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Carmelita Mine (Big Spring mine; Blue Gem claim; Crest Gem mine; Elinor deposit; Elinor mine; Estudillo mine; French Pete mine; MS 6130; Peter Cabat mine), Chihuahua Valley, Warner Springs District, San Diego Co., California, USA

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Latitude & Longitude (WGS84): 33° 21' 9'' North , 116° 38' 47'' West
Latitude & Longitude (decimal): 33.3525, -116.646388889

Why do strong arms fatigue themselves with frivolous dumbbells? To dig a vineyard is worthier exercise for men.
—Marcus Valerius Martialis (AD38-104)

The Carmelita mine is located near the southeast end of the crest of a prominent northwest trending granite ridge in the SE4 and SW4 of Section 26, T9S, R3E, SBM; about 5 miles (7.9 km) north of Warner Springs, San Diego County, California, USA.

Situated an elevation of 4800' AMSL, the exposure is covered with dense chaparral amidst small stands of Coulter pine. The primary development is in the center portion of a continuous northwestward striking pegmatite vein up to 400 feet across, that is at least 2000 feet long and has an average dip of 40° south.

The pegmatite is enclosed in granodiorite, which contains numerous septa and inclusions of platy, impure quartzite and mica-schist; and is thought to be underlain by gabbroic country rock.

The mine was discovered on April 29th, 1907, by a local Basque prospector from Warner Springs named John Peter Labat (Jean Pierre Labat), as he was hiking atop the nameless but visibly prominent physiographic feature a few miles north of Warner's Ranch, investigating an area where several masses of milky-white quartz outcropped on the surface. Sunlight and a little digging soon revealed considerable quantities of pink, blue and green tourmaline.

The great gem discovery caused Labat to quickly locate a quartz (lode) mining claim on May 1st which he appropriately named "Carmelita", and recorded at the San Diego County Courthouse on May 7, 1907. The outside lines of the claim were located between the places of John Linton and the Old Web place or Larue Flat.

Around 1910, early Chihuahua Valley homesteader and local camp outfitter Ray Mitchell, came across Labat as he was riding down the trail towards Colonel Ed Fletcher's ranch. Mitchell said that "French Pete" showed him several large (5" x 3") nicely colored tourmalines from recent mining, and he was taking them down to San Diego for sale.

Available data for the years 1907 through 1915 indicates that the Carmelita was the leading producer of tourmaline within this remote mountainous region of northeastern San Diego County. Records disclose approximately 26 pounds of tourmaline recovered from surface and underground workings.

By June of 1932, the Carmelita claim title was transferred to "Jeanne Marie Frey" of 3117 - 28th Street, San Diego. At the request of Frey, the U.S. Department of Interior's General Land Office issued instructions on June 24th of 1932, to perform a Mineral Survey of the Carmelita Lode claim. The survey commenced on July 11th of that year, and was performed by R. Robinson Rowe, a licensed United States Mineral Surveyor, with the assistance of Eric V. Quartly who acted as the "Chainman", and "Assistant Transitman".

Together, in pursuance of instructions received from the Office of Cadastral Engineers at San Francisco and Glendale, California, Rowe and Quartly proceeded to mark the corners and survey the boundaries of the Carmelita Lode and the Carmelita Mill Site.

Rowe's survey reported the labor expended and improvements made upon the Carmelita Lode claim, which included detailed description of the character, extent, location, and itemized value thereof. The improvements at that time consisted of 14 cuts, 6 drifts, 2 stopes, 1 trench, 9 tunnels, and 1 winze.

Using Frey's inventory which was purchased from Labat years earlier, Rowe estimated the total improvement value at this time to be $5,690. His survey concluded that a total of approximately 681 short tons of pegmatite were removed and processed between 1907 and 1932, with an average gemstone recovery value of $8.36 per ton. Jeanne Marie Frey apparently died in 1935 prior to receiving a patent grant to the lode.

Around 1935, Chihuahua Valley resident Ottis Mitchell (10 years the younger brother of Ray Mitchell), accompanied neighbor and local hardrock miner A. N. Pearson (Andy Pearson) up to the "French Pete" mine to see a large gem-pocket that Pearson had recently discovered.

