Mining and Minerals

Southern California may not be well known for its mineral wealth beyond its oil, but there are plenty of different minerals and natural resources to be found here.

The Native Americans that formerly resided here used the many tar and oil seeps to provide waterproofing to roofs and boats. Some of those seeps still exist today, though much smaller than they once were. Oil seeps are places where oil and/or tar, a much thicker substance, emerges onto the surface in a similar manner as a spring. Some of the more prolific seeps are rather famous, as the La Brea Pits can certainly attest to. They have been around for quite some time and have trapped quite a few fossils within them. Other seeps, such as the ones within Wiley Canyon in the Santa Clarita area, are far smaller and most likely more recent. Oil, from wells, began in the late 1800’s in the Pico Canyon area of Santa Clarita. Some of those wells still produce oil today. Through the 1910’s and 1920’s, other oil fields came online in the Los Angeles area which helped make, and break, the wealth of those drilling.  Places such as Signal Hill, Baldwin Hills were the first major oil strikes. In time, oil fields were found near downtown Los Angeles, Puente Hills, La Brea, and Ventura County. Oil companies such as Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) and Union Oil Company of California (now Union 76) got their starts with oil fields in Southern California as well.

Oil, however, wasn’t always king. Gold, a mineral/native element which the entire State of California owes its existence to, was discovered early as well. Small gold mines existed in the late 1700’s, though not producing much. The first real major strike, in 1842, was in Placerita Canyon in the Santa Clarita area. This strike produced the first gold rush in California, more than six years before the discovery near Coloma, California in 1848. While that later strike precipitated the California Gold Rush, this smaller discovery still was big for its day. The gold found was mostly placer gold, which was eroded from the adjacent mountains instead of being mined using tunneling methods. Later discoveries of gold were in the Acton area in northern Los Angeles County in the late 1800’s. Other gold mining areas include portions of the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Bernardino Mountains, such as near Holcomb Valley near Big Bear.

Other minerals such as Titanium, Copper, Iron, and Coal have also been mined in large numbers in Southern California. Some of those mines continue today, though not producing nearly as much as they once did. Rare earth minerals have also been mined here as well, such as the mine near Mountain Pass along I-15 near the Nevada border.

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