By Dawn Cranfield
The Crown Point Mill – History Coming Back to Life in Gold Hill, Nevada
The historic Crown Point Mill is a daunting 15,000 square foot industrial building in the heart of Gold Hill, Nevada, just south of Virginia City. Formerly the epicenter of wealth and industry, the Comstock was booming with mines, mills, miners and gold; however, time took its toll, and the area became a sleepy tourist attraction with museums and shops celebrating the rich past of the old west.
Nevertheless, the Comstock is once again a bevy of activity; Comstock Mining Inc. (CMI) has been mining for gold and silver ore in the area just south of Gold Hill at the Lucerne Mine, rejuvenating interest in the industry. CMI employs just over 100 people in the area with the mine and the Gold Hill Hotel.
The Crown Point Mill sits just south of the Gold Hill Hotel overlooking some of the richest land in history; the gold pulled out of the mines helped finance the Union, and built cities like San Francisco and parts of Los Angeles. The top executives of CMI believe there is much more, too; Corrado De Gasperis, President and CEO commented, “Our teams have already validated almost 3 million gold-equivalent ounces, representing, over $4 billion in precious metal value, and we feel like we are just getting started.”
Clayton Mitchell, President Crown Point Holdings, believes The Crown Point Mill would be an excellent partner for CMI and other local mines. The milling process helps to recover as much as 97-98% of the gold, while current Heap Leach processes only recover approximately only 70% of the gold and 50% of the silver.
Originally built in 1935, the Mill is a marvel to tour; the sheer size is formidable when you realize how old the building and equipment is. For seven years, the Crown Point Mill was a staple in the community, processing some 300,000 tons of ore until the government forced it to shut down under the War Production Board Limitation Order, or L-208.
At the time, L-208 was intended to shut the country’s gold mines down and shift the focus to “strategic metals and minerals such as lead, zinc, copper and tungsten, which were needed for the war effort. Gold and other precious metals such as silver were deemed ‘non-strategic.’” (oralhistory.unr.edu)
Mitchell’s understanding of the shutdown was that the process was immediate; “they basically locked up and walked away. My understanding from talking to those who have been down in the actual mine is that everything was just left where they were working, ore cars, tools.” He continues, “In fact, we believe that we have, in a bunch of old cyanide canisters, the last batch of zinc precipitate (with gold and silver in it) from 1942. It just needs to be smelted to extract the metal; a testament to how quickly they shut down.”
While the Mill is not entirely operational, permits and nuances aside, there has been a major upgrade; over 8700 man-hours and more than $700,000 went into restoring it in 1989.
Although Crown Point Holdings would like to restore the Mill as a fully operational manufacturing facility processing ore, they have not ruled out other ventures. Mitchell has expressed interest in opening the Mill as a tourist attraction with visitors experiencing what it would look like to see a real working mill from the 1930’s. Additionally, he has determined there is a possibility of both a working mill with occasional tours.
For more on L-208