"The history of Eureka lies in its future." - Lambert Molinelli, 1878


The author/editor of the Eureka Miner owns common shares of local mining stocks, General Moly (GMO) and Newmont Mining (NEM); together with benchmark miner Freeport-McMoRan (FCX). Please do your own research, markets can turn on you faster than a feral cat.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Johnny Horton and Atlas Mine Memories

Morning Miners!

It is 5:33 AM, grab a cup and let's kick start the week with another stroll down Memory Lane. Last week we followed Lefty Frizzell to Alaska (Eureka is not Saginaw, Michigan); this week the trail will lead right back to Eureka. Perhaps the greatest country song ever sung about gold mining was the late Johnny Horton's North to Alaska. It came out with a John Wayne movie by the same name in 1960. I doubt there are few old timers that don't remember that baritone lead-in and chorus:

Way up north, (North To Alaska.)
Way up north, (North To Alaska.)
North to Alaska,
They're goin' North, the rush is on.
North to Alaska,
They're goin' North, the rush is on.

The ole Colonel will bet you'll be signing the "Way up North" part all day long (at least mentally). I'll spool out the rest of the lyrics as our Monday morning story unfolds. Johnny Horton spent a lot of time in California, East Texas and Alaska before becoming a big country star so he knew what he was writing about when it came to romance, gold and adventure (and a few misadventures). He unfortunately died at the young age of 35 in an automobile accident. One thing I didn't know until researching this piece was his marriage to Billy Jean Jones, Hank Williams' widow. Horton died several years after that union. There's a gal with some stories, pardner.

Our song is set during the 1890s Alaska Gold Rush:

Big Sam left Seattle in the year of '92,
With George Pratt, his partner, and brother, Billy, too.
They crossed the Yukon River and found the bonanza gold.
Below that old white mountain just a little south-east of Nome.

Sam crossed the majestic mountains to the valleys far below.
He talked to his team of huskies as he mushed on through the snow.
With the northern lights a-running wild in the land of the midnight sun,
Yes, Sam McCord was a mighty man in the year of nineteen-one.

Some 90 years later there was a modern day gold rush of sorts right here in Eureka. Ironically it attracted some Alaska folks who were looking for the "Next Big Thing" after the Alaskan Pipeline Project. For them, Horton's song could have easily been "South to Eureka" (now you've got two tunes to run through your mind all day).

Our local story begins with a reconnaissance exploration along the southern Roberts Mountains in the early 1980s. It identified the now familiar Carlin-type gold deposits hosted in carbonate-rich sedimentary rocks along the western range front. In the Summer of 1983 Atlas Mining identified a property that became the Gold Bar Mine. This is roughly when my sweetheart and I first passed through Eureka and the there was a feel of adventure in the air; the Atlas Mine days remain some of our fondest memories of this town.

Things got rolling full tilt when Atlas completed their first mill in 1986 and poured their first gold in January, 1987. The mill could chunk out 1,500 tons of ore per day and in 1989 was expanded to process 3,200 tons at a clip. The mine produced nearly 500,000 ounces of gold before suspending operations. The price of gold at the first pour was just north of $400/oz, peaked somewhere a bit south of $500/oz and fell below $400/oz at the time of mine closure. By comparison the new Ruby Hill Mine has poured more than 1 million ounces and is still going strong with gold over $1000/oz. Even so, the Atlas Mine supported enough activity and folks to keep the town a'buzzin' especially in the late 1980s.

I remember there were three bars and two restaurants in town that seemed to stay packed especially around the weekends and holidays. The bars were Joe and Sylvia's Keyhole, Jim Dotson's Nevada Club and Ron Carrion's Owl Club. The Owl Club and Dotson's Jim & Lorraines were the two places to eat. Country Roads north of town on 278 was opened by Dave and Gloria Sharrow and later run by Norb Walter in 1986. I remember John Young telling me you could get a hamburger out there as big as a throw rug. All great places and the stage for much drama and carrying on.

The Atlas Mine days were as close to "The Wild West" as I could imagine or will probably ever experience again. The Colonel will save those stories for safe keeping and another day. The names of the players are as memorable as all the hootin' and hollerin' and might give the reader a sense for the parts they played. Not all worked at the mine but were definitely part of the mix, here's my very short list:

Big John
Little Mike
Mad Dog (and he was)
Cajun Bill
The Crazy Portuguê (and he was)
Scary Carrie (and she was)
Whiskey Mike
Pretty Marie (and she was, God bless her soul)
Canadian Bill

Oh, what about our song? Like the Atlas days it concludes with a little romance, a little gold and a little sadness:

George turned to Sam with his gold in his hand,
Said: "Sam you're a-lookin'at a lonely, lonely man.
"I'd trade all the gold that's buried in this land,
"For one small band of gold to place on sweet little Ginnie's hand.

"'Cos a man needs a woman to love him all the time.
"Remember, Sam, a true love is so hard to find.
"I'd build for my Ginnie, a honeymoon home.
"Below that old white mountain just a little south-east of Nome."

Where the river is winding,
Big nuggets they're finding.
North to Alaska,
They're goin' North, the rush is on.
North to Alaska,
They're goin' North, the rush is on.

Please let the Colonel know if my memory has any senior dings. I thank Eric Pastorino for setting me straight on a few facts in this story.

Now that we've come to the end of Memory Lane, let's walk the walk:

4-WD is ON - the VIX or "fear index" is above 25 ,off-road market conditions are expected to continue (what's this?)

Yellow light is ON for possible adverse regulation/legislation (mercury emissions)

Otherwise, all lights are green on the Eureka Outlook Dashboard (upper right, what's this?)

Oil is up $1.26 in early trading to $78.26 (December contract); Gold is up $21.8 to $1062.2 (December contract, most active); Silver is up $0.460 to $16.750 (December contract); Copper is up $.0235 to $2.9790 (December contract); Molybdenum is steady at $11.75.

The DOW is up 107.69 points to 9820.42; the S&P 500, up 11.05 points to 1047.24. The miners are rockin':

Barrick (ABX) $36.98 down 2.92%
Newmont (NEM) $44.49 up 2.37%
General Moly (Eureka Moly, LLC) (GMO) $2.30 up 4.55%
Freeport McMoran (FCX) $75.99 up 3.59% (a bellwether mining stock spanning gold, copper & molybdenum)

Steel stocks are down, (a "tell" for General Moly):

Nucor (NUE) $40.21 down 2.52% - domestic steel manufacturing
ArcelorMittal (MT) $34.38 down 4.23% - global steel producer
POSCO (PKX) $104.98 down 3.23% - South Korean integrated steel producer

The Eureka Miner's Grubstake Portfolio is is down 2.26% to $1,168,061.36 (what is this?).


Colonel Possum

Headline Photograph by Mariana Titus, "Nevada Club"

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