You are at montmorillonite.us
For more info call Joe (435) 313 2411
History of the
Panaca Quarry Site
We’ve been around almost 80 years and are still one of the best-kept secrets of the Southwest. Our customers jealously guard information about where they obtain their minerals. The placer claims were first discovered in 1930, and a location was promptly lodged at the county seat along with appropriate filings with the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, etc.
Three hundred and twenty (320) acres, = two quarter-sections situated in Lincoln County, Nevada were originally claimed by local residents who were informed by two college students of the deposit. As the legend has it, the students were apparently conducting prospecting work for the railroad during their summer vacation, to earn some tuition money, and woke up one morning to find their burros had escaped. Tracking them some distance, the burros were eventually encountered with their noses poked down a couple of rabbit holes, buried almost up to their eyes, oblivious to the approaching prospectors.
Much to their amazement, the two students observed that the animals were eating a powdery clay substance they had previously observed at distance, but had not heretofore detoured to investigate. It was soon analyzed, and the basic matrix was found to be very similar indeed, to the first Montmorillonite deposit so-named nearly three quarters of a century earlier, in France. Various uses of the clay were made such as in mineral baths, as bleaching agents (major ingredient of Fuller’s Earth), and healing poultices for injured livestock.
Shortly after World War II a consortium of California and Arizona growers set up a mill on the west edge of Panaca and began shipping refined product in 100 lb. sacks by rail all, over the country.
This enterprise prospered for several years until the respective California and Arizona real estate booms caused hundreds of orchards and fields to be sold and bulldozed to accommodate the building of new subdivisions and shopping centers. Now that all of these early operators and promoters are deceased, it is difficult to obtain many more details, but these photographs, dated around 1948, were made available to us from a scrapbook kept by the widow of the first foreman.
A ground-breaking held with considerable fanfare, received attention in at least one newspaper. The rich silts pursued by the venture are easily observed within the stratified layers in the background which form variously-colored chunks that one can fairly easily crumble by hand.
The exploitation of this colloidal source, interbedded with high humus (lignitic silts containing enviable proportions of fulvic and humic acid), plus a broad bouquet of minerals and ions in trace amounts, has never attained but a minuscule percentage of its potential commercial capacity.
After the groundbreaking, excavation began almost immediately, but we have discovered today that such severe methods as bulldozing and employing a steam shovel, are not really necessary to dig up the soft clay. Once pulverized its particles can be recovered and sorted by simple screening.
Largely, the decline in use of natural composts, fertilizers and soil amendments, progressively saw their demise with the onslaught of less- expensive chemical additives and substitutes, becoming available. Chemists found that by adding substantial amounts of factory-garnered NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, or those products containing them such as Nitrates, Phosphates and Potash), generated a quick-fix to lawns and fields withered by the summer sun. Growth seemed impressive, and at first, so were yields, but the attendant twin problems, i.e., lack of real nutritional value / diminished tissue protein, and build-up of toxins in the soil, leading to contamination of streams and other potable water sources, signaled trouble. Tragically, short-term profits and mere cosmetic, aesthetic appeal of produce, overshadowed nutritional and environmental concerns which were still nascent between the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts. The death knell came when the railroad finally tore up the track between Caliente and Panaca. This was a direct result of the traditional “lode” types of mines having played out, including for the most part zinc, lead and nickel mines in Pioche, Nevada, just twelve miles to the north.
Modern soil science--apparently just coming out of its infancy in the early 1970s-- ironically had its renaissance in California where developers were racing to smear millions of cubic yards of asphalt and concrete on top of formerly some of the finest soil in the nation. The justification for this irreversible, wanton destruction of beautiful farm country, was that much of the land had reputably been played out by exhausting its trace mineral storehouse. Rather than re-mineralizing, it was simply more profitable to sell. Acid rains exacerbated the situation, accelerated by fossil fuel emissions pouring into the California sky as population rates at first climbed, then skyrocketed, further gobbling up arable coastline land.
A few customers remained faithful to the concept of organics and natural soil amendments, to intelligently go about recovering the soil, but eventually with all of these forces combining against it, the faltering enterprise in Panaca was eventually leased to one new group after another, each ultimately throwing in the towel. Several brands evidenced from pallets of sacks left to rot in the weather near the now dilapidated, once state-of the art mill appear below.
