Monday, October 01, 2007

Forgotten Belmont Mill


The mining camp of Belmont Mill in White Pine County (not to be confused with the better-known mining town of Belmont, in Nye County) is often so forgotten that it doesn’t even show up in most ghost town guide books.

Of course, perhaps because of this lack of attention, Belmont Mill has managed to remain one of the better-preserved early 20th century mining camps.

Belmont Mill can trace its roots to the famed White Pine County mining boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1915, the Tonopah-Belmont Development Company began developing a mine and mill in the area, which is about seven miles southwest of the mining town of Hamilton (now a ghost town).

Records indicate that despite the considerable investment—Belmont Mill was set up as a company town—the mines proved to be marginal and the camp was abandoned after about a decade of mining.

Perhaps because the mining company owned nearly everything at Belmont Mill, much of it remains fairly intact.

For instance, the main mining mill building is quite impressive, sitting on a hillside overlooking a narrow canyon. The structure is substantial, constructed of thick metal sheets attached to a sturdy wooden frame. It is obvious that the builders intended for this structure to last.

Peeking inside the main building—be careful not to touch anything or go inside because the wooden floors don't appear safe—you can still see the milling equipment and a variety of other mining paraphernalia.

You can also still find large elevated wooden bins filled with rocks on the south side of the mill. Apparently, these carts served as counter-weights to lift the ore containers to the top of the mill, where the precious dirt and rocks were dumped into the mill for processing.

Also intact is an aerial tramway (which resembles the kind of aerial lift you find at a Lake Tahoe ski resort) that runs through the center of the building and stretches a quarter-mile or so up the hillside to several dig sites. The tram's thick support cable, while rusted after decades of neglect, still looks like it could haul a fair bit of ore.

If you walk alongside the tram, up the hill, you can get a great view of the mill and surrounding area. Nearby are several of the area's once-lucrative mines, which included such colorfully named shafts as the Dog Star, Jenny A. and Mary Ellen.

Again, be cautious about exploring the area because mine shafts are dangerous.
To the rear of the mill are rusted ore cart rails, which lead to an area where the processed ore was dumped into cargo containers and transported to a refinery.

Adjacent to the large mill structure are other metal buildings, including the original office, as well as a boarding house (still boasting metal bed frames) and a machine shop, which contains some larger tools and assorted pieces of equipment.

All of the buildings are posted with signs proclaiming they are federal government property and warning visitors not to touch or remove anything under penalty of law.

While a business district never developed at Belmont Mill, a handful of decaying wooden structures sit on a hill above the mill, which appear to have been residences. Below the abandoned row of houses you'll also find several rusted hulks of cars of more recent vintage.

Belmont Mill is located about seven miles southwest of the ghost town of Hamilton. To reach it, head 37 miles west of Ely on Highway 50, then turn south on the marked road to Hamilton. Drive 10 miles on a maintained dirt road, then follow the signs (adjacent to the Hamilton Cemetery) to Belmont Mill. There will be a fork in the road about two miles from Hamilton, turn left to reach the site.

Despite its relatively short life, the mill is a classic example of a turn-of-the-century Nevada mining camp and has undoubtedly survived better than most.

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