A brief history of the district
The Tonopah district is located at the south end of the San Antonio Mountains in west-central Nevada. Jim Butler discovered the district in 1900. “Tonopah”, derived from the Shoshone word Lonobe-bah, means “greasewood water”. Local cattle and sheep herders referred to the location Tonopah Springs.
Rumour has it that in May 1900, Mr. Butler was on his way to a new gold camp located to the south of Tonopah Springs from his home located 20 miles to the northeast. Jim made camp at Tonopah Springs. In the morning, his trusty mule was nowhere to be found and Jim went on a search. He found his mule standing next to an outcrop of dark material which Jim examined, then collected samples for assay.
Upon his arrival at the new gold camp, Jim showed the samples to the locals, who said they were worthless. Jim returned home and showed the material to his friend Tasker Oddie. He was interested in the samples and paid for assays. The material was rich in silver and some gold so at his wife’s insistence, Jim Butler, Belle Butler, and Tasker Oddie set out to stake their claims on the new find. Five claims were located in August 1900. The work was hard and the conditions were terrible. Word of the new strike was out, so the Bulters and Oddie decided to lease their claims by the foot, and they retained 25% of all the revenue from each leaser.
Starting in mid-1901, a promoter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arrived on-site and purchased Bulter and Taskers claims for $336,000. Leasers were kicked out, and the district began to see the arrival of schools, railroads, and stores. The town grew from a few 10s of men to a thriving town of 3,000 inhabitants mid-1902. Promoters left Tonopah as the camp steadily grew. During the period from 1902 to 1910, larger mining companies were created and funded to mine in the new district.
From 1910 to 1930, the mining companies began to expand, merge and consolidate the district. The Tonopah Extension Mining Company is the merger and amalgamation of more than 5 original mining companies (listed above), and the Tonopah West Project encompasses this area. This was a period of increased production and expansion of the district to the west.
From 1910 to 1930, silver prices ranged from $0.33 in 1930 to $1.02 in 1918. The higher average silver prices were in large part due to a government subsidy under the Pittman Act which set a price of silver at US$1.00 per ounce.
Limited mining was completed from 1930 to 1950 due to a fire that destroyed the local mill and World War II. In 1969, Mr. Howard Hughes arrived in the district and began to buy up all of the claims. There was great excitement that Hughes would breathe life back into the district. After three years of waiting, the town became weary and Hughes vanished into the desert of Nevada, only to be occasionally seen hitchhiking on the Extra-Terrestrial Highway.
Several companies conducted exploration in the 1980’s and 90’s, the most active being Eastfield Resources Ltd. They completed several drill campaigns with the bulk of their exploration work on the nearby Three Hills project. In 1997, Eastfield drilled an exploration hole on the southwest portion of the Tonopah West Project. They intersected a new zone with values of 7.5 g/t gold and 288 g/t silver over 3 metres. In 2018, Coeur Mining followed up the drill intercept and cut two, 1.5 metres zones grading 9.7 g/t gold, 715 g/t silver and 4.6 g/t gold, 401 g/t silver. In November 2019, Coeur left the district to focus on their Sterling mine acquisition near Beatty, NV.