Keane Wonder Mine
Death Valley, California
UPDATE: As of November 2017, the Keane Wonder Mine is reopened! Be sure to include it on your next visit to Death Valley.
Nestled on the steep Chloride Cliffs of the Funeral Mountains is one of the most successful mines in present day Death Valley National Park. The Keane Wonder Mine operated in the early 1900s, during the Death Valley mining boom. Nearly $1 million in gold were yielded between its discovery and closing in 1912. Yet the mine remains a popular attraction in the National Park.
History of the Keane Wonder Mine
The Keane Wonder Mine traces its origins to a 1904 discovery of a quartz outcropping by Jack Keane and his partner Domingo Etcharren. When gold is found to be present in the outcropping, it sparks a brief gold rush in the area before that discovery is eclipsed by a strike further north. While the mine offers rich ore veins in fractures of metamorphic, early operations fail. It is not until 1906 that investments from John Campbell and Homer Wilson fund the establishment of a major mine.
An aerial tramway built in 1907 transports gold ore from the mine 1,000-feet down to the mill, a mile away. Lack of water and the extreme heat of Death Valley are major limiting factors on the operation of the mine. On hot days, miners worked through the relatively cooler nights.
In 1907, mining slows with the Panic of 1907. Death Valley is categorized as a National Monument by President Herbert Hoover. Yet the Keane Wonder Mine remains profitable throughout the upset.
Operation of the Keane Wonder Mine continues until 1912. By then the mine is played out. Yet, in that time between 1904 and 1912, nearly $1 million in gold is yielded by the Chloride Cliffs, making it one of the most successful mines in Death Valley.
Visiting the Keane Wonder Mine
The Keane Wonder Mine remains a standout historic land mark. The long tramway is in remarkable condition, with its cables still attached. Yet, years of aggressive mining has resulted in an unstable surface and toxic waste around the mine. Even nearly a century later, erosion poses a continued threat to mine visitors. For this reason, the Keane Wonder Mine is closed in 2008.
After 9 years of work cleaning up toxic tailings, covering 50 mine openings, and replacing rotten, cracked, or otherwise unstable structures, the Keane Wonder Mine has been reopened to visitors in November 2017.