Sulphur Mining District

From Black Rock Desert Nevada wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

The Sulphur Mining District contains the ghost town of Sulphur.[1] To the east of Sulphur is the Hycroft Mine, an active gold and silver mine.

Below are verbatim quotations from various early sources.

Raymond (1877)

Raymond (1877)[2] writes:

"Rabbit Hole district sulphur mines - In March 1875 a sulphur deposit was located by McWorthey of Oakland, Cal., who obtained the knowledge of its locality through an Indian. The mine is situated about 40 miles northwest of the Humboldt House on the Central Pacific Railroad on the foot hills of the range of mountains east of Quin's River Sink. These foot hills consist of table lands which terminate abruptly on the valley of the sink and are cut abruptly in places by the water courses coming from the higher hills leaving crumbling banks of soil and rocks. It is in one of these banks that the sulphur bed was discovered by the Indian who reported the fact to many without special interest. But the rise in the price of sulphur due to greater consumption of it in the manufacture of sulphuric acid on the coast finally led to the location of the mine. The article proved pure and easily extracted. It occurs in irregular masses sometimes one two feet thick and of pure quality and again thinning out and mixed up with a light colored fibrous magnesia deposit in close to a deposit of lime sinter such as commonly occurs in the of hot springs in this country."

"Shortly after this another deposit was located about a mile from first by a cattle man living on the Humboldt River who previously knew of its existence. This location has been sold to the Humboldt Sulphur Company of Carson City Nev. The best of the ore is taken out transported to the Humboldt House and thence by rail to Carson City is used in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. The place where is located is called Inferno. Beautiful crystals of sulphur in these mines Much of the sulphur in the second mine with foreign matters steps have been taken to melt it on the spot"

Russell (1883)

The Rabbit Hole Sulphur Mines

"These mines derive their names from Rabbit Hole Springs situated a few miles southward the sulphur deposits on the eastern border of the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. The hills that rise to the eastward of the principal mines are of stryolite bordered along their western base of beds of nearly white volcanic tuff or breccia which is represented on the maps of the Fortieth Parallel Survey as being of Miocene age. These breccias have been greatly altered and cemented by opal and other silicious infiltrations since their deposition so that they now form brittle silicious rocks with pebbles and fragments of older rocks scattered through the mass. In many places these porous tuffs and breccias are richly charged with sulphur which fills all the interstices of the rock and sometimes line large cavities with layers of crystals five or six feet in thickness. In the Rabbit Hole district sulphur has been found in paying quantities for a distance of several miles along the border of the desert but the distribution is irregular and uncertain and is always superficial so far as can be judged by the present openings. As in the Cove Creek mines the sulphur at Rabbit Hole has been derived from a deeply seated source and from a vaporous condition in the cooler higher rocks in which it is now found from the silicious material that cements the tuffs it is evident that the porous rocks in which the sulphur is now found were penetrated by heated waters bearing silica in solution previous to the deposition of the sulphur These mines occur in a narrow north and south belt a line of ancient faulting which is one of the great structural features of the region The of faults with sulphur bearing strata of is here essentially the same as at the Cove mines."

"At the Rabbit Hole mines however no very recent movement of the ancient could be determined. This absence of a fault scarp together with the fact that the are now cold and do not give off exhalations of gas or vapor shows that the solfataric at this locality has long been extinct. At all the localities visited the sulphur has been from sources far beneath the surface from it has been expelled by heat and escaped through fissures that were formed along of faulting and has been condensed on the of fissures and in the interspaces of the cooler rocks near the surface. Whether the deposition of the sulphur took place by direct sublimation or by the decomposition of sulphuretted hydrogen has not been determined The date at which the sulphur was introduced into the rocks where we now find it is in all cases very recent and at the Cove Creek mines is still in progress."

