In dramatic collapse, a mining-era relic comes down in Deer Valley
May 12, 2015
A large remnant of Park City’s silver-mining era collapsed in Deer Valley early Friday, City Hall said, leaving a hulking piece of steel equipment sideways on the ground in what is among the most dramatic scenes in years involving a relic from the mining days.
The shaft of the Daly West Mine, situated outside the Montage Deer Valley in Empire Pass, started to cave in on the sides, Jason Glidden, a spokesperson for City Hall, said. The derrick, or head frame, is the part that is visible on the surface. It collapsed as a result of the shaft caving in.
Investigators from the Park City Building Department said the collapse was a result of several factors, including the saturation of the soil, the instability of the ground at the location and a mild winter without a deep frost. There are no known witnesses. Orange construction fencing was posted afterward. A wooden fence also surrounds the site.
The Jordanelle Special Service District, a Wasatch County water provider, owns the shaft. Darrel Scow, the interim general manager, said the district was aware of a small hole at the site but was unable to address the issue with structural foam and concrete during the winter. Rainy weather made the situation worse, he said. The Jordanelle Special Service District was scheduled to start repairs on May 18.
Scow said half of the derrick is in the hole and not visible. The rest is what can been seen. He said it was a "very stable situation" early in the week.
According to Scow, the shaft reaches a depth of 1,600 feet, where it intersects with the Ontario Drain Tunnel. The shaft provides a vent and some water to the Ontario Drain Tunnel, which is a drinking-water source for the Jordanelle Special Service District, he said.
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Park City was founded as a silver-mining camp and the industry drove the local economy into the middle of the 20th century. As the price of silver dropped, the silver mines were shuttered and the ski industry eventually took hold. Numerous mining relics remain in the mountains, though.
The Daly West site was one of the historic highlights in what was for years a largely undeveloped swath of Park City. It became visible to the masses with the expansion of lift-served skiing and the Empire Pass development.
"We lost a big part of our mining history, our physical representation of it," said Sandra Morrison, the executive director of the Park City Museum.
The steel equipment on its side is the head frame. When the mine was in operation, the head frame housed the cages that took miners up and down the shaft, Morrison said, describing the head frame as part of the hoisting system that also brought ore to the surface.
There are two other mining-era head frames remaining in Park City. One is at the site of the Ontario Mine off Marsac Avenue just south of Old Town. The other is inside the historic Silver King building at the bottom terminal of the Bonanza lift at Park City Mountain Resort.
The Daly West head frame is believed to have been built sometime after 1912, according to City Hall paperwork prepared as part of an inventory of historic sites in the city. It was 85 feet tall. The site was considered significant to Park City’s history as the paperwork was readied in 2009.
"The physical elements of the site, even lacking all of the other mine-related structures, convey a sense of Western mining operations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Though the lack of surrounding structures and the intrusion of the contemporary development significantly diminish the historic character," the paperwork says.
Anya Grahn, the preservation planner at City Hall, said she started researching methods to preserve the site after the collapse. She spoke to a state historic architect on Monday to discuss the situation. She said the "interpretive value of that structure" was not lost completely.
Grahn said she hopes the head frame can be preserved by putting it upright again. Grahn and a representative of the Park City Building Department plan to provide an update to Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council at a meeting on Thursday.
"It’s still telling a lot about the industrial past of Park City," Grahn said.