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The Gold Prince Mine or Dos Cabezas Project, Cochise Co. Arizona

Last Updated: 16th Oct 2016

By Rolf Luetcke

The Gold Prince Mine or Dos Cabezas Project, Cochise Co. Arizona
By Rolf Luetcke

The Gold Prince mine in the Dos Cabezas Mountains in Southeastern Arizona lies on the Southwestern facing slope of the mountains. The name is Spanish for two heads, the resemblance the large rock formation at the top has to two heads from a distance. One can see the large white bull quartz dike running along the face of the mountains. The quartz is like a beacon and can be seen from miles away. Much of the quartz is barren of minerals but in some areas the quartz was enriched with gold and other minerals which was discovered in 1878 and first mined in 1880.
I don't normally collect gold and am mostly interested in the copper related minerals but I have a close friend in Germany, Ewald Muller, who collects mostly gold from as many mines as he can find specimens from. At last count, Ewald has gold from over six hundred localities. He had visited the mine one time on a trip to the US with a mineral collecting tour group. When they went to the mine they were allowed to drive up to the offices at the bottom of the mountain but were not allowed to collect anything. They were given a nice talk on the mine but could only drool at the thought of having a piece of gold from the mine. The group went away empty handed.
I had gotten a mineral collection on consignment when we had our store open a number of years ago. A friend, Richard Gillespie, who visited us often at our store had one time brought over a nice size chunk of quartz ore from the Gold Prince Mine someone who had worked at the mine had given him as a piece found at the mine. I looked at the piece he brought over to show us. It had one deep hole with lots of gold in it. I didn't look too close at the piece but remembered seeing it. When Richard passed away we sold the collection through our store for his son and since we had done the evaluation of Richards collection we had been given several pieces from his collection as payment instead of taking money for the eight hours it took to evaluate the collection. That gold was one I wanted for Ewald in Germany. When I got it home and looked under the microscope I immediately saw it was a piece that was totally faked. Someone had taken a piece of quartz from the mine and then melted some jewelry gold and dripped it into the open hole in the quartz. Since it was actual gold the naked eye didn't immediately spot that it was fake. Under magnification it was very easy to see it was faked. I eventually did send the piece along with other things to Ewald and he has that piece as an example of how people try to fool others. Another small story to go along with the Gold Prince Mine in my memory.
I had gotten to know a geologist in our area and we had become good friends. He specialized in gold geology and had told me he had even worked a while at the Gold Prince Mine as their geologist. The name of the mine is now Dos Cabezas Project but I still know it and call it by its earlier name. Clive Bailey had told me about the mine and how steep the mountain was where they mined. The mine has a number of levels for some 750 feet of vertical range. There are earlier hand worked mines higher up on the mountain and I have been fortunate to visit them all.
Besides gold the mine produced lead, silver, copper, zinc, silica and graphite. The underground has extensive shafts and tunnels with 5 adits and 3,100 feet of drifts. The production was about ten thousand tons of ore between 1880 and 1950, when the mine closed. The mine is still under lease and has several locked gates, signs saying no tresspassing and a watchman living in the nearby town of Dos Cabezas.
One day Clive asked me if I was interested in working with him on a sampling trip to the Gold Prince Mine and I jumped at the chance. Not so much for myself but for Ewald in Germany who had always wanted to have a piece of gold from the mine. My personal interest lay in seeing how many mineral species I could find at the mine and this was why Clive had asked me to go along, he wanted that list to pass onto the mine owners. Clive and I drove up to the watchman's house in the small town and he led the way through the two gates, unlocked them and took us to where the original offices had been at the bottom of the mountain. There is a large open area at the base of the mountains that had numerous structures at one time but was empty now. I saw there were several piles of rock at the edge of one open area and those must have been the piles Ewald and his tour group had wanted to collect from. I looked at the piles and realized that even if they had been let loose on those piles there was little of interest in them. The road continued up the mountain but was neglected and in poor shape. Clive brought his old four wheel drive pick up to gain access to the mid level mines and the watchman only asked we lock up the gates when we were done since his vehicle could not follow us up any further.
