a year.

“We’ve got some good results,” said J.R.H. “Dick” Whittington, the company’s chief executive officer and president. “Those good results indicate we can extract gold.”

The company formed by the Canada company for the mine is Golden Vertex Corp.

The company is completing its feasibility study and preparing to go on the market and raise capital, Whittington said.

About 40 people are at the mine site, doing preparation work.

Within about 12 to 15 months, company officials anticipate hiring about 200 people.

Meanwhile, exploration is continuing at the site and expansion is the goal for the future.

“We’re doing more drilling,” he said. “Have we found the limit of the deposit? Not at all.”

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781.

News Videos
Homeless residents speak about safety
The homeless residents living at the corner of Owens Ave. and Main St. reflect on how they feel about their safety after two homeless men died, one was hit crossing the street and another was beat to death by another homeless man. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
CCSD Superintendent address alleged racially motivated threats at Arbor View
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara gives update on alleged racially motivated threats against Arbor View High School, and says such threats will not be tolerated. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Super Bloom Near Lake Elsinore, California
Crowds packed the hills near Lake Elsinore on Saturday to capture a rare selfie amidst the super bloom of poppies turning the landscape purple. The super bloom was caused by the larger rainfall this year. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Teenager in critical condition after being struck by an SUV in Henderson
Authorities were called about 2:45 p.m. to the scene in the 2100 block of Olympic Avenue, near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road. The teenager was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Water Question Part 3: Conservation loves a crisis
Future growth in the Las Vegas Valley will rest almost entirely on the community’s ability to conserve its finite share of the Colorado River.
The Water Question Part 7: How much can we grow?
Many experts agree that Southern Nevada can continue to grow, so long as residents are willing to do what needs to be done to stretch our crucial resource as far as it will go.
The Water Question Part 6: How many people can Southern Nevada’s water sustain?
The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth, conservation efforts and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
Mylar Balloon Demo
NV Energy presented a demonstration Wednesday to depict the damage that can be caused by the release of Mylar balloons.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing