Saturday, June 14, 2008

Underground Music

A portrait of darkness framed in railroad ties, the entrance to the San Pedro Mine hangs against the stony desert swells of a gray-brown rise of mountains, about thirty miles northeast of Albuquerque. For more than a century, sounds have carried up from deep within the mine—sounds of picks and clattering rock, of metal wheels on steel tracks, miners’ voices, black-powder blasts and, in 1940, the classical strains of a symphony orchestra.

The San Pedro Mountains in which the old mine is located may have been worked as far back as the early-1600s, and most certainly were by 1713, the year a Spanish captain registered a mine there. In 1828, gold was discovered in the nearby Ortiz Mountains, and in 1832, it was found in the San Pedros—sparking the first major gold rush west of the Mississippi, predating California’s by two decades. A mining camp, San Pedro, sprang up to the west, and another strike in 1839 brought additional miners—first for placer mining—sifting through rocks and sand in streams and arroyos—and then for tunneling. It may have been around that time that the San Pedro Mine itself was first developed, but recorded ownership of the mine didn’t start until 1880. The mine passed from one owner to another, experienced alternating periods of lucrative activity and frustrating silence, turned out sporadic but notable amounts of copper as well as silver and gold, and in 1938 was bought by Raskob Mining Interests, Inc., of New York.

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Underground Music - My Strange NM - My Strange New Mexico

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