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Randsburg: A Heap of Gold

Randsburg as it looks today.

Randsburg:  A Heap of Gold

Five score and three years ago, a trio of prospectors set out from Summit Diggings in search of a golden fortune. Success, thus far, had eluded them. Taking a circuitous route to the south to avoid being followed, they explored the rocky slopes of a nameless mountain. On April 25, 1895, Charles Burcham, F. M. Mooers, and John Singleton found what they had been looking for - gold and lots of it. Only forty seven years had passed since James Marshall inadvertently started California's gold rush with a chance find at Sutter's Mill.


Eight claims were first filed. The new mine was called the Yellow Aster, either for the name of a local flower, or for the title of a book one of the miners was reading. A new mining district was organized. It was called the Rand District after the Witwatersrand gold mining district in South Africa.


Things were beginning to grow. On December 20, 1895, thirty three residents officially organized Rand Camp. The name was soon changed to Randsburg. In 1896, 1500 people were living in the area. The same year marked the start of serious milling (refining) operations for the Yellow Aster. Water was scarce, so the ore was hauled down the hill to Garlock where there was both water and milling facilities      


Randsburg grows


In 1898, a railroad spur line that connected with the Santa Fe's Los Angeles to Las Vegas tracks was completed from Kramer Junction to Joberg. Ore was loaded on to railcars and transported to Barstow for refining.  As gold ore went out on the railroad, mining equipment, supplies and water were shipped in.  The old right of way can still be seen just to the east of present day Highway 395.


The Yellow Aster mine completed its own 30-stamp mill  in 1898, and added an additional 100 stamps in 1901. Turn of the century Randsburg boasted 3500 people. Along with the people came the trappings of civilization  including schools, fraternal orders and churches.


The Yellow Aster continued to be the major mine in the area. In 1911 it was a 24-hour operation employing 250 men. Six million dollars worth of gold had been recovered since the mine's discovery. By 1918, gold production declined. A resurgence of mining activity occurred in the 1930's when gold prices increased. The beginnings of American involvement in World War II marked the closing of the Yellow Aster in 1942.


More than six million tons of ore, yielding in excess 600,000 ounces of gold were extracted from the Yellow Aster underground workings. It was the most productive mine of its day in Kern  County.                    


Modern mining


The Yellow Aster is again alive with activity. Underground miners with picks and shovels have given way to Caterpillar loaders able to move 13 cubic yards of material in a single bite. Since 1984, Glamis Gold Ltd. has been operating the Yellow Aster, and nearby mines.


Modern mining techniques move huge volumes of material onto a heap where it is treated with a weak cyanide solution.  The cyanide leaches the gold from the crushed rock. Gold is later recovered through chemical and electrolytic refining of the "pregnant" cyanide solution.  During the first nine months of 1997, Glamis reported that 5,193,000 tons of ore were placed on the leach pad. The ore was graded at 0.018 ounces of gold per ton.  According to the Glamis' Annual Report (1997), the Rand mining operations yielded 94,243 ounces of gold.


Randsburg Today


Today Randsburg is neither a ghost town or a boom town.  A branch of the Kern County Museum is occasionally open.  Assorted antique stores, a real general store, with maps, books, and prospecting supplies, and the White House Saloon and Floozy House are the principle commercial enterprises along its main street.  Residences of varying styles line the towns' few back streets.  Randsburg is located off the Redrock-Randsburg Road, about 40 miles north of Mojave.

Written by Roger W. Vargo
Taken from :
     Vargo's Variety Column/Ecological 4-Wheeling