Dunes, cliffs and ruins dot the Singatse Range where the Bluestone mine boomed beginning in 1912. Bluestone was one of the region’s three most productive mines contributing to the state’s early copper production.
Prospectors discovered easily accessible “bluestone,” or chalcanthite — copper sulfate — in the hills above Yerington and Mason in west-central Nevada in the 1860s. After changing hands several times before the turn of the 20th century, the mine became a major producer of copper and was home to the district’s first concentrator. Bluestone produced an estimated $10 million worth of copper by 1929.
In the early years, miners extracted ore from shallow shafts and shipped it on wagons to Dayton for processing, according to the Mining History Association. Period newspapers state ores were 30-65 percent copper.
The long defunct mine made use of the Nevada Copper Belt Railroad that was built through the area, according to “Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps” by Stanley W. Paher (Howell-North Books, 1970).
A 3-mile tramway and later a standard gauge railroad connected the mine with Mason, where ore was loaded on cars for shipping to a smelter at Thompson, near Wabuska.
Thompson was a company town with about 250 workers, and the smelter served mines in the Yerington District and 209 other mines in Nevada and northern California. A financial collapse led to closure of the smelter in 1929.
The Bluestone Mining Co. operated a concentrator near its underground operations. Mine financier William Boyce Thompson established the company, and the million-dollar-smelter was named in his honor, according to the Mining History Association.
Mining at Bluestone peaked during World War I. A downturn after the war caused most of the mines to close, including Mason Valley Mines Co. in 1929, and the Nevada Copper Belt Railroad was abandoned in 1947.
Today, Bluestone neighbors the agricultural community of Yerington, with a population of about 3,000. Yerington is home to Nevada Copper Corp.’s Pumpkin Hollow project, now in construction and expected to commence production in late 2019.