Silver Mining

The Union Mine, Cerro Gordo

Cerro Gordo is a privately owned Mining Town located in the Owens Valley near Lone Pine, California. On this trip our mission is to go down deep into the Union Mine and gather some high grade silver and lead ore. To do this we need to descend over 400′ underground on a hoist from the 1860’s! Once we get to the ore face we high grade out some very rich galena ore and bring it back to the surface! My mission is to make something cool for Brent out of the lead and silver,

One man has been living the post-apocalyptic lifestyle in his own wasteland since early last year. Brent Underwood, a young entrepreneur, bought the abandoned California ghost town of Cerro Gordo in 2018 for $1.4 million.

Silver Mining & Refining

In the first video above it shows the collection of the ore, and in the second video below it shows the refining and the smelting to extract the silver from the lead and other many minerals in the ore.

Making real Cerro Gordo silver and lead bullion! Showing the refining and smelting process for some silver rich galena ore from our friend Brent Underwood @Ghost Town Living from Cerro Gordo Mines in California. In this video Jason Smelts down the raw Cerro Gordo galena into lead and silver bullion. Once all the lead and silver has been converted to metal, he uses the Parkes process to desilver the lead and remove other impurities. Once all the silver has been removed from the lead the lead is poured and molded into lead bullion. The silver zinc crust is then further refined by removing the zinc through another smelting process using a basic flux. The lead and silver, after the removal of the zinc, is cupelled to completely remove all the impurities and base metals resulting in pure silver. Check out how much lead and silver was recovered from Brent’s insanely rich Cerro Gordo silver ore!

Silver Mining - refined silver

refined silver

The amount of effort, cost and time involved in mining it and hauling it up & out to where you can refine it. The cost of the time, materials & fuels to refine it all for $20 spot per ounce for silver today is just criminal. A great hobby. All hobbies cost money. Fun to watch.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Discovery of the silver ore is credited to Pablo Flores, who began mining and smelting operations near the summit of Buena Vista Peak in 1865. Increasing migration to the area was met with resistance from the Native Americans, which limited early mining efforts. The establishment of Fort Independence allowed for the expulsion of native populations, facilitating the expansion of the mining town.

These early miners employed relatively primitive techniques of open pits and trenches and used adobe ovens to smelt the ore. Businessman Victor Beaudry (younger brother of Los Angeles Mayor and developer Prudent Beaudry) of nearby Independence, California, became impressed by the quality of silver mined at Cerro Gordo and opened a store nearby. He soon acquired several mining claims to settle unpaid debts and proceeded to have two modern smelters built. Beaudry continued acquiring mining rights from debtors until he soon owned a majority of the richest and most productive mines in the area, including partial interest in the Union Mine.

In 1868, Mortimer Belshaw arrived in Cerro Gordo (lit. “Fat Hill” in Spanish), attracted by the rich deposits of galena ore. After establishing a partnership with another stakeholder in the Union Mine, he brought the first wagon load of silver from Cerro Gordo to Los Angeles.[6] In Los Angeles he was able to secure financing to build his own smelter that was superior to all other smelters at Cerro Gordo, as well as to build the first wagon road up the mountain. This road became known as the Yellow Road from the color of the rock that it had been cut through. By operating the Yellow Road as a toll road, Belshaw was able to earn income and control the shipments of silver from the mountain.

Between 1879 to 1880 in Cerro Gordo district, 4,223 short tons (3,831 t) of ore was raised and treated, $3,307 ($88,088 in 2021) gold bullion produced and $140,517 ($3,742,932 in 2021) worth of silver bullion produced. During its entire operating history from 1865 to 1949 mines produced over 35,000 short tons (32,000 t) of lead, 4,400,000 ounces (120,000 kg) of silver and 11,800 short tons (10,700 t) of zinc, which estimated worth was over $17 million.

By 1907 high-grade zinc ore was found in Cerro Gordo and ore shipments begun and by 1912 Cerro Gordo became the largest producer of zinc carbonates in the US.

In 1916 the town became electrified replacing the steam power that operated the machinery.

In 1920, about ten miners still worked, mostly mining silver-lead ore. Mining had largely ceased by 1938. As of 2019, a former high school teacher was the only miner; the then-70-year-old had been collecting small amounts of silver underground since 1997, selling the silver to tourists, while searching for a productive vein.

The Cerro Gordo mines were the most extensive with more than 30 miles (48 km) of underground tunnels in the Cerro Gordo Mining District.

The ghost town of Cerro Gordo was purchased in June 2018 with the intent to turn it into a tourist attraction, accessed by special permission. At that time it had several vintage buildings, including the general store and 336 acres (136 ha). The buyers, Brent Underwood and Jon Bier, purchased the property with additional Los Angeles-based investors.] The American Hotel, an icehouse, and a residence were destroyed in a fire on June 15, 2020. As of February 2021, Underwood claims he is committed to the historical restoration project.

Silver Mining & Refining


Silver is found generally in lead ores, copper ores, and cobalt arsenide ores and is also frequently associated with gold in nature. Most silver is derived as a by-product from ores that are mined and processed to obtain these other metals.

It is extremely rare to find real silver nuggets or what’s also known as silver plate.  Therefore, real silver nuggets are usually highly valued by collectors.  We have natural silver nuggets and silver plate listed on our site, if you’re interested here are two links:

View our Natural Silver specimens, Visit our Old West Collections & Unique & Unusual page

Be sure to view our Gold nuggets for sale.

Also see the most expensive type of gold nuggets, the Crystalline Gold Nuggets

Subscribe to our Youtube Arizona Gold Prospecting channel


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