I am fascinated by the volcanic erruption of Mount Saint Helen and curious about gold deposits in that area. An article from the US Geological Survey tells the story.
Southern Washington Cascades
The majority of the metallic mineral occurrences of southwestern Washington are within the St. Helens and Washougal mining districts; however, these districts have never been major producers of metals in Washington. As early as 1892, mining claims were staked for copper, gold, and silver in the St. Helens district; at the turn of the century discoveries of these metals, as well as lead and zinc, were made in the Washougal district. In the early 1900s many deposits in both districts underwent exploratory and development work, several small shipments of copper ore were made, but no property developed into a major mine. Many mining operations were abruptly halted by devastating forest fires that destroyed much of the virgin timber of the southern Cascades. In the Washougal district, the Yacolt burn of 1902, swept through 290,000 acres of timbered land. Other forest fires, though not as extensive as the Yacolt burn, occurred in 1917, 1918, 1919, 1922, 1927, 1929, and 1936. These fires destroyed the structures at many mines. Some mining operations were resumed, but at many properties mining ceased because capital was no longer available.
In the depression years of the 1930s, renewed interest was shown in the St. Helens district, and minor lode and placer gold was produced from mines on McCoy and Camp Creeks. In the Washougal district, however, mining activity was at a standstill. From 1940 to 1960, both districts were sporadically prospected for copper and gold. Several of the more favorable deposits, discovered at the turn of the century, were investigated but did not prove to be of economic value. Around 1960, several major mining companies undertook geochemical steam-sediment sampling projects in the southern Cascades. Several areas of anomalous copper mineralization were turned up, but subsequent geological investigations proved discouraging.
In 1970, the Ryan Lake area of the St. Helens district received the attention of Duval Corp., a major producer of copper in Arizona. Encouraged by favorable geochemical and geological studies, the company embarked on an extensive drilling program to evaluate a potential low-grade copper deposit. As of 1977, drilling was still being carried out on the property. In the Washougal district, the most favorable area for copper appeared to be in the vicinity of the Miners Queen prospect on Copper Creek. Although this area had been under investigation by several mining companies since the 1950's, it was not until 1975, when Amoco Minerals Company began an extensive drilling program, that serious exploration for large low-grade copper deposits was undertaken. Elsewhere in the southern Cascades, a small shipment of copper ore was made from the Skamania and Last Chance mines in the West Fork of the Washougal River in 1966. In the Wind River area of southern Skamania county, gold ore was shipped from the Wind River mine in 1963, 1967, 1972, 1973, and 1974. Currently, no metal mines in the St. Helens and Washougal districts are in production.
The total recorded metal production, according to the U.S. Bureau of Mines, from the St. Helens and Washougal mining districts and the McCoy Creek and Wind River areas, from 1903 through 1074, amounts to only $26,538 and is distributed as follows: gold $22,844, silver $1,345, copper $2,341, and lead $8. Prior to 1903, mineral production figures were not broken down by counties. Small amounts of placer gold were produced in Clark and Skamania Counties between 1893 and 1903; however, total production probably did not exceed several thousand dollars. Prior to 1905, no record can be found of any other metal being produced from mines in the southern Cascades, except for a 150-pound test shipment of copper ore from the Norway mine.
Although parts of the St. Helens and Washougal mining districts were mined for placer gold, the production of placer gold from the districts has been insignificant. Production records published by the U.S. Bureau of Mines from 1903 to 1976, show less than $1,000 in placer gold from Skamania and Clark Counties. Placer gold was undoubtedly produced prior to 1093, but records were not kept on a county basis until 1903, which makes it impossible to know what share of the state's placer gold production should be credited to the Washougal and St. Helens districts. In addition to unknown amounts of placer gold, 1.5 ounces of platinum was produced prior to 1093 from small-scale placer mining operations on the East Fork of the Lewis River in the Washougal district. ... Currently (1977), except for an occasional gold panner, placer mining for gold is not being undertaken in the Washougal and St. Helens mining districts.