"Work at the Rabbit Hole mines is now being carried forward by a day shift of seventeen men the production of sulphur being about six tons per day. The value of the sulphur produced about forty five dollars per ton in San Francisco. The sulphur after being mined and assorted placed in upright cast iron retorts having general resemblance to the common form of furnace with a capacity of about two and a tons. When the retorts are charged the at the top through which the sulphur bearing is introduced is closed and superheated admitted at the side. The steam pressure is first about seventy pounds to the square inch as the sulphur begins to melt the pressure allowed to subside to sixty or perhaps fifty pounds. When the sulphur melts it passes through a gate and is collected in a kettle beneath the retort from which it is allowed to flow in a very brown stream into a receiving pan with a capacity of about twelve thousand pounds impurities that were previously held in are allowed to settle to the bottom. From receiving pan the sulphur is run into molds shaped like frustrum of a cone each of which a capacity of from two hundred to two and fifty pounds. When allowed to stand a days after cooling those cylindrical masses into irregular lumps in which condition it delivered to the sulphur refinery at San Francisco. Oil and Drug News"[3]

Mining Magazine (1903)

Mining Magazine has a description of the area, which is reproduced below[4][5].

Sulphur in Nevada

"Dr. George I. Adams of the United States Geological Survey has recently had a glimpse of the infernal regions. He was sent to inspect a sulphur mine in Nevada and he brought back to Washington an interesting collection of specimens which show that a good grade of sulphur is produced in this country and that we are not dependent on importations from Sicily to supply the demand. Only a few deposits in the United States are at present mined but if a tariff were levied on the foreign product much greater development of native deposits might be expected. This is one of the industries that ought to be fostered. The investigations of the survey were made for the purpose of ascertaining the nature and extent of the Nevada deposits."

"The mine visited by Dr. Adams belongs to the Nevada Sulphur Mine Company. It is situated in the Rabbit Hole mining district just northwest of Rabbit Hole Springs about 35 miles from Humboldt House Station on the Southern Pacific Railway. This is on the edge of the Black Rock desert a desolate volcanic region in which there is little to rest the eye or cheer the spirit. The mines are in the form of pits open cuts and drifts exemplifying in every case that ancient truism 'Easy is the descent to Avernus.'"

"This deposit was discovered about 35 years ago by an Indian who sold it for a horse and saddle that he never received. In 1874 the mine was worked by two partners white men who quarreled over their profits until one of them killed the other cut him up put him in a sack and buried him thereabouts."

"For a long time the ghost of the murdered miner had things all his own way. The appearance of the Nevada Sulphur Mine Company in the field in 1900 put an end to his monopoly. The new company entered at once on the active production of sulphur and brimstone. They started with only one retort but have since added another. These retorts are cylindrical iron structures somewhat resembling a blast furnace in general appearance. After the ore is dumped into them they are closed and superheated steam is then turned on. The sulphur melts and runs out of the bottom of the retort into a settling pan from which it is drawn into molds. The forms in these molds weigh about 250 pounds. After they have cooled they are crushed to pea size or ground with buhr-stones into flour The sulphur of pea size is shipped in l00 pound sacks the flour in 110 pound sacks."

Vanderburg (1938)

Vanderburg (1938)[6] gives a summary of the district and how sulphur was extracted, which is reproduced below.

Sulphur District

"The Sulphur, also known as the Black Rock, district is on the northwest flank of the Kamma Mountains end on the southeast border of the Black Rock Desert. Sulphur, a station on the.Western Pacific Railroad, is about 2 miles northwest. Sulphur deposits were discovered here by Indians, who showed them to white men in the seventies. According to Whitehill[7], the first locations were made in March 1875 by Messrs. McWorthy and Rover. Shortly after other locations were made in this area by Messrs. Hale and Wright who sold their claims to the Pacific Sulphur Co. This company erected a refinery and operated it for about 8 years, producing from 6 to 7 tons of sulphur per day· In 1900 the deposits were acquired by the Nevada Sulphur. Co. of San Francisco, which operated for several years. Prior to 1911 the sulphur produced was hauled 35 miles to Humboldt, a station on the Southern Pacific Railroad, formerly Central Pacific Railroad. In 1911 the transportation cost was reduced by the completion of the Western Pacific Railroad, which passes within l l/2 miles of tho sulphur deposits. In 1917 the deposits wore purchased by the California Rex Spray Co.; this company and others were intermittently active up to 1929."

"In 1908 rich silver ore was discovered by a man named Moonsey at the south end of the sulphur deposits. Silver ore was mined for a number of years, principally by lessees, who are reported to have produced shipping ore having a value of more than $100,000."

California Rex Spray Co.

