The 1879 Mining Boom

The mining boom in the Cerrillos Hills fueled by an influx of miners, many of them escaping from the labor unrest and strikes of Leadville, Colorado. The Cerrillos Mining District was formed and in a very short time over 1,000 claims were registered.  A mining claim was customarily 1,500 feet (457.2 meters) along the lode vein and 150 feet (45.7 meters) on either side of it. Many towns sprang up in the Cerrillos Hills area, one of the first called Dimmick's Camp, later known as Carbonateville (and possibly Turquoise City, which alternatively may be nearby). Carbonateville, presumably named for the nearby lode of silver carbonate, has left its mark in history in that the Territorial Governor and sometimes mine-owner, Lew Wallace was a resident at the Carbonateville Hotel while he worked on the galley proofs of his Biblical epic "Ben Hur".

The village of Cerrillos was established in 1879 as a tent camp between the lead and silver of the Cerrillos Hills to the north and the coal of Madrid and the gold of Placer and Ortiz Mountains to the south. It flourished as a natural point of access to both areas, but it was the arrival of the railroad in 1880 that assured the fate of the Village of Cerrillos would be different than that of Carbonateville.

A few of the mines survived into the 20th century. The American Turquoise Company, an agency of Tiffany, New York, was active around the turn of the century, especially at Turquoise Hill on the north side of Cerrillos. World War I breathed additional life (ironically) into several lead-zinc-manganese-silver operations, most notably the Cash Entry and the Tom Paine mines. The Depression of the 1930s saw the end of production mining, and with the exception of some minor starts related to World War II and the frenzy for consumer products that followed it, the Tom Paine reopened for a while and activity in the Cerrillos Hills has since that time been classified as "hobby mining".

In the middle 1970s the now defunct Occidental Minerals Corporation (Oxymin) pursued the creation of a large-scale acid-leach copper mine in the Cerrillos Hills but was unable to convince the State Environment Department that their proposed mine could be operated without polluting the ground water, and the  project was terminated.  Community disapproval, difficulty securing water rights, and the price of copper were also factors in this decision. Outside of but adjacent to the lands of the Cerrillos Hills State Park there is a present-day gravel mining operation on the same site as the January 1977 Oxymin underground test detonation. This mine is currently (mid 2003) not in operation.

The Cerrillos Mining District is listed on the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties and also is included in the US Department of Interior's Historic American Buildings Survey.  Fayette Jones, Director of the New Mexico Bureau of Mines,  said of the Cerrillos Mining District in 1905, "From a historical standpoint, no section in the United States is possessed of so much interest".

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