Customers like J.R. Watkins Company (Winona, Minnesota) and Nutri-Bio (Beverly Hills, California) are reported to have produced and sold millions of Panaca Montmorillonite capsules per month under various trade names during the 1960s. Remember “Autry’s Minerals”? During the mid 1970’s to late 1980’s, substantial efforts were rekindled to develop a niche in the human nutritional industry by the current operators’ immediate predecessors. A few remnants of their customer bases persist amongst assorted clientele retained from by-gone years. Chief amongst these health-conscious revivalists was former BYU football player, and Las Vegas CPA, the late Clarence Hulse who apparently heard about the deposit from relatives. (A number of Hulses have resided in Lincoln County over the last several decades, and our files contain at least one engineering study conducted by a Hulse firm dating from Clarence’s administration. He headed, and / or formed several successor investment groups that tried desperately to create and sustain a market that still had not awakened to its nutritional plight. The enlistment of “Godfather of Clay Minerals Research”, Melchior T. Dikkers PhD, was not the least of Mr. Hulse’s achievements. www.montmorillonite.org .
Hulse’s immediate successor, R. J. Collet, ex-Marine Corps reservist and fighter plane pilot / World War II veteran (from the Pacific theater) moved to Panaca about 1990. At this time the health of his good friend and business associate finally failed as a result of caustic exposure to asbestos. In his early twenties, Clarence worked graveyard cleaning out steel mill boilers to support his young family while struggling to earn enough income to complete his accountancy degree.
Collet, also long-time resident in Las Vegas, shared Hulse’s enthusiasm, and had a vision of his own, i.e., to revisit the agricultural need, and address the growing opportunity as a result of popular outcry, and favorable legislation, pointing to a revival of the deposit’s broadest utility. Through his company, International Trace Minerals, Inc., he added two screening plants, improved the loading dock, fenced-in the present-day yard, and developed the one-ton “jumbo” or tote (ore) bags filling operation.
Collet contracted local residents to pursue stockpiling of the Montmorillonite for future screening. He was successful in converting a number of farmers and fertilizer formulators--particularly in his native California, to try his minerals, and in his advanced years, pursued this dream while maintaining all the screening equipment, trucks, trailers, forklifts himself, until his own death in turn, in May of 2002, at age 81.
To date, except for some mail order brands of capsules and tablets for human consumption, probably 99% of the sales volume has been dedicated to agrarian disciplines. Major customers include regional fertilizer formulators and commercial growers, but the mineral complex also enjoys increasing reception within the veterinary, livestock, and pet food industries. They buy it by the truckload, in bulk, and screened into bags like the ones pictured above. A number of customers still dabble in capsules and tablets, use the ingredient in sports drinks, or other liquefied emulsions.
In January of 2003 a shed covering approximately 2400 square feet, plus a container, was erected on site to serve as a warehouse and equipment storage facility. The concern also acquired several additional pieces of equipment such as a huge Caterpillar front-end loader with a 5-cu.yd.+ bucket, and a small John Deere (“lawn tractor”). For smaller jobs the little tractor is used to load a hopper and miniature screening plant faintly visible to the right, behind and on the north side of the shed.
Quarrying is conducted as follows:
1- A tractor with a farm implement suggestive of a plow to the layman, but called a ripper, is drug over approximately 1.5 acres of the deposit to make up a batch consisting of twenty to thirty (20-30) truckloads. The depth turned over is up to three (3) feet.
2- Next a gargantuan rotovater (some 14 feet long and nearly four feet wide) churns up the soil, reducing chunk size, and creating powdery furrows. The result may be viewed below. If you look closely you can tell the difference between the ground merely plowed or “ripped”(to the right), and the ground over which the rotovater has subsequently passed (left side of photo). If the ground is merely ripped and not rotovated, then considerable chunks are left in the mix. However, these essentially, may be crushed by hand, requiring no great pressure, to do so. Notice the different earth tones due to stratification within the deposit.
3- The rotovated sediment is pushed down the hill to the stockpile on the south end of the yard, forming an impressive dune from which material for truck loading and charging of the large, blue screening plant’s hopper, is taken.
