Divide Mining District, Nye County, Nevada

Divide Mining District, Nye County, Nevada
A panoramic overview of the Klondyke Hills and the Divide Mining District

The Divide district, originally known as Gold Mountain, is situated about 5 miles south of Tonopah in the Klondyke Hills. Renamed Divide after new discoveries in 1917, it is centered on the divide along the Tonopah-Goldfield road, west of Gold Mountain (6,647'). Nearby, the Gold Reef district lies on the southeast flank of Gold Mountain, and both are now part of the current Divide district. Historical references such as The Nevada Miner (1902) also mention a Dutch Mountain district about 6 miles south of Tonopah, likely encompassing this area.

This discovery, thanks to the persistence of H.C. “Cal” Brougher, president of Tonopah Divide Mining Company, significantly boosted the district's prominence. With the financial backing of George Wingfield, president of Goldfield Consolidated Mines Company and a new member of the board, the first ore was shipped in October 1918 to the Goldfield Consolidated Mines Company mill, 30 miles south of the district. This event marked the beginning of a mining boom that saw the staking of claims over an area of 50 square miles around Gold Mountain, with hundreds of companies formed, nearly all incorporating “Divide” in their names.

The Divide District has a rich history of mining activities, evolving significantly since its inception in 1902 when it was primarily mined for gold by the Tonopah-Gold Mountain Mining Company. By 1912, the operation was reorganized as the Tonopah-Divide Mining Co., marking the beginning of its prominence in the region. A turning point occurred in 1917 when a rich silver lode was discovered, boosting the mine's productivity. Over the decades, the mine saw varying levels of activity and ownership changes, including significant exploration in the 1970s and 1980s, and it transitioned to a gold-silver open pit operation under Falcon Exploration in 1981.

The geological and mineralogical setup of the Divide District is closely tied to the volcanic activity of the region. The mineralization events associated with the district are dated to between 16.1 and 16.4 million years ago, following the intrusion of the Oddie Rhyolite formation. This timing aligns with the secondary mineralizing event in the nearby Tonopah District. The district's geology is marked by a sequence of volcanic rocks and intrusions that have been extensively mined for their rich deposits of silver and gold, influenced by the area's complex tectonic activities.

Economic evaluations over the years have demonstrated varying potentials for the mining operations. By 1988, the property was estimated at about 500,000 tons of material, but by 1997, this had expanded significantly to 1.8 million tons with a higher gold grade. These figures reflect the evolving understanding and technological advancements in ore body mapping, mining, and mineral processing that allowed for more accurate assessments and improved extraction techniques.

The infrastructure of the district has also evolved, for example, from deep vertical shafts of the Tonopah-Divide Mine in the early 20th century to an open pit format by 1981. This transition reflects changes in mining technology and economic factors that made open-pit mining more viable. The Tonopah-Divide was the most productive mine in the district and workings have included a 1,500' shaft, extensive crosscuts and drifts which provided access and extract the ore from multiple levels, adapting over time to the geological challenges and the scale of operations.

In addition to the Tonopah-Divide Mine, several other smaller producers were formed during the 80 years the district was operating. These mines included:

  • Brougher-Divide Mining Company
  • New Alto Divide Mining Company
  • G&H Claims
  • Jewess Claim
  • Silver King
  • Harmill Divide Mine
  • Divide Extension Mine
  • Tonopah-Dividend Mining Company

The larger Tonopah Divide area encompasses a range of patented and unpatented claims, with significant expansions and contractual changes in mining rights over the years. Notably, in 2006, Tonogold Resources signed a 10-year lease to mine the area, indicating continued interest and investment in exploiting the mineral resources of the district. The lease covers a substantial area, reflecting the ongoing potential seen in this mining district.

The Divide District and its associated mining operations present a microcosm of the broader trends in the mining industry, including the challenges of remote mining operations, the economic fluctuations affecting commodity prices and investment, and the technological advancements that have allowed deeper and more efficient extraction of mineral resources. This district's history offers insights into the complexities of mining in a geologically active and economically fluctuating environment, highlighting the adaptation required to sustain mining operations over more than a century.

Overview map of the Divide District
Stock certificate issued in 1923 for the Tonopah Divide Mining Company
In addition to the developed mines, the district is pockmarked with hundreds of smaller prospects and "coyote holes".
Gold Mountain and the waste rock piles of the major producer, the Tonopah-Divide Mine. The roads cut into the upper part of the mountain spiral around it and are from the exploration activities in the 1970s and 80s. There was some evidence of recent ore body mapping work.
An old miner's cabin along the road to Gold Mountain.
There are many smaller mines, including this unnamed shaft and waste rock pile, in the district.
The waste rock pile for the Tonopah-Divide Mine was massive and shows how large the workings were.

The Tonopah-Divide Mine has several shafts, including:

  • Halifax: 1,200 feet deep
  • West End: 1,500 feet deep
  • Ohio: 800 feet deep
  • McNamara: 700 feet deep
The 1,200 foot deep Halifax Shaft of the Tonopah-Divide Mine. The logs covering it to prevent accidents are questionable at best.
The Halifax Shaft hoist footings and someone's old couch.
Panoramic view of the open pit operation which was mined during the 1970s and 80s.
The floor of the open pit includes what is likely a winze from the former underground operation.
A good example of the tabular ore body in the open pit.
Based on a rock drop test, this is likely the 1,500 foot deep West End Shaft of the Tonopah-Divide Mine.
The old footings of the hoist for the West End Shaft.
A prospect cut in the side of Gold Mountain. The yellowish rock is ore bearing.
Looking west from the prospect road. The last foreground peak to the right is Hasbrouck Peak (6,273'). In the distance you can see the fourteen thousand foot White Mountains.
Looking south from the summit of Gold Mountain (6,447'). Where highway 95 meets the horizon is the boomtown of Goldfield. The dry lakebed is Alkali Lake.
The headframe for the Brougher Divide Mine is the only one we could find in the district. The shaft is a 500 foot deep triple box design. The hoist and shaft design implies there used to be a much larger headframe and this headframe is likely from a later re-mining operation.
Another capped shaft of the Brougher Divide Mine. There was no hoist footings, so likely this was an air shaft.
A glory hole of the Divide Extension Mine.
Old hoist footings of the Divide Extension Mine.
The two box shaft of the Divide Extension Mine goes down 300 feet. A smaller nearby shaft measures at about 110 feet deep.
Old highway 95 runs through the district and passes between Gold Mountain (out of frame to the left) and Hasbrouck Peak (straight ahead).