It was the very first mining community in California, starting up operations in 1845. Before it closed down for good in 1976, it also held the distinction of being the largest, richest mine California has ever known, processing over $700,000,000 in metallic wealth.
New Almaden Mine was situated in the Santa Clara Valley near San Jose and in its heyday was bustling with activity with a mix of miners from Mexico to Cornwall. And the surprise is — this was not a gold mine. It was a quicksilver mine! Quicksilver (mercury) was absolutely essential in hard rock mining because it was used to separate the gold from the rock it was found in. The fact that the New Almaden Mine was already in operation when gold was discovered in our state only quickened the pace of the gold rush itself. Today, the town is a registered National Historic Landmark and the mine itself is on land which is part of a county park. In this episode, Huell Howser visits the town and the mine and learns first hand about the rich history of this little-known but very important bit of "California's Gold."