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The Sixteen to One Mine

Updated: Apr 16

More than a million ounces have been mined from the depths of the Sixteen to One Mine making it a major gold deposit. The mine has been operated continuously since it was located in 1896 although the size of the crew has varied dramatically. The largest crew was during the great depression (1930s) when the mine had 100 employees working two 12-hours shifts around the clock. In recent times employment peaked at 50 in 1997. Currently a minimal crew of 6 to 8 men work at the mine.

Sixteen to One Mine Crew 1950s

Hardrock gold mines in Sierra County’s Alleghany District differ from typical Mother Lode mines: they are “feast or famine” operations. Sporadic yet rich pockets are dispersed within the otherwise barren quartz vein. The payoffs in these pockets can be spectacular, and indeed the Sixteen to One Mine holds the record for the state’s three richest gold pocket discoveries. Two of these pockets were mined in the 1920’s and brought in 89,000 and 48,000 ounces respectively. The third pocket was mined in the 1930’s and brought in 36,000 ounces. ($1,200 x 36,000 = $43,200,000)

Modern day mining produced the Million Dollar Day in 1993 (2,500 ounces) and the Two Million Dollar stope in 1995 (5,000 ounces mined in four shifts). At $1,200 per ounce (2010 average price) it would be a 3 million dollar day and a 6 million dollar stope. The most recent substantial pocket was in 2004 at 1,468 ounces. Production has been minimal since 2004 but the possibility of another pocket keeps the mine going.

What does Sixteen to One Mean?

Sixteen to One was the arbitrary ratio of the number of ounces of silver equal in value to one ounce of gold in the bi-metallic monetary system established by Portugal in 1688. The ratio had profound effects on the world’s monetary arrangements for many years, and was adopted by the United States of America in 1792. The system was dropped by the U.S. in 1873 enraging silver producers.

In his presidential campaign of 1896 William Jennings Bryan advocated a return to the Sixteen to One monetary system. Several mines established during Bryan’s candidacy took the name “Sixteen to One”. William Jennings Bryan ran against, and lost to William McKinley twice.

The Sixteen to One Mine in Alleghany was located in 1896 by Thomas Bradbury. The company incorporated in 1911 as Original Sixteen to One Mine, Inc. The corporation is now the oldest gold mining corporation in the United States.

Sixteen to One Mine Crew early 1900s. Tall man, back center is WI Smart one of the men who incorporated the company in 1911. Photo courtesy of Les Foster

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