Mitchell, a mining engineer graduate from the local University of Riverside, described Labat's original pack-trail which had been roughly converted into a "two-track road" to facilitate travel from "stump to bolder" of Pearson's "old Dodge" truck.

He described Pearson's discovery as a "big pocket filled with large rose-colored tourmaline crystals encased in a bluish-green powdery clay". He also recalled that the reward was exceptional for Pearson, with many large gem-grade tourmalines being recovered, yet ultimately the work was very hard, and the gemstones proved "not easy to get". It was also noted that most of the work performed by Pearson usually did not involve contracted laborers.

On August 6, 1977, Roland Reed of El Cajon and George Ashley of Pala, relocated a lode mining claim on the Carmelita mine on the deposit, naming the claim after Weber's 1963 geographical description; the "Crest Gem".

Reed and Ashley soon began development at the mine by using a track-dozer to create an access roadway from Lost Valley Truck Trail (Lost Valley Road) to the north side of the summit upon which the gem-bearing pegmatite exposure and historic underground workings were located.

Within a few months, the duo engineered over 1 mile of new roadway constructed in rugged steep slope conditions, with a relatively dramatic elevation gain of over 480 feet to the top of the ridge. Work began to extend the lateral drifts on the southwest dip slope of the pegmatite, in hopes of encountering a continuation of pocket zones removed by Labat nearly 70 years earlier.

Approximately 60 linear feet of underground workings were constructed during this period, with only a few minor pockets encountered as a result of this work, primarily consisting of quartz crystals and microcline feldspar.

Giuseppe Laddomada of Vista began an intensive exploratory program in 1978, utilizing a small track-dozer, downhole drilling and hardrock blasting to expose additional sections of productive pegmatite.

Between 1978 and 1992, two large pockets nearly 20 feet long were discovered that produced many fine tourmalines in colors of green, blue, and pink. Additionally, many excellent beryl crystals were recovered, in both blue (aquamarine) and pink (morganite) varieties. In between these areas, large quantities of smoky quartz crystals were discovered, many of which exceeded 7 lbs in weight.

In March of 1993, Erik M. Cordova of Torrance discovered a large pocket containing over 100 quartz crystals, some weighing as much as 8 lbs, with many attached to an aesthetic matrix of cleavelandite and microcline feldspar.

During a field trip in May of 1998, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Geologist, Walter 'Buzz' Todd - witnessed the discovery of several gem-quality morganites. These beryl crystals were light-pink with etched exteriors, the largest weighing just over 7 grams. In June, of that year, the San Diego Mining Company (SDMC) received concurrence with planned surface development and reclamation activities from the BLM, setting the stage for an intensive exploration program.

During the summer of 1999, a section of pegmatite was removed within the northwestern portion of an existing trench in which was an exposed underground lateral drift. In this zone was discovered a bright pink montmorillonite clay-filled pocket measuring approximately 2 feet across, which produced nearly 200 grams of fine quality green tourmaline crystals.

The largest of these elbaite crystals measured over 4 inches long, weighing 11 grams, and 45 percent of the prism consisted of flawless rough suitable for faceting a truly museum-quality gem. Additionally, over 200 lbs of carving-quality lepidolite was recovered, along with several unique specimens of cassiterite and fluorapatite on matrix, marking the end of a colorful century for the Carmelita lode.

Beginning in 2000, exploration work by SDMC had focused along the steep pegmatite exposures located along the north and south sides of the mountain. Amidst the high-rise pegmatite boulders and thick brush, continuous pick and shovel discoveries of blue tourmaline, pink beryl and yellow quartz gemstones were made by the crew in preparation of the portal site for the underground emergency escapeway.

Mineral List

20 valid minerals. 1 erroneous literature entry.

This page contains all mineral locality references listed on This does not claim to be a complete list. If you know of more minerals from this site, please register so you can add to our database. This locality information is for reference purposes only. You should never attempt to visit any sites listed in without first ensuring that you have the permission of the land and/or mineral rights holders for access and that you are aware of all safety precautions necessary.


Schaller, W. T. (1916), Cassiterite in San Diego County California. Contributions to economic geology, 1915, Part 1. USGS Bulletin: (p. 351-354) 620-p.

