Q&A Tuesday: Mine tour guide says it’s not really work
Lamar “Bax” Baxla has been giving mine tours at the Best and Belcher Mine in the back of the Ponderosa Saloon for more than eight years – but still doesn’t consider it work.
Winter tours run from about 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the summer hours from about 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Baxla said the mine earns more from the tours now than it earned from ore in the 1800s.
Was the Best and Belcher Mine a gold or silver mine?
Both, like all the mines around here. They got 75 percent silver to 25 percent gold from it.
When was it in operation as a mine?
It started in 1859, and closed in 1863 because it wasn’t producing enough ore to make a profit. In 1872, it reopened because a vein was found nearby, and the mine owners were hoping to do more.
How much was the ore it produced worth?
Silver was at 50 cents an ounce, and gold was at $20 an ounce. The mine made $438 and cost $1.6 million to operate. It closed permanently in 1917.
What kind of ore is here?
Quartz, but the main rock is called andesite; that’s volcanic mud from millions of years ago. Cedar Peak in the Virginia City Highlands was a volcano. Andesite is the host rock that carriers quartz, and quartz carries other ores like gold and silver.
There’s also leverite.
It ain’t worth nothin’, leverite (“leave ‘er right”) there.
How long have tours been given at the mine?
Since 1979. We close only one day a year – Christmas – unless there’s a problem with the mine, which (owner) Greg Hess takes care of right away. He’s the fifth generation of his family to be in mining, and he attended the John Mackey School of Mining at the University of Nevada, Reno.
What’s the best thing about your job?
It isn’t working, it’s just a lot of fun. I meet different people from all over the world. We have a lot of laughs and fun.