Blue Mustang Operation 2022
The Blue Mustang Oregon claim is located in T24S, R45E, Sec. 33 in southeast Oregon. It sits about two miles west of Three Fingers Butte and the closest town is Homedale, Idaho. The claim can be approached from Homedale, ID on Route 19 to Succor Creek Road and McIntyre Springs Road. It joins the Rocky Butte claim on the south, and is close to the Owyhee claim as well. The Blue Mustang Picture Jasper from this claim is classically described as having blue skies and tan hills. This jasper forms through blue jasper depositing into cracks in the surrounding volcanic rock. The nature of the earth causes cracking, and the jasper itself gets cracked and fractured, allowing space for other minerals to coat those cracks and soak into the jasper, creating staining.
Our mining operation in May/June of 2022 was worked on with myself (Gene), Veronica, various employees and friends Kevin, Tim, and Gary, with special help from longtime mining friends Jake Jacobitz and Dale Huett. This trip was full of rain, broken equipment, and lots of good rock! It took approximately 7 hours to drive the machine to the mine, with another driver following with the truck and camper. We arrived just in time to set up and cook some supper. The next day was the first attempt at unearthing some rock. First, the jasper is found with equipment and then usually detached from the host rock by hand. I dug out a large section but found nothing, which was a discouraging start. In addition to the regular excavator bucket, we also had a hammer attachment, so the rest of the evening was spent preparing for the hammer. This proved to be a great plan, and with use of both the hammer and bucket we exposed a good 15 foot vein of jasper.
Of the jasper mined, a selection is made and the jasper with potential is taken up to camp. The pile at camp then gets gone through and cleaned (meaning the host rock is removed and the jasper is checked for quality). If acceptable, it gets put in the "keeper" pile to ship back to Wisconsin. The vein in the lower area produced rock that varied between unacceptable and wonderful. By the third day, we had about a ton of jasper up at camp. The next few days were spent widening the trench and hammering rock out of the wall.
With various areas of the pit being worked on, we could start on reclaiming some areas while others worked on cleaning rock from other work areas. We began to take in some loads of rock in the truck to be palletized to ship back to Wisconsin, and the truck got a flat tire on the way back.
A little over a week in, a storm hit us from the west, and we had terrible wind and rain all night. But the next day while working with the excavator we hit a very promising new vein! It was a large jasper deposit on the east side of the upper pit, and we made a ramp down to work on the north side of the upper pit so that we could have somewhere to go with all the muck. We had to quit about noon this day because of the rain, but boy did the keeper pile look good wet!
That day and the next were cold and rainy. After the original flat tire on the truck had been fixed, we discover another flat and have to put a spare on in the rain. The road and ground luckily dried quickly the next day, and Kevin went into town while we continued to work in the lower pit and bring out some rock. Kevin came back with fuel, water, another fixed tire, and pizza!
By June 1st, we were 37 feet below the original surface. There was so much jasper in the upper area of the pit, but only 20% was good. Another 20% was okay but quite a lot of work to get out. We had about 4 tons ready to go home at this point, and started on reclaiming the lower section of the pit. Yet another storm was predicted, right when Veronica was set to come and help us on the 4th. Kevin had to leave very early to pick her up to avoid the threatening weather. The jasper in the upper pit started to improve and we were able to increase our production with an extra set of hands, even with spending time reclaiming other sections and going through another terrible storm – strong wind, rain, hail, and constant lightning.
Another load was able to be brought into town while Veronica and I worked on getting deeper into the first pit where the rock was increasing in quality. Originally that upper deposit had only produced about 10% good rock, but as we followed it down it kept improving and improving. We had a great day on June 8th producing lots of rock and bring multiple loads of rock up with the bucket, switching between the hammer and bucket a few times that day. Everyone was tired, but we had yet another ton loaded in the truck to go in the next day. Unfortunately, that next day we hit another snag. We were getting some nice blue pieces of jasper, but when we took the machine up the steep slope to go around to the west side, the track came off the excavator. We spent most of the day taking pictures of a broken pin in the track and contacting Caterpillar to try to make arrangements to have it fixed. Our friend Dale Huett was working close by on his Rocky Butte and Owyhee claims, and he graciously came over and helped us get the machine at least up on some level ground.
All our plans had to shift since we didn’t have a machine, so we focused on cleaning and grading the rock to get it into town to be shipped. We worked by hand in the pit. With all the work on prepping the rock for home, we had about 8 tons at this point. Dale also offered to help us with some of the reclamation, as he had a larger machine and there was an intense amount of reclamation to be done. Most of the work done on the Blue Mustang claim occurred before 1976, which was before reclamation was required. We had agreed in our mining notice to reclaim all of the disturbance to the claim, which turned out to be a much bigger job than first anticipated.
Five days after the excavator track broke, we were able to get some trucks in and the repairs began on the machine. With the machine fixed the next day, we vigorously hammered at our deposit and continued reclaiming sections that had already been cleaned out. We got to spend one more day after that mining the west section, digging like mad before closing it up entirely.
Our last day mining we spent on another deposit on the east side, before loading up the truck again. We had a terrible windstorm in the evening that messed up the tents enough that we had to add plenty of extra stakes and ropes. The next day was all reclamation all day long and all evening, and it looked great. A considerable effort and expense was made to reclaim all of the past disturbance. With all of our hard work reseeding the entire area, we left it much nicer looking than when we had arrived! We pulled up a 1000lb boulder and put it close to the claim post, creating a Blue Mustang welcome rock.
On our way to drive the machine to its drop-off point, to our surprise the machine track broke again! Another pin broke, and I almost drove completely off the track before I noticed it. All was on hold until the next day, and the machine sat blocking the road about 5 miles away from our camp. In the meantime, we took another load of rock in. We finished pallet 11, almost finished 12, and started on 13. We called Caterpillar again and got arrangements for them to come out on Wednesday, which was the day we were supposed to leave. We filled enough containers with fuel to send with excavator, and then gave the rest to Dale.
Wednesday, we waved goodbye to Dale and headed towards the machine to meet the repair workers. We took it nice and slow driving back to the pickup point, the juncture of Succor Creek Road and McIntyre Springs Road. This was over 5 hours of driving the newly fixed machine over bumpy and rocky roads.
We ended up with 14 pallets of rock on the shipment home, about 26,000 pounds of rock. Every piece of rock we took home was handled several times, ensuring each piece had at least two colors and interesting pattern, and was of the quality we desired. With a mining operation full of rain and repairs, we’re very proud of the work we were able to accomplish and bring this rock back to the market.
Special thanks to friends Kevin Perleberg, Tim Robins, and Gary McFarlane for their help, and mining friends Dale Huett and Jake Jacobitz for their aid and hospitality.