Mount St. Helens
Although placer gold had been discovered in the gravels of the Toutle River several years previously, it was not until 1892 that the region north of Mount St. Helens experienced an influx of prospectors. Around 1891, two of the regions farmers, totally inexperienced in prospecting, entered the region on a hunting and fishing trip and discovered occurrences of pyrite, chalcopyrite, arsenopyrite, specular hematite, magnetite, galena, sphalerite, and tourmaline. As novices in prospecting, it seemed as if they had discovered a bonanza. When news of their discoveries reached the settlements, prospecting fever spread rapidly. On July 30, 1892, the Cispus mining district, which encompassed north-central Lewis County, northeastern Cowlitz County, and northwestern Skamania County was organized. This was followed in September 1892, by the organization of the Green River mining district, which "... shall embrace all lands drained by the Green River and all its tributaries, canyons, and gulches from mouth to the headwaters and summits of the mountains surrounding the streams." However, because confusion arose between it and the Green River coal district of King County, the name was a short time later changed to the St. Helens district.
Following the organization of the St. Helens district in 1892, the district was actively prospected and within 3 years over 500 prospectors had entered the district and staked claims on any outcrop that appeared to be mineralized. Mining companies of large capitalization were organized, and thousands of shares of stock were sold in order to explore and develop the mineral deposits. Placer gold was found in several of the district's streams; however the deposits proved to be small and unprofitable to mine.
Among the most active companies in the St. Helens district were the Mount St. Helens Consolidated Mining Co., Mining Corporation Ltd. of Portland, and Cascadia Mining & Development Col, which under the leadership of Dr. H.W. Coe undertook considerable work at the Norway, Sweden, Polar Star, Minnie Lee, and Last Hope properties. By 1910, thousands of prospect pits had been dug, and over 11,000 feet of underground workings had been driven. Several thousand tons of copper-gold-silver ore had been mined, but most of it remained on the mine dumps. However, in 1905, 14 tons of copper ore from the Sweden Mine was laboriously dragged from the mine to Spirit Lake, loaded on a makeshift barge, towed to the western end of the lake, and hauled to the railroad for shipment to the Tacoma smelter. After smelting, the copper is reported to have been cast into a statue of Sacajawea for the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland in 1905. In 1920, a test shipment of three carloads of copper ore was made from the Sweden Mine; however, the ore proved to be low grade and mining ceased. Although many thousands of dollars were spent attempting to develop the copper deposits of the St. Helens district no property became a major producer. For the most part, the veins proved to be narrow and contained only moderate amounts of copper and small amounts of gold and silver. At several properties the veins contained blotchy and scattered bunches of copper minerals that assayed as much as 30 percent copper, but on the average the deposits yielded only several hundred pounds of high-grade copper ore.
In the depression years of the 1930's, renewed interest was shown in the St. Helens district ...
From 1940 to 1960, ... (the) district (was) ... sporadically prospected for copper and gold. ...
In 1970, the Ryan Lake area of the St. Helens district received the attention of Duval Corp., a major producer of copper in Arizona. Encouraged by favorable geochemical and geological studies, the company embarked on an extensive drilling program to evaluate a potential low-grade copper deposit. As of 1977, drilling was still being carried out on the property. ...
Currently, no metal mines ... are in production.
Ryan Lake Area
Mining properties of the Ryan Lake area (a part of the St. Helens district) comprise 66 patented mining claims and an unknown number of unpatented claims. The claims are on both sides of Green River, from Miners Creek on the west to Grizzly Creek on the southeast, and within an area of about 15 square miles. The area has experienced little in the way of mining activity since the early 1900's, when most mineral exploration was undertaken in the St. Helens district. Since 1970, exploration and development work has been done chiefly by Duval International Corp. at their Margaret mine project, about 1 miles west of Ryan Lake. Under investigation are the Earl, Germania, Polar Star, and Index groups of claims that were patented in 1910. To date (1977), many core holes have been drilled by Duval to delineate concealed porphyry copper deposits.