[Note that the claims are much more in the nature of alluvial deposits, (technically, placer claims), than in veins, hence the word “mining” is inappropriate for the extraction activity within the Panaca deposit.] Absolutely no blasting or tunneling is necessary. In fact, all operators of the quarry have had the good fortune to be able to merely remove the exposed stratification by simple excavation procedures, the overburden having long since been completely eroded away by weathering after seismic activity uplifted the sediment to its present altitude. It is a vast deposit reaching over 150’ in depth in some areas, and of a consistent composition. Thus, “strip mining”, likewise, is not the proper appellation for how the material is removed and stockpiled.
Regarding mineral formation, its chemistry and other attributes of Montmorillonite, current pricing or business practices of Window Peak Trace Minerals, further maps and directions, or details about its management, etc., please consult the website www.chelatedtraceminerals.com, or contact WPTM’s Chief Operating Officer, as aforesaid, for whatever is required in this regard.
The subject quarry lies less than two miles to the north of the Panaca Township and is accessible via well-maintained county roads. Panaca is situated at the junction of Highways 93 and 319. Highway 93 runs north to Pioche, Ely, and Twin Falls, Idaho, and south passing through Caliente (a modest rail head 20 minutes away) for over another 100 miles to the junction of I-15, thence a mere twenty miles from greater Las Vegas, Nevada. Twenty-one miles east of Panaca, highway 319 becomes Highway 56 at the Utah border, and another seventy-five miles distant lies Cedar City. About 11 miles into Utah from the Nevada border is a picturesque rail stop, the almost ghost town of Modena.
A quaint Mormon (LDS) farming community dating back to the end of the Civil War, Panaca is the oldest surviving town in eastern Nevada. Rich in tradition, and endowed with plenty of water--fostering a certain agricultural beauty, many of Panaca’s citizens are direct descendants of the original settlers. Tourists interested in 19th century architecture may enjoy seeing quaint homes and gardens against a xeric backdrop of contrasting geology, replete in mineral history.
In May, 1864, Francis Lee and six other families moved from Santa Clara, Utah, to Meadow Valley. There they established the agricultural settlement, Panaca, probably named after a Paiute word for “white metal”. The community struggled from the first. Shortly after their arrival, the settlers erected a fort for protection against Indian raiding and theft.
In 1865, Clover Valley (southeast) and Eagle Valley and Spring Valley (northeast) were also settled by LDS pioneers. These budding communities found ready outlets for their produce and dairy products in the burgeoning number of prospectors streaming through their valleys.
Particularly, nearby Pioche benefited from this steady supply of food and timber the Mormons freighted-in. Panaca remains a compatible sister settlement to the more infamous town that sprang up around the claims on the 'panacker ledge.' This wild town initially became known as Pioche's City, after the financier and investor (who controlled its mining output from distant San Francisco, but) who never set foot in the town that still bears his name.
Because the County Seat was, prior to 1871, originally located at distant Hiko, the usual problems erupted revolving around the proper filing of claims. With more and more prospectors drifting into the area and staking claims, sometimes these overlapped prior claims. Mine owners resorted to hiring guards, and gunslingers to protect their mining claims. For a time, guns became the only law, and Pioche made Dodge City, Bodie, and Tombstone, pale in comparison with its violence. It has been claimed that at least seventy-five men died "with their boots on" before anyone in Pioche died of natural causes.
The population has fluctuated over the past century, with the surges and downturns in mining, railroad activity, and tourism. Today, the entire population of Lincoln County is under 4,000 people, with its primary occupations remaining within the sectors of agriculture and cattle ranching, railroad, small-scale mining, and government services (Federal, State, and County). Panaca has remained more steady with its agrarian lifestyle. New building, currently, can be seen on many heretofore undeveloped, lots—a reflection of the trek West that is still the trend. In its own small way Window Peak Trace Minerals is contributing to the economy of Panaca and to the nutritional health of believers in the product. To find out more about what Panaca’s own variety of organically enhanced Montmorillonite can do for you, your crops, livestock and pets, log onto www.montmorillonite.info.
For business opportunities with the following two customers of Window Peak Trace Minerals, please log onto www.montmorillonite.biz
Another interesting website which should help you to clear up a multitude of misunderstandings about mineral clays compared to hard-rock minerals, and the difference between chelated and un-chelated minerals, is: www.colloidaltraceminerals.net There are a number of myths associated with mineral supplements and considerable mis-information exists within the nutritional industry.