Opportunity Mine


The Opportunity Mine was the last of the shafts which Steve Elam and I visited on March 12, 2015 (the date of the photographs on this page) and documented in the video:  "Mines of the Hillsboro Mining District - Volume One” (embedded below).


It is adjacent to the Rattlesnake Mine to the west and lies at the southern end of the Animas Hills.  In "The Geology and Ore Deposits of Sierra County, New Mexico" George Townsend Harley reports that the Opportunity produced $670,000 in ore.

At the time of our visit (and as of February 2018), there was a cage located near the shaft.  This is the cage which was used to lower and raise miners, toward the end of mining here a large crane was apparently brought in for the effort.  The mine site is accessed via the Snake and Opportunity Mine Walks.


Standing by the cage, you can see the workings above the main shaft where the miners were following a vein (photo below).  If you turn around and look down slope, you can see additional workings (shafts and trenches) where the vein was followed downhill to the southwest.


The Sierra Consolidated Gold Mining Company may serve as an example of the mining model of the early 1900’s.  “Moody’s Manual of Railroads and Corporation Securities”  (1906) describes the Opportunity Mine operations as:

droppedImage


The Rattlesnake and Opportunity Mine groups had been consolidated by the Sierra Consolidated Gold Mining Company.  The Mining Company’s prospectus shows the consolidated claims as:

Rattlesnake & Opportunity Claims


Individual claims were often considered insufficient to warrant mining operations and were combined into various “groups” (north is to the left on this map).

Sierra Consolidated was incorporated in West Virginia on December 1, 1902 (for a term of 50 years) with a place of business listed as Hillsboro and a capitalization of $3,000,000.  It acquired the Snake and Opportunity properties from Henry M. Porter of Denver shortly after incorporating and began selling shares and interest1.  When the term of the corporation expired, the state of New Mexico simply listed it as delinquent - along with page after page of mining and milling companies formed in that era.  

What was happening at the Sierra Consolidated properties during the company’s existence?  Or more particularly what was being reported?  The prospectus was being heavily marketed in the years following incorporation (starting in 1903) and operations at the mines began, and the selling of shares continued, in 19062

In 1906, The Mining Reporter noted that Sierra Consolidated was “retimbering the three-compartment shafts on its Snake and Opportunity groups and is making a number of other improvements.  A traction line is to be built from Hillsboro to Osceola and a large milling plant is to be erected.”3  Two weeks later “The Mining Reporter” noted that “A traction engine and cars have been delivered at this company’s” (Sierra Consolidated) “property and will be used on the road which will be built either from Lake Valley or Osceola to Hillsboro.  The company is preparing to unwater its Snake mine and to erect a hoist on the main shaft of the Opportunity.  It is also reported that the company will, as soon as possible, erect a fifty-stamp mill.”4  Three months later “The Mining Reporter” was reporting that “Work on the traction road from Osceola to Hillsboro will commence soon and will probably be concluded before the rainy season sets in.”5   And, a few months later, February 21, 1907, the Mining Reporter was reporting that “according to local reports, this district is more active than it has been in years.  The most extensively operating companies are the Sierra Consolidated Gold Mining Co. and the Empire Gold Mining & Milling Co..”6

Just a year later, however, on March 26, 1908, Mining American was reporting that “E. S. Neal, receiver of the Sierra Cons. Gold M. Co., has headquarters at Hillsboro, NM.”7  and that (May 14, 1908) “leasers are profitably operating on the Snake and Opportunity Mines, with occasional shipments of high-grade ore.”8  

Two years later, (March 3, 1910) “Mining American” noted that “The Statehood Mines Co., which took over the late Sierra Consolidated at receiver’s sale, will unwater the old workings and rumor has it that shortly after this work is done actual operations on the property are to begin.”9

Eight years later (March 11, 1916), “The Engineering and Mining Journal” reported that “John M. Sully and associates, of the Chino Copper Co., have taken an option on the Snake and Opportunity mines.  Consideration, $75,000.  Force of workmen has been set to work unwatering and retimbering the main shaft.  New shaft is being sunk on Snake, from which crosscuts will be extended to tap veins.  This mine formerly produced several million dollars in gold and copper.”10  A week later, (March 18) it was reported that a “Big Diesel engine being put in shape for operation...hiring skilled labor and engineers ...preparatory to beginning unwatering.”11.  And on April 22, “Diesel engine now in operation.  Station at 300-ft. level Opportunity mine being retimbered.”12

In 1920, the situation was reported as such in The Mines Handbook13:  “Sierra Consolidated Mining Co. (is) out of business. Property taken over by Statehood Mines Co., both of which companies were reported into bankruptcy through incompetent management and spectacular get-rich-quick financing.  Mine now operated by the Snake and Opportunity Mines Co.” and the following about the Snake and Opportunity Mines Co.:

Snake & Opportunity Co.


These mines changed hands frequently, with each new owner reporting the same activities and the same prospect of substantial profits.  What was happening?  See “Played Out In Minneapolis: The Rise? and Fall? of a Hillsboro Mining Venture"14 by Mark Thompson, for one possible scenario.  Was Sierra Consolidated plagued by bad business decisions or was it just another mining fraud?  

Much of the mining money of the west was made from (not by) investors responding to prospectus like those floated by Sierra Consolidated.  Ferreting out the real from the fraud was often very difficult.  At roughly the same time that the Sierra Consolidated Gold Mining Company was circulating its prospectus, “the postoffice department lately issued a fraud order against the Hillsboro Consolidated Mines Co., alleging that the company purchased a defunct mine in the Hillsboro camp for $9,950, capitalized the company for $2,000,000 and sold a large amount of stock, the money from which went into the pockets of the promoters rather than into the development of the property.”15 

There are many who will claim to see parallels between the past and present.  I simply note that it is often difficult to tell bad business decisions from fraud and hopes/aspirations from reality.  In the end, however, there are more than a few crooks in our local history.

Footnotes:

1. “Report of the Director of the Mint Upon the Production of the Precious Metals in the United States During the Calendar Year 1902”, Washington, GPO, 1903, p. 175.

2. “The Ore Deposits of New Mexico”, Waldemar Lindgren et al., Professional Paper 68 of the United States Geological Survey, Washington, 1910, p. 210.     

3. “The Mining Reporter”, Volume 53, p. 121, February 1, 1906.

4. “The Mining Reporter”, Volume 53, p. 181, February 15, 1906.

5. “The Mining Reporter”, Volume 53, p. 501, May 17, 1906.

6. “The Mining Reporter”, Volume 55, p. 192, February 21, 1907.

7. “Mining American”, Volume 57, p. 328, March 26, 1908.

8. “Mining American”, Volume 57, p. 478, May 14, 1908.

9. “Mining American”, Volume 61, p. 213, March 3, 1910.

10. “The Engineering and Mining Journal”, Volume 101, p. 500, March 11, 1916.

11. “The Engineering and Mining Journal”, Volume 101, p. 540, March 18, 1916.

12. “The Engineering and Mining Journal”, Volume 101, p. 554, April 22, 1916.

13. “The Mines Handbook”, by Walter Weed, Volume. 14, 1920, p. 1258.

14. “Played Out In Minneapolis: The Rise? and Fall? of a Hillsboro Mining Venture” by Mark Thompson in the February 2014 issue of Guajalotes, Zopilotes, y Paisanos - Newsletter of the Hillsboro Historical Society

15. “The Mining Reporter”, Volume 56, p. 411, October 31, 1907.


© Robert Barnes 2018