There were several levels where the adits were gated and locked up. The largest gated tunnel at the lowest level was large enough to allow a vehicle to drive into the mine. A couple of smaller tunnels up higher only had signs to keep out. Since we were on a waste dump sampling trip we didn't need to access the underground. Clive had been underground in earlier years when he had worked at the mine. Much of the mine had been maintained in case the gold prices rose enough to open up again. Our task that day was to sample all the mine dumps and take the bags to the lab and have the amount of gold per ton analyzed. Clive had a map of the various levels we needed to sample and we headed off. One at a time we filled the sample bags from the places he had marked on his map, labeled the bags and went on to the next spot. I had a day pack and Clive told me if I saw any good ore to put that into my pack for our German friend and to study what minerals were at the mine. Clive needed me to identify the minerals found in the ores. Clive was very good at what he did but was weak in mineral identification and left that to me. I looked for any mineralized rock that might have different mineral species than much of the barren waste rock on the dumps and took a few samples along.
The mines along the whole hill had at one time been accessed by a road which angled back and forth across the steep hills to gain access for vehicles to the various levels. We climbed straight up the slope from one mine dump to the next. Walking up was easier that taking the long road around.
We climbed up filled the bags at each of the dumps on the way up and carried the full sample bags from each of the dumps to where the closest road passed to take down when we had gone to all the places on his map. At the top most dump was the only place I found rock that actually looked good for visible gold and showed Clive the two pieces I had picked up. We both looked with our magnifiers and saw visible gold in the two pieces. On that whole trip up and down the mountain I only found those two pieces among all I had looked at under the magnifier that contained visible gold.
At the top most mine Clive had on his map we stopped and did the last sampling but I saw the road continued on. Clive said there were more small mines up higher but he was only sampling to this point. I continued on up as Clive filled the sample bags following the road about a half mile further and found where the road ended and here was another large bull quartz outcropping. I did bring along a few samples of what I thought was the best ore for gold and later at home did find a few examples in this material but only specks of gold. I then went back to do the work needed to carry the full bags of samples back down the mountain. This is where we both earned our money. The mountain was extremely steep and the road cut from side to side along the hill and was the best way to carry the samples back. It was a longer route but carrying two bags of rock each and going straight down was not an option for it would be nearly impossible to not fall and break an ankle or worse with the bags making us off balance. We carried the bags until our arms wore out and then went back up for another couple, giving our arms a chance to rest as we climbed back up.
The upper most workings on the mountain where Clive had gathered his last samples had all followed mineralized seams and from what I could tell, had all been mined using hand tools back at the earliest time of the mine, before 1900. The seams of enriched quartz had been removed from the veins that went in at all angles, following the quartz seams. None of the seams of mineralized quartz had been very wide and there was not one I saw where it was easy to stand to work. The open cavities still went into the mountain but were at dangerous angles to attempt any entry. Also from what I saw, the early miners had been very thorough and the chances of finding forgotten gold seams was remote. In later years the mountain was tunneled into from below where they found veins from tunnel levels, which made moving the ores much easier. Drilling projects had pinpointed where the veins could be intersected from the tunnel levels. When we went up to do the sampling the road was not drivable with any vehicle from rock falls and years of neglect. We could still wind our way between fallen rock and growing bushes but not even a motorcycle would have navigated this old road. This came from my early days of racing off road motorcycles. I often looked at really rough access with the eyes of access by motorcycle from that past experience.
