Seemingly a combination of fact, legend and treasure-hunting lore, the supposed Lost Josephine mine near Hoyt's Peak has a rich history behind it no matter what one chooses to believe.
Gary Holt, the current claim holder, and Steve Shaffer, the former, both believe the mine is an ancient site once used by the Spanish.
Holt, who is currently extracting calcite from the site near Hoyt's Peak east of Oakley, is marketing calcite he has extracted from the mine at gem and jewelry shows as "Goldcite," claiming it has noticeable gold deposits in it. He added that Goldcite is worth $10 a karat and estimates the total value extracted at $30 million.
"There's never been calcite found in the Uintas that has gold in it," Shaffer said, adding it can only be found in Nevada.
Shaffer, who was partners with Gale Rhoades during his first claim of the Hoyt's Peak mine in 1981, has written many books on Spanish miners in early Utah and ancient civilizations in the West. His books include Treasures of the Ancients and Of Men and Gold. He is also an expert on Spanish symbols.
"We've got ample proof that there were Spanish in Utah," Shaffer said. In his book Out of the Dust: Utah's Lost Mines and Hidden Treasures, Shaffer writes that a Spanish captain named Jose Joaquin Garcia came into Utah in 1782 with five hundred men. He said he mined gold but was chased out by Ute Indians in a massacre.
Shaffer said there is evidence that the mine at Hoyt's Peak was used by the Spanish, such as Spanish writings on the walls, symbols on nearby trees and a waybill for the mine written in 1814 by Garcia describing the location of the Lost Josephine mine. He added that Charles Steen, a uranium miner from Moab, found other intriguing evidence.
"[Steen] went into the hole and said there was a Pre-Columbian tunnel in the mine. The mine props were made out of mountain mahogany.
Regardless of the supposed Spanish history of the mine, Holt says he is actually marketing a material that he is extracting from the mine, which is necessary in having an approved plan of operation with the Forest Service.
"There's no one that's taken anything out of that mine that has been marketable that proves the economic value of the claim," Holt said.
Larry Hathaway, a man who has cut and polished materials of Holt's through his Spanish Fork business Larry's Jewelry and Rock Shop, said he doesn't think Holt's Goldcite is valuable.
"In my opinion, it's not worth a damn. I've cut and polished [Goldcite] for him," Hathaway said. "I have better stones that are much less than what he's asking for."
Holt maintains that Goldcite has value and said his story should be an example that people should not be afraid to challenge the Forest Service in mining for valuable materials on public land.
"[People] can make claims and make money and help our national debt, because we can produce more raw materials if we've got more people looking," Holt said.
Holt added that he still believes there is gold at the Hoyt's Peak site but that he is not attempting to sell or refine his material as gold. Shaffer said the mine mostly contains silver, with some gold near the bottom, and that he once found a 10-pound Spanish gold bar that he sold.
Jose Joaquin Garcia and his family, Shaffer said, had come up to Utah to look for gold. The information gleaned from both the waybill and the old Spanish map is the evidence he gives that the mine at Hoyt's Peak was used by the Spanish.
"When the governor of New Mexico allowed the Garcias to come up and work on an ancient mine, this was it," Shaffer said.
Holt, who said his mining operation is reputable, has not had his Goldcite assayed yet, as he said he wants to wait until he extracts other materials from the mine, such as uranium.