Saturday, June 30, 2012

Seen in the foothills (Part II): You, too, can strike it rich

Last month I saw several of these signs around El Dorado County advertising a "Gold Prospecting Summit."  The event appears to be directed at those in the area who might wish to make their fortunes--or perhaps just supplement their incomes--with  El Dorado County is, of course, part of the California region known as the "motherlode" based on its association with the era of the forty-niners--the 1849'ers, that is.  But most gold mining ended here many years ago, and once active mines like this so-called Wabash mine near Amador City California became tourist attractions.  Here's a photo I took of my son and his friend when we toured that mine in March 2011.  The boys were delighted with the opportunity to "pan" for gold in a flume, though the nuggets planted in the bags of sand I bought for this exercise were pyrite and brass painted rocks.  During that spring 2011 visit, our guide told us that the mine would soon be closing as a tourist attraction and reopening as a working mine because the price of gold--which has been on the rise for several years, especially since the Great Recession--had reached a point where it exceeded the cost of extraction.  Sure enough, by fall of 2011, the mine was once again dedicated to the industrial extraction of gold.  You can see a photo of that at bottom, along with a photo of the signage for the tourist attraction, a silhouette of old-fashioned mining equipment, which remains even after the closure to tourists.    

I wonder what impact the closure of a tourist attraction like this one will have on the region as a destination, compared to the presumably positive economic effect of the actual extraction of gold.  This will probably depend in part on how hefty an extraction tax Amador County levies on the precious mineral.

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