"The California Rex Spray Co. controls about 1,000 acres of patented sulphur-bearing ground. The principal owners are Frank B. McKevitt, Jr., Vacaville, Calif., Alexander s. Butler, Penryn, Calif., and S. H. Beetam of Benicia, Calif. After purchasing the property in 1917, the California Rex Spray Co. operated for 4 years, when it was leased to the Redwood Lumber Co. of Calif. The latter company operated for one year, and in 1924 the lease was taken over by the Humboldt Sulphur Co. This company operated until 1929, when it went into the hands of a receiver. Subsequently, the property was again leased to a company known as the Sierra Sulphur Co., Inc., which never operated, and in 1934 the property reverted to the present owners. In June 1937 all the mining, milling, and power equipment on the property was sold at auction. Statistics on the production of sulphur are not available, but, judging from the extent of the workings, the huge tailings pile, and some sketchy data on the early day activity, it is estimated roughly that at least 40,000 tons of sulphur have been produced. The sulphur was mined either by quarrying or by the room-and-pillar system."

"The deposits are distributed over an area several miles long and l mile wide. The sulphur occurs as crystal masses on the walls of cavities and in disseminated form in a highly alterered silicaous rock cemented by quartz and chalcedony. In some of the cavities the sulphur' is solid and appears to have flowed through the channels in the rocks in liquid form. A considerable amount of alunite, some gypsum, and a small amount of cinnabar is associated with the sulphur. Most of the sulphur mined in the past was obtained from shallow depths. The sulphur content of the material as mined varied from 15 to 85 percent."

Processes for Recovering Sulphur

"Various processes have been employed by successive companies in recovering sulphur from the aforementioned deposits. A description of the process used in the seventies and eighties by the Pacific Sulphur Co. was as follows:[7]."

"The crude sulphur is melted in large oblong iron pans. It is run off from this first pan into another similar one, which is covered with perforated iron plates. These plates are covered with ordinary sacking material, through which the sulphur, when discharged from the first pan, is strained. A considerable portion of impurities still passes through the meshes of the sacking - indeed, the greater portion goes through with the melted sulphur, but it afterwards settles at the bottom of the pan. This straining process is not so much for the purpose of catching whatever impurities may be with the sulphur as it is to aid in the settling process that takes place in this second pan; for it seems that if this operation is omitted there will be no separation of the sulphur from the other elements that are in combination with it. A new set of sacking is used for each charge run out from the first pan, but several charges are deposited in the second pan before the purified sulphur is run off and the settlings are removed. A slow fire is kept up under the second pan to prevent the sulphur from congealing, so that the settling may take placed. The pure sulphur is run off into cylindrical molds made of galvanized iron and a little larger at the top than at the bottom, so that the rolls of sulphur may be taken out the more easily when it is cooled. These rolls weigh about 150 pounds each and are, without any further process, ready for shipment. The capacity for refining at these works, which have two pans for the first operation and one for the second, is about 7 tons daily of refined sulphur. The cost of hauling the crude material from the mines to the refinery is $2.50 per ton; freight to the railroad is $10 per ton, and from there to San Francisco, $10 per ton. There is a market on the Pacific Coast for about 300 tons monthly."

"In 1900 the Nevada Sulphur Co recovered the sulphur by retorting. Two retorts, each having a capacity of 2 1/2 tons per charge, were employed. The retorts wore made of cast iron, 10 feet high, the body of which was shaped like a frustum of a cone and leaving a semispherical bottom. The 7 feet from the top. When the chamber was filled, the top and side doors· (the latter used for discharging the waste) were seated, and steam. was turned into this retort at a pressure of 70 pounds to the square inch The melted sulphur dropped through the grate into the kettlelike bottom of the retort, from which it was drawn off, together with the water resulting from the condensing steam, into a settling pan kept at a temperature sufficiently high so that the sulphur remained in the liquid state. From the settling pan tho sulphur was run into cast-iron cone-shaped molds having a capacity of 250 pounds each. After hardening in the molds, the sulphur was broken up into small pieces, which were put through a crusher, which reduced it to pea size for marketing. Some qf it was ground by buhrstones for flour sulphur and packed in sacks containing 110 pounds each."

