The Adventure Continues… Quicksilver
Not all of the “gold mines” in California were actual gold mines! For more than 100 years, there was plenty of money to be made retrieving and refining the quicksilver necessary to processing gold, and in this episode of California’s Gold Huell learns something about the lives of the people who helped produce mercury in this once-thriving community. It’s great to note that since this episode aired, the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum has moved and expanded its exhibits. This is another place I’ve never been able to visit, but the local people clearly have a lot of pride in their historic heritage and have worked hard to preserve it.
It was the very first mining community in California, starting up operations in 1845. Before it closed down for good in 1976, it also held the distinction of being the largest, richest mine California has ever known, processing over $700,000,000 in metallic wealth. New Almaden Mine was situated in the Santa Clara Valley near San Jose and in its heyday was bustling with activity with a mix of miners from Mexico to Cornwall. And the surprise is — this was not a gold mine. It was a quicksilver mine! Quicksilver (mercury) was absolutely essential in hard rock mining because it was used to separate the gold from the rock it was found in. The fact that the New Almaden Mine was already in operation when gold was discovered in our state only quickened the pace of the gold rush itself. Today, the town is a registered National Historic Landmark and the mine itself is on land which is part of a county park.