- ASARCO spent about $250,000 in 1900 on this tunnel complex
- 90 years later the owner spent $300,000 refurbishing the Sinker Tunnel Complex
- Because the Sinker Tunnel is in place, mining and milling cost including exploration under $200 per ounce.
- No Environmental disadvantages or permitting problems
During the summer of 1862 the Oro Fino Vein on top of War Eagle Mountain was discovered. During 1863 a number of lode claims were located and mining in earnest began. The strike of the Oro Fino Vein System, which is 10,000 feet long, has been prospected and mined for 6000 feet. By the end of year 1875 a total of ten shafts had been sunk on the vein ranging in depth from 300 feet to 1250 feet. The Oro Fino Shaft at the North is 300 feet deep and the Mahogany Shaft at the South is 1100 feet deep. The Golden Chariot and Ida Elmore shafts are 1250 feet and 1000 feet respectively. By the end of 1875, 750,000 ounces of gold equivalent had been extracted from these shafts. Gold value during this time was $20.00 per ounce.
During the fall and winter of 1874 the owners of the Golden Chariot mine completely refurbished the shaft and mill equipment. Production started again in early spring 1875. In August 1875 the San Francisco Bank crashed causing a major shortage of working capital. The miners continued to work through October 1875. Because they had not been paid they left the mountain for employment elsewhere. During the winter of 1875-1876 the shafts filled with water to a point that the Golden Chariot Shaft contained 1100 feet of standing water. The water level in all the shafts on the Oro Fino Vein stands at approximately 7300 feet elevation. This condition has existed for the past 129 years which has resulted in the preservation of this historical Vein System with out being destroyed by promoters,
During the productive life of the Oro Fino Vein System from 1863 through 1875 the crude mining and milling methods, utilizing pan and plate amalgamation and chlorination, resulted in poor recoveries. They recovered less than 75 Percent of the gold and silver. At this recovery level the cut off rate for lifting ore to the surface for milling had to be at least 2 ounce per ton. Today we can make a profit at .375 ounces per ton.
The Golden Chariot mine managers would not have spent the time and money required to refurbish the equipment unless there was a substantial amount of ore above the 2 ounce cut off left in the underground drifts and stopes for futures mining.
The Oro Fino Veins are compressed between very stable granite rock formations, which means the shafts, drifts, and stopes left by the old time miners are free standing. The principal Oro Fino Vein can be described by thinking of War Eagle Mountain as a loaf of bread that has been tilted sidewise 8 degrees. Now consider that one slice of bread represents the Oro Fino Vein which is 2000 feet deep and 6000 to 10,000 feet long.
From 1875 through 1899 mining men who had managed and worked in the underground mines and milling operations tried to promote a project that would allow them to recover the remaining submerged gold and silver reserves they new existed within the water filled workings. Finally, in November 1899 American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) funded the Sinker Tunnel Project. The project objective was to drive a 10x 10 tunnel from Sinker Creek on the North East side of War Eagle Mountain at an elevation 5200 which is 2000 feet below the color of the Golden Chariot Shaft. This tunnel was named THE SINKER TUNNEL. It's intended use was to drain water out of War Eagle Mountain and to haul ore mined from the veins to the surface for milling. It was anticipated that the tunnel would intersect the Oro Fino Vein at about 7000 feet from the tunnel portal. The vein was actually intersected at 6890 feet during May 1902. By calculation the tunnel would be about 60 feet south and approximately 750 feet below the bottom of the Golden Chariot Shaft.
The tunnel was extended north about 80 feet. At this point raise was started upwards toward the bottom of the Golden Chariot Shaft. When this raise reached 620 feet in height it was only 150 feet below the bottom of the Golden Chariot Shaft, which contains 1100 feet of water. At this point the amount of water permeating down into the raise was increasing every day. The miners became anxious about their safety. They sent a representative to Boise to inform the Idaho Inspector of Mines about the working conditions. He inspected the mine raise and stopped any further work in that area until safety measurers were in place.
At that time early (1905) ASARCO was a very large mining company with prospects and projects all over the world. Management elected to close the project down, put it on the shelf and return later if conditions changed. ASARCO never returned. During 1932 and 1933 some additional exploration tunnels were driven to the north and to the south from the raise In 1941 salvagers opened the Sinker Tunnel and removed all the steel rail and pipe scrap for the war effort. In 1992 the owner opened and refurbished the Sinker Tunnel to a point the entire complex, with the exception of the upper four levels of the raise can be entered for examination.
One hundred and twenty nine years ago the old timers believed thousands of tons of gold and silver ore valued in excess of 2 ounces per ton existed under 1100 feet of water in the veins of War Eagle Mountain. Now ore valued at .375 opt can be mined at a good profit. This increases the mineable tonnage substantially. The dream of the old timers has never been proven true or false. The owner believes at least 500,000 ounce of gold equivalent can be mined, milled and poured into dore over the next ten years.