"A description of the process employed by the Humboldt Sulphur Co. in 1929 is given by Hazen[8]. The crude ore was first crushed in gyratory and roll crushers to about 3/4 inch, then ground to 48 mesh in a Hardinge ball mill operating in closed circuit with a Dorr classifier. The ground pulp was elevated by a Wilfley sand pump to Kraut flotation cells, the concentrate from which was cleaned and recleaned in Forester type machines. The sand was removed from the flotation tailing by a Dorr classifier and sent to waste. The slime tailing was thickened in Dorr tanks and as much water as possible recovered. The flotation concentrate was thickened in a Dorr tank and then dewatered by an Oliver filter."

"Many flotation re-agents were tried, but the best results were obtained with Aerofloat No. 15; about 0.05 pound of this re-agent alone were used per ton of ore. Recovery averaged about 85 percent of the sulphur originally in tho ore. Tho concentrate averaged 77 percent sulphur, and mill loads, which were made up of half mine and half dump ore, about 15 percent sulphur."

"The flotation concentrate was refined by the Hazen process (patented). In this process the sulphur was refined in a large retort having a capacity of 35 tons pure sulphur pur 24 hours from a flotation concontrate analyzing 77 percent sulphur. The batch system was employed, and on an average the cycle produced 5 tons of pure sulphur in a little loss than 3 1/2 hours. Tho sulphur produced was quite pure, the lowest-grade carload sold averaged 99.6 percent and the highest-grade carload 99.85 percent sulphur."

Alunite Deposits

"Alunite veins occur in tho vicinity of the sulphur deposits. Although tho presence of the alunite was known as far back as 1900, it did not receive any attention until 1917, when a number of lode claims were located. The only production of alunite has been about 500 tons shipped in the crude state to the Pacific coast for use as fertilizer."

"The alunite veins have been prospected by several short adits and shallow shafts totaling about 500 feet. There is no equipment on the ground."

"A description of the deposits is given by Clark[9]."

"The alunite occurs in at least three parallel veins ranging from 2 to 15 feet in width and with a steep dip. The country rock is principally rhyolite breccia, which is covered in places by tuff and detrital material. The veins are traceapla on the surface for a considerable distance. Where exposed to weathering, the alunite is soft and powdery but becomes harder with depth."

"Three analyses made on the alunite, according to Clark, are as follows:"

              No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
In sol ( Si02) 0.09  1.6   2.0
Al2o3         37·4  37·52 37·9
Na2o          2.31   2.36  2.27
K20           8.63   9·54  9.10

See Silver Camel Mine for Vanderburg's notes.

Murbarger (1959)

Nell Murbarger (1959)[10] gives a history of the ownership of the mine.

  • J.W. Rover was working the mine in 1875 when he murdered the mine supervisor, I. N. Sharp. Rover was the first man to be legally executed in Washoe County.
  • Theodore Hale bought a half interest in the mine in 1875 and laid out a town called "Inferno". Hale and his partners produced about 11,000 lbs of sulphur per day, which was transported to Humboldt House on the CPRR. They excavated a 700 lb block of sulphur that was shown at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
  • Murbarger quotes the June 30, 1880 Silver State: "Those who have seen the blazing brimstone at night say it is a grand spectacle ... The blue flames shoot up some distance, and the smoke is dense ... If Bob Ingersoll could be prevailed upon to go there and inhale the sulphurous fumes for a short time he would never again deny the existence of a hell." Robert G. Ingersoll was an agnostic of the era.
  • William Peterson bought the mine in 1937 and sold to Henry Crofoot in 1952. The article includes a photo of Peterson's mill.
  • Murbarger states that the Alunite was discovered a few weeks before her visit.
  • At the time she wrote the article, Henry C. Crofoot of Ukiah (age 84) owned the mine. The article includes a photo of Crofoot, G. W. Strickland and Sarah Nell Strickland.
  • Murbarger writes of visiting a ghost town several miles back in the hills. Presumably the current mine in on the site of that town.