After carrying rock down the mountain we were beat and headed out, locked the gates and returned the key to the watchman. When I was home I had time to rest on the drive back so I showered and took the two samples with the visible gold to my microscope and sure enough, the two small pieces, one about 10 cm long with a 2 cm thick seam of quartz with jarosite and lots of holes had gold in many places. The gold was thin and leafy in habit but was easy to tell that it was gold. The cavities left behind looked like they had once been occupied by pyrite crystals and the gold at the Gold Prince was often bound with the pyrite. I did find it at other areas coating pyrite crystals still in place in the quartz. The second piece was a bit smaller but they were the only material I saw up on the mountain I considered had been missed by the early miners and had been part of the ore they were mining. These two pieces had many small places with visible gold in the etched out pockets in the quartz. When Ewald visited the next time I gave him the pick of the pieces I had collected and told him not to be shy about taking the best. In going through the other material I took along I did find more gold but only in tiny spots on some pieces, much of this was in thin layers on and in pyrite. I was able to find about 20 species of minerals at the mine and fulfilled my part of the work for the mine owners. I later took photographs of the minerals and those were sent to the owners as well.
On the next visit from Ewald, we partook in a sampling trip to the mine again since the lab results on the first trip wanted Clive to focus on a couple of spots that showed the most promise. We again stopped at the watchman's house and he led the way to the old office site at the bottom of the mountain. The same instructions to please lock both gates when we were done and return the key. We worked our way up the mountain and filled the necessary bags and kept our eyes open for any more potential pieces that contained visible gold. We got the samples we needed and reached the top most dumps where I had found the first gold and looked all over. I again was the only one lucky enough to find a piece with visible gold. The early miners really didn't leave much for anyone who followed.
Ewald was able to fulfill a dream he had for many years, to actually visit the mine and look for gold. Because I had been the one to find the piece with gold he said his dream of actually finding a piece of gold at the Gold Prince was still not fulfilled. As much as I told him that my finding it or his finding it actually didn't matter since we were all together on the mountain, he didn't see it that way. Oh well, he got his gold from that trip since I had a piece already.
On that second trip I took my four wheel drive jeep and hoped to get to the same place Clive had gotten to with his pickup truck. I started up the deeply rutted remnants of road and as I rounded one corner I saw the three foot plus deep rut in the middle of the road which got wider and wider. Since there was no way to stop or turn around since I was straddling the deep rut already, I kept going. The guys were deep in conversation so they didn't really notice my extreme concern if the rut got any wider. The pickup truck Clive had gone up with was much wider than the Jeep I had and was not in danger of falling into that now deeper rut. I was very fortunate to have driven a large number of roads most wouldn't even try in my long life as a desert rat so I knew exactly where my wheels were. When I got over the several hundred yard rutted road and topped the place Clive had been with his truck I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. In retrospect I should have walked the road first but didn't and made it up. Today I would certainly do things differently. On the way back down I had talked to the others about how I had been extremely lucky to have made it up and I had one walk ahead and guide my wheels on the way down. If we had gone into the rut we would not have been able to get out and I played through my mind often what we would have done to get my jeep out. Having to get a tow truck way out here would have been really expensive and that may not even have gotten us out. Not to mention the walk down to the watchman's house would have been a very long walk. With the guidance it was no trouble to stay on the solid ground and make it down safely. Fortunately the road had not been used by anyone else and the ground here was quite hard so the weight of the vehicle didn't collapse the sides of the deep rut.
After the results came back from the sampling we had done the mining company got a contract to supply a smelter with quartz flux and with the high gold values those would be their profit. The company came in with heavy equipment and fixed the road going up the mountain and removed the dumps of the mines Clive and I had sampled.
The mine is still under claim with no collecting allowed in hopes the mines can be reopened in the future and more ore removed. I was fortunate to have been asked to help on this project. I have to say the views from up on that mountain were unsurpassed for scenic views. The trips we took were in Winter months, Summer the high temperatures would be dangerous to do this kind of work. The area is also great habitat for snakes and Winters make that much safer since the snakes are hibernating.





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Comments

Great experience for you and Clive. Rita and I went to the area when we first moved here but could get only to the first locked gate. Your story tells in detail the beautiful site for miles around. We enjoy looking at it every day. Thanks again for your VERY accurate information and life experiences that you share with us. Brander




Brander Robinson
18th Oct 2016 3:17am

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