Schaller, W. T. (1917), Gems and precious stones. Mineral Resources U.S., 1915, pt. 2: p. 843-858.

Schaller, W. T. (1919), Gems and precious stones. Mineral Resources U.S., 1916, pt. 2: p. 887-889.

Rowe, R. R. (1932), Field notes of the survey of the mining claim of Jeanne Marie Frey, known as the Carmelita Lode and Carmelita Mill Site. USDI, General Land Office, Mineral Survey No. 6130 A and B: 13 p., 1 plat.

Tucker, W. B., Reed, C. H. (1939), Los Angeles Field District - Mineral Resources of San Diego County. California Journal of Mines and Geology, quarterly chapter of State Mineralogist's Report 35; January: p. 38-42, Illus., maps.

Jahns, R. H., Wright, L. A. (1951), Gem and lithium bearing pegmatites of the Pala District, SD County, California. California Division of Mines, Special Report 7A: 72 p.

Sinkankas, J. (1959), Gemstones of North America (Vol.1), Van Nostrand, New York; p. 188.

Weber, F. H. (1963), Geology and mineral resources of San Diego County, California. California Division of Mines and Geology, County Report 3: p. 103; p. 280, illus., maps.

Murdoch, Joseph & Webb, Robert W. (1966), Minerals of California, Centennial Volume (1866-1966): California Division Mines & Geology Bulletin 189: 242, 371.

Rynerson, F. (1967), Exploring and Mining Gems & Gold in the West. Naturegraph Publishers, Inc., Happy Camp, California: Ch. 16, p. 113-116.

Gray, W. R. (1975), The Pacific Crest Trail. National Geographic Society, Washington D. C.: (p. 10-32) 199 p.

Mayerle, R. (1982), Mineral Investigation of the Caliente RARE II Area, San Diego County, California: U.S. Bureau of Mines Open-File Report MLA 106-82, Fig. 1, p. 5.

Pemberton, H. Earl (1983), Minerals of California; Van Nostrand Reinholt Press: 431.

Bancroft, P. (1984), Gem and Crystal Treasures. Western Enterprises/Mineralogical Record, Inc.: p. 98-110

Bancroft, P. (1989), Gem Mining in San Diego County. Environment Southwest, San Diego Natural History Museum, Number 525: p. 14-20

Magill, T. (1998), Personal communication to Erik M. Cordova and Scott L. Ritchie by Whispering Winds Ranch foreman Tom Magill of Warner Springs, California - description of historic and current usage of CR&H Trail: December.

Cordova, E. M. (1999), Personal communication to Scott L. Ritchie by Erik M. Cordova of Torrance, California - description of discovery and location of the "New California Mine" LMC: October.

Laddomada, G. (1999), Personal communication to Scott L. Ritchie by Giuseppe Laddomada of Vista, California - description of exploratory development work at the "Crest Gem Mine" in San Diego County by family members between June, 1978 and September, 1992: October.

McCollum, A. (1999), Personal communication to Scott L. Ritchie by Art McCollum of Sun City, California - description of Joe Laddomada's discovery of a gem-quality apatite occurrence on the Mason Ranch; gem spodumene occurrence at the "Crest Gem" mine (circa 1985): October.

Reed, R. (1999), Personal communication to Scott L. Ritchie and unpublished notes of Roland Reed of Pala, California - description of relocation and development work at the "French Pete Mine" in San Diego County with George Ashley of Pala, between August, 1977 and June, 1978: October.

Mitchell, O. (2000), Personal communication to Scott L. Ritchie by Ottis Mitchell of Warsaw, Missouri (Chihuahua Valley resident between 1931 and 1939) - description of the Mitchell family's U/G tungsten mining efforts on Beauty Mountain; Andy Pearson's gemstone exploration and industrial mineral development: June.

Ordway, A. (2000), Personal communication to Scott L. Ritchie by Al Ordway of Hesperia, California; the story of "French Pete's mine" as related to Ordway by Ray Mitchell of Warner Springs at Mitchell Camp in Chihuahua Valley during the late 1980's: March.

Ritchie, S. L. (2000), History of the Carmelita Gem Mine in the 20th Century. Southern California Gem Industries web publication: July.

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