Devils Corral

Vanderburg (1938) writes: "The silver deposits occur at the south end of the sulphur deposits a short distance from a place called the Devil's Corral, a natural amphitheater formed by highly colored rocks"[6]

A strong odor of hydrogen sulfide was reported in Devil's Corral's short adits by White in 1955. Devil's corral is purported to be at the north edge of section 17, T35N R30E (not found in the Nevada Plats on 26-Dec-2014), 2.25km east of Floka[11]

Silver Camel Mine

Sulphur Mine

  • "Nevada Sulphur Co leasing to Red River Lumber Co... Sulphur... Sulphur"[12]
  • Sulphur Mine GNIS
    • Citation: "U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, 1:250,000-scale topographic maps; various edition dates. Represents new or changed names from published editions. Map name and year of publication follow (if known): Lovelock/1935"
    • Variant: "Nevada Sulphur Mine". Citation: "'Nevada': National Map Company, Indianapolis, Indiana, no date (map states it uses data from the 1920 census, and the acquisition data by the Nevada Historical Society was 1923). Full color map showing railroads, mountains, roads, communities, and springs, at scale of 1 inch=11 miles. "
  • Henry Crofoot purchased the Sulphur mine and ran it until 1962. A group from San Francisco led by Ted Kolb were in on the venture. The sold a product called Black Rock Soil Aid.[13]
  • David Valentine, "Ask Not for whom the Toll Bills," p. 12-17, In Situ, Newsletter of the Nevada Archaeological Association, Winter, 2002. Excellent history of the area.
  • Daniel E. Russell, "The Rabbit Hole Sulphur Mines, Humboldt County, Nevada," 2008. Excellent history of the area.
  • Now known as the Hycroft Mine.


  • "USGS 405446118590401 028 N35 E27 06DA 1 Th Sp 2 Sulphur Qd 2NW," USGS Water Data. Spring that appears in the middle of the playa at 40°54'46" -118°59'04".
    • "Warm Spring in Sulphur," Update to Garside (1979) B91, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology mentions this spring.
      • The above update also mentions Sulphur Spring, which is found on the Sulphur 24K map. In April 2004, Chris Sladek searched for the spring. "If there is a spring in the location where maps place it, it would be located within some reclamation ponds that the mine has built to collect any runoff from the leach pads."
  • Garside 1979 Appendix 1 lists location 232, a spring at SE1/4, S28, T35N, R28E at location 232. Imaging shows nothing at this area. of Garside 1979 has the following handwritten in for location 232: "This analysis matches (loc 142) Rose Cr. Spr. of GEOTHERM. Probably Sec. entered as 28 for R also." The credit is CWRR 1973.


  1. Joseph V. Tingley, "Mining Districts of Nevada," Report 47, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, 1998, 2nd Edition. See map for details.
  2. Rossiter Worthington Raymond, "Statistics of Mines and Mining in the States and Territories West of the Rocky Mountains," pp. 191-192, 1877.
  3. Israel C. Russell, "Sulphur Deposits in Utah and Nevada," The Quinologist, Volumes 1-2, p. 243, 1883.
  4. Mining Magazine: An International Monthly Review of Current Progress in Mining and Metallurgy," p. 416, Volume 8, December 26, 1903.
  5. "A Sulphur Mine in Nevada," Steel and Iron, Volume 73, National Iron and Steel Publishing Company, 1903. Slightly longer version of Mining Magazine 1903 article.
  6. 6.0 6.1 W. O. Vanderburg, "Reconnaissance of mining districts in Humboldt county, Nevada," U. S. Bureau of Mines 6995, p. 20, 1938.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Henry R. Whitehill, "Biennial Report of State Mineralogist, State of Nevada, 1875-1876," Carson City, Nov., p 65.
  8. Hazen, H. L., Recovering Sulphur From a Nevada Surface Deposit Deposit: Eng. &Min. Jour., vol. 127, May 25,1929, pp. 830-831. (From Vanderburg)
  9. Clark, I. C., Recently Recognized Alunite Deposits And Sulphur, Humboldt County, Nev.: Eng & Min. Jour., vol. 106, pp. 159-163. (From Vanderburg)
  10. Nell Murbarger, "The Mine at Sulphur, Nevada," pp 10-12, Desert Magazine, July, 1959.
  11. E. D. White, Thermal springs and Epithermal Ore Deposits, in "Fiftieth anniversary volume, 1990-1955/Economic geology, Volume 1," p. 126.
  12. "Report of the State Inspector of Mines," p. 31, 1922"
  13. Chris Baldo and Theron Brown, "Croofoot Lumber Company," Roots of Motive Power, Volume 29, Number 2, August 2009. (