December 14, 2012

Photo Essay: Visiting the Largest Borax Mine in the World

"Can I help you?" asked the man at the Borax USA security kiosk, which I found myself pulling up to on my way back to LA from Death Valley.

"I don't know..." I stammered, "I might be going to the Visitor's Center, but I don't know what happens up there."

"OK," he said.

"So...what happens up there?" I asked.

"Well, you go up there, and you look at stuff."

"OK, sounds good," I said, and I drove up the winding road to the top of a hill to visit a museum dedicated to the history of the element boron, the town of Boron, the commercial product borax...

...and the 20 Mule Team that took 20 days to bring 20 tons of it out of Death Valley.

That is, until a more plentiful supply was found in Boron...

...and the harvest that followed created California's largest open pit mine...

...which is still an active worksite, and has something like a 50 year supply left in it.

Outside the visitors center, among the displays are original ore carts, headframes...

...and a 190 ton truck tire...

...from a 739 Cat truck.

But aside from the history and the industrial legacy of borax mines... also get a sense of the commercial element to the element...

...which is used in a variety of soaps, detergents, and even glass.

I remember spreading boric acid throughout one of my Brooklyn apartments to try to control the roaches. The added benefit was you could track down mice by the trails they left behind by running through the lines of powder.

But this is what it looks like when mined, before being processed.

And this is where it comes from, as day turns into night...

...and all the twinkly lights turn on...

...inside a processing facility inaccessible to the public...

...lining roads regulated with odd speed limits like 23 and 37 1/2 MPH.

So, I didn't see all that much. Not as much as there is to be seen. But I saw more than most people have, I'll bet.

Nearby Attractions:
California City
Willow Springs Raceway
The Cat House
Mojave Airport

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