The Polar Star group of 11 patented mining claims is mainly in the NW quarter section 18, T.10N., R.6E., and at the end of Forest Service road 1203. Elevations at the property range from 2,800 to 4,000 feet. ... The main development work at the Polar Star was undertaken by Cascadia Mining & Development Co. from 1901 through 1905. ... The Polar Star adit was driven 775 feet along a persistent fracture zone in quartz monzonite; individual fractures range from several inches to 2 feet in width. ... Vein material in the fracture zone consists of quartz, gouge, talc, and wall-rock fragments cemented by quartz. ...
Spirit Lake Area
Mining properties of the Spirit Lake area consist of 47 patented mining claims and an unknown number of unpatented claims. The patented claims are concentrated in a 2.5 square-mile area, the center of which is about 1.5 miles northeast of the north end of Spirit Lake. Little in the way of mining has been done since the early 1900's when the claims were patented and the underground work at most properties was carried out. Although several thousand feet of crosscuts and drifts were driven in search of copper and gold, very few of the mine workings are accessible; little evidence remains indicating that almost 70 years ago the area experienced a short-lived mining boom. -- (Web note: above written in 1977) The only producing mine in the area was Sweden, which in 1905 and 1929 produced a total of 89 tons of copper ore. Since 1929, mines of the area have been inactive, but cursory examinations of the properties have been made at different times by mining companies. In 1976, New Cinch Uranium Ltd. Of Toronto, Canada, was rehabilitating the Sweden Mine to assess copper potential.
The Sweden mine, which is in the extreme NW corner section 6, T.9N, R.6E. has experienced more exploration and development work than any other property in the Spirit Lake area. Between 1900 and 1910, Mount St. Helens Consolidated Mining Co. spent around $700,000 in an attempt to make the Sweden a copper-producing mine. In 1905, the mine produced 13 tons of copper ore valued at $286; the copper was donated by Dr. H.W. Coe, president of Mount St. Helens Consolidated Mining Co., for the statue of Sacajawea erected at the 1905 Lewis and Clark fair in Portland. In 1927, California interests shipped 76 tons of copper ore valued at only $1.202 from the mine dump. The Sweden claim is one of a group of 29 claims that were staked on discoveries made in 1896 and patented by Dr. H.W. Coe in 1905. The Sweden adit is about 3 miles by trail from the end of the road at the Spirit Lake ranger station, at an elevation of 3,340 feet. The adit, which is the longest mine adit in southwestern Washington, extends northward into the southeastern slope of Mount Margaret for 2,291 feet. ... For its entire length, the Sweden adit follows a persistent fracture zone in fine-grained hornblende granodiorite. The fracture zone, which ranges from several inches to 6 feet in width, consists of gouge, talc, fragments of granodiorite, and quartz; it strikes N.10 degrees to 20 degrees West, and dips 70 degrees West to vertical. Ore minerals, which occur in shoots along the vein, consist of pyrite, pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite, and sphalerite, in order of decreasing abundance. ...
The copper, gold, and silver content of the Sweden vein varies considerably along its strike. Numerous assays show 0.02 to 14.2 percent copper, trace to 0.61 ounce gold, and nil to 3.80 ounces per ton in silver. ...
The Norway mine (part of the Norway-Sweden group) is about 1,900 feet north of, and 308 feet higher in elevation than the Sweden mine. ... The Norway vein was discovered in 1896, and as part of the Sweden group, was patented in 1905. The Norway was the first property to be worked in the Spirit Lake area, and by 1900, the Norway adit had been driven 330 feet on a vein that assayed about 10 percent copper. About this time the property was acquired by Mount St. Helens Consolidated Mining Co. Work was halted at the Norway and commenced at the Sweden level in order to obtain more depth on the vein. ...
Courtesy: US Geological Survey