American Mine, Ibex Hills

American Mine, Ibex Hills
Looking from the pass that separates Bradbury Wash from Confidence Wash.

The Ibex Hills are a rugged and relatively isolated mountain range located in the southeastern part of California, situated on National Park Service wilderness land (Death Valley National Park/Death Valley Wilderness). This area is part of the Mojave Desert and is known for its dramatic landscapes and ecological diversity. The Ibex Hills rise sharply from the surrounding desert floor, creating a striking visual contrast with the arid plains below.

Geologically, the Ibex Hills are composed of a variety of rock formations, including sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks. These geological features have been shaped over millions of years by volcanic activity and tectonic movements, contributing to the diverse terrain that includes steep hills, rocky outcrops, and occasional flat valleys.

The area is not just significant geologically; it also has a rich history of mining activity, particularly for minerals such as gold, silver, and copper. This mining heritage dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when prospectors and miners came to the region seeking fortune.

On this trip, we visited The American Mine which are a former copper-gold-silver mine located in section 5, Township 20N, Range 5E, San Bernardino Meridian, approximately 0.7 miles (1.1 kilometers) southwest of Ibex Peak. The property consisted of five claims.

Mineralization involves a vein deposit hosted in monzonite. The ore body measured 2 feet (0.61m) in thickness. The ore was found within a narrow barite vein situated in a thin belt of schist at the contact point between monzonite and granite. The local geology includes Precambrian rocks, undivided, unit 1 (Death Valley).

Mining operations comprised underground openings with several tunnels. Two of these tunnels measure 800 feet and 200 feet in length, respectively. Above the 200-foot tunnel, there is a stope measuring 20 feet in length and 50 feet in depth, extending to the surface.

Between 1937 and 1938, the mine shipped high-grade silver ore, which yielded over 100 ounces of silver per ton. Production statistics for the year 1914, covering the period from 1906 to 1914, include an estimated 4% copper, 15 ounces of silver per ton, and gold valued at $4.00 per ton (period values).

The American Mine is located southwest of Ibex Peak. You cannot drive all the way to the mine, we parked just off the pavement but you cannot drive further than the intersection located at the 3,000 foot line (just left of center on this map).
The drivable portion of road to the American Mine.
At approximately the 3,600' level there is a fork. The right leg drops into the wash and is the right way to go.
Rusty pan we found just after dropping into the draw.
Once into the draw, the vehicle tracks disappear. The basic goal is to aim toward the pass directly center in this shot.
Eventually, the road exits the wash to the left.
As you re-exit the wash, you'll start seeing numerous quartz veins. These veins were the navigational markers for the old prospectors. In this photo, you can clearly the see the vein on both sides of the small gully.
One to the pass separating Bradbury Wash from Confidence Wash, just follow the old mining road which is in great condition for hiking.
Right after crossing the pass, we saw our first mining debris despite still being a mile or so away.
The road crosses numerous tributaries of Confidence Wash as you head towards the mine site.
It's always impressive to see the work needed to build these mining roads across some of the most stark and unforgiving terrain in the United States.
The final turn as we approached the mine. Notice the adit located in the wall of the draw, directly center on this shot.
Zoomed in on the adit in the wall of the wash. The ore bearing vein runs from the top of the adit angling to the right.
The American Mine complex. The wash adit is the lower right of the shot. Center-left is the waste rock of the New American Mine. On the hill left of center above the New American waste rock, you can see the various adits of the original American Mine. The structure, roughly center of the photo, looks like an outhouse.
Sign for the New American Mine on the waste rock pile. Unclear if this is an NPS sign or from other source.
New American Mine adit with an old security door. What are those things on the floor there?
An old dynamite crate and a can of Union Carbide miner's lamp carbide.
We found this structure on the hill above the New American. It is very shallow and not large enough to accommodate a person. That, along with the old charcoal on the floor and the smoke stack, leads me to believe it was an oven of some sort - perhaps for cooking or assaying ore.
Around the corner from the oven building there's a shaft for the New American. It's about 100' deep.
An old gas stove top in the wash below the original American Mine. Unsure what the can that's attached to it was for.
A glory hole from the American Mine.
Looking inside the adit to the glory hole - timbering still in there after all these years.
The outhouse. This was a luxurious one that was enclosed on all sides and even had a door!
The interior of the luxurious outhouse.
One final look at the American mine site.

On the way out, we got some great views of the Amargosa Chaos. The geological landscape known as the Amargosa Chaos in Death Valley is characterized by a highly faulted zone, with a mosaic of fault-bounded, typically gigantic blocks derived from a stratigraphic succession. These blocks are arranged in proper stratigraphic order but occupy only a small fraction of the thickness of the original succession. This area exemplifies extreme crustal extension, a term first coined by Levi Noble in 1941.

Sedimentary rocks, predominant in this region, traditionally follow rules that dictate their formation and stacking. However, the extensive faulting and shuffling in the Chaos disrupt these norms, making geological mapping and understanding challenging. This complexity is evident as many sedimentary rocks still maintain depositional contact with the basement, despite being massively dislocated by fault movements.

Field observations reveal that the geological history of the area includes intense mountain-building periods that crumpled and broke the rock beds. These rocks were originally deposited as horizontal layers in a shallow ocean or coastal area about 600 million years ago, during the Proterozoic Era, before undergoing significant geological transformations over millions of years.

Looking towards the Amargosa Chaos.