Column No. 39

A Private Consortium Buys the Montana Mine and Ruby

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

By 1961, the Montana mine and the Ruby mining camp had been owned and operated by mining men for 84 years. From 1944 to 1961, local assayer and miner Hugo Miller tried to make a living from the Montana.

In late 1961, Hugo Miller sold the mine and old mining camp to a group of non-mining people from Tucson. The sale became official with the recording of the mining deed on December 6, 1961. The sale price was $75,000.

The property included the 19-patented mining claims of the Montana group of mines, covering a total of 362 acres. The northern Montana Group of 16 contiguous claims covered 302 acres. The southern Gold Boulder Group of three contiguous claims covered 60 acres. The property also included two lakes and 700,000 tons of mine tailings, the residue from decades of deep mining for lead and zinc. About a dozen buildings remained to remind the new owners of the “ups and downs” of Ruby’s mining history.

On December 11, 1961 Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star announced the sale. The new owners (20% each) were:

Louis E. Daugherty and wife Mary T. Daugherty
Richard R. Frailey and wife Betty J. Frailey
Francis A. Hardy II and wife Lane R. Hardy
Genevieve G. Roberson, wife of Lawrence W. Roberson
Dr. George A. Shetter and wife Dorothy L. Shetter

That same newspaper article identified Richard Frailey, a Tucson real estate broker, as spokesman for the group.

According to Frailey, his group bought Ruby as a real estate investment. They also had an interest in the outdoors and planned to use Ruby as their private playground, a retreat where they could relax, fish for bass and hunt at a relatively short distance from their homes in Tucson.

But while they were pondering their recreational opportunities, it was the huge tailings dump that attracted the owners’ interest. The dump, positioned east of the old mill in a canyon with fairly steep sides, was 1,100 feet long, 300-500 feet wide at the top, and up to 50 feet thick!

The new owners suspected (hoped?) that besides lead and zinc, the dump might contain small amounts of gold and silver. With increasing prices for gold and silver, they wondered if they could make any money by mining the tailings for the precious metals.

So in 1964 (as Green Valley started to develop a few miles north), the owners hired Jacobs Assay Office in Tucson to assay the tailings. The assayers even took samples from the bottom of the two lakes. Results were encouraging, but for the moment with the price of gold at $35 per ounce, the owners didn’t think the mining prospects were economically sound.

But the dream of riches from mining wouldn’t go away. After a false start in 1968, on February 28 1972, the owners incorporated “Ruby Mines, Inc.” with the stated objective:

“To carry on the business of mining, milling, concentrating, converting smelting, exchanging, and otherwise producing and dealing in gold, silver.”

The Articles of Incorporation authorized one million dollars of capital stock and listed the original five owners as the incorporators.

Between April 1973 and May 1974, the owners considered several proposals to “reclaim” the lead and zinc tailing to obtain gold and silver. The trick was to find an economically feasible process that would be worth the effort. They even considered relocation of the tailings and forming a recreational lake from the two existing lakes for a tourist attraction for the old Ruby mining camp.

Still not convinced that there was money to be made, the owners did not move forward on any of these proposals.

For a brief period in 1975, the Henderson Companies of San Francisco held an option to buy the Ruby properties, but this effort languished with the untimely death of owner Richard Frailey.

Finally, in late 1977, “as a direct result of soaring prices of silver and gold,” the Dallas Texas firm of Tech Associates leased the Ruby property in order to process the tailings. It took the Company two years to figure out a way to do it. They laid a sprinkler system to drop chemicals, with cyanide as a principle ingredient, onto tailings wastes that they bulldozed onto plastic sheets. The chemicals leeched through the wastes and combined in a solution with gold and silver. In April 1980 the Company’s “cyanidization” process reportedly produced 300 ounces of silver and four ounces of gold. But, this production return was not good enough to pay expenses, so Tech Associates gave up their lease.

Between late 1981 and mid 1983, three different companies held what turned out to be short-term mining leases on the Montana mines property. These companies included Holland Petroleum of Dallas Texas, Santa Sarita Mining Co., Ltd., and Arivaca Silver Mining. None of these leases resulted in any mining at Ruby.

Based on a prospectus he had put together earlier in the year, H. A. Kinnison leased the Montana mines in mid 1985. Kinnison formed the K & K Mining Co. to sell limited partnerships. He planned to construct a heap-leach pad on the existing tailings dump and mine the upper six feet of tailings. He figured he would be able to work about 100,000 tons of ore from the 700,000-ton dump. He planned to start with a cyanide treatment to mine gold from the tailings. He raised some money, and bought and installed his equipment. However, over the next three years he could never get the gold recovery process working efficiently. Out of money, he ended the last mining operation at the Montana mine in 1988.

The Montana mine suffered one last metallurgical assessment. In 1990, Sierra Precious Metals of Sparks Nevada ran some tests to determine if an economic concentrate could be recovered from the tailings. No mining started as a result of these latest tests.

Since 1990, there has been no additional mining or even tests of mining feasibility at Ruby.

(Sources: Santa Cruz County Recorders Office, Arizona Daily Star, Green Valley News and Sun, Arizona Republic, Pat and Howard Frederick’s private files, Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources)

Richard Frailey

Richard Frailey, real estate broker, was the spokesman for the five Tucsonans who bought Ruby from Hugo Miller. (Photo from Pat and Howard Frederick’s private Ruby file)

Ruby and Tailings from the Air

This 1952 aerial view of Ruby shows the huge tailings dump (white) in the right center. The ghost town of Ruby can be seen dotting the hills below and to the left of the tailings dump. The view is towards the East. (Photo from private files of Mr. and Mrs. Hugo S. Miller)

Next time: Ruby is Invaded by Hippies

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