The Camas Prairie or Perma mining district is a large district located in Sanders County north of Perma, a small town on the Flathead River. Camas Prairie is an open prairie region, within the Flathead Indian Reservation. Most of the mining activity is within the southern part of the district within the Camas Prairie Basin. There was limited mining activity in the district from 1912 to 1922. The mines near the town of Perma shipped out sulphide ore carrying copper and silver between 1912 and 1917 (Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963).
Since 1912 the district has produced a relatively large amount of copper ore. Between 1912 and 1947 (there was no production between 1948 and 1958) the total production of the district was 23 ounces of gold, 2,401 ounces of silver, 123,880 pounds of copper, and 4,632 pounds of lead recovered from 1,506 tons of ore. The total value of all ores was $24,204 (Crowley 1963).
Little else is known of occurrences of ore deposits here. In 1916, 30 tons of 5.7 percent copper ore carrying some gold and silver was shipped from the June Bug mine about 3 1/2 miles northeast of Camas Prairie. There was some activity in the Perma area from 1912 to 1922. Shipments of lead sulfide ore carrying some copper and silver were made from the Glancus mine. The Exchange reported some gold and silver-bearing copper ore. The Chilson property near Perma shipped some copper ore in 1922 (Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963).
The bedrock along the Clark Fork and Flathead River valleys between Ravalli and the Idaho boundary formed during the Precambrian era and is mostly sedimentary (Belt) formations. Much of the rock is of the Prichard formation. The surficial geology was formed by the action of Glacial Lake Missoula which was created about 15,000 years ago by an ice dam and covered much of the Clark Fork River valley as well as land to the east. The entire flow of the Clark Fork River backed up behind the dam, and the glacial lake reached an elevation of about 4350 feet When the ice dam failed, Glacial Lake Missoula emptied through the Clark Fork and tributary valleys in just a few days, releasing the greatest flood of known geologic record. This process occurred repeatedly, each time resulting in colossal floods. The passage of the torrents of water during the flooding scoured the narrow stretches of the valley, especially between Perma and Plains and several miles east of Thompson Falls. Exposed bedrock and sedimentary deposits provide evidence of the long-ago rushing floodwaters through the valley, as do ripple marks in Camas Prairie (Alt and Hyndman 1986).
The mining district is located in an area of Beltian (Proterozoic) sediments that have been intruded by sills of diorite and gabbro. The prevailing sediments are slates, argillites, and quartzites of the Prichard formation. Ravalli Formations underlies a narrow strip along the western edge of the district. Near Niarada, in the northern corner of the district, a few small areas are covered by Tertiary volcanic rock and Tertiary sediments. The basin of Camas Prairie along the Little Bitterroot River is covered with glacial lake deposits (Sahinen 1935; Crowley 1963).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
Sahinen (1935) places the district in the vicinity of Perma, a small town on the Flathead River, and a station on the Northern Pacific Railroad.
There is little discussion of this district in the historical literature. According to Crowley (1963), "The Camas Prairie district. . . embraces a large area north of Perma to the Lincoln County line."
Figure 1 shows the Camas Prairie mining district as defined by the AMRB (1994) which is similar to the area defined by Crowley (1963). A smaller area is shown as the district described by Sahinen (1935) that includes the primary mining area.
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
Sandvig (1947) described the Cardiff mine as having values in silver and lead.
Duston Copper Group
The Duston Copper Group is located in Sanders County six miles north of Perma, on the Flathead Indian Reservation. In 1913 a 100-foot tunnel had been driven on the Duston claim. The vein showed an ore body carrying 16 percent copper, 2 ounces of silver, plus good gold values. The claim was next to the Camas Copper Mining and Milling Company property, which in 1911 carried ore giving assays of 18.1 percent copper, 1 ounce silver, and 60 cents gold per ton (Crowley 1963).
The Exchange mine produced 2 ounces of gold, 102 ounces of silver, and 17,129 pounds of copper from 78 tons of ore in the years 1915-1917. Some (if not all) of the ore was shipped to Butte (Crowley 1963; WPA 1941; Sahinen 1935;
1915, 1916, 1917).
The Glaucus mine (also known as the Glancus and as the Herman) is a group of four patented claims located in the W1/2 of Section 20 and the E1/2 of Section 19, T19N, R22W, 10.8 miles northeast of Perma. In 1912 the Glancus property produced lead sulphide ore containing some silver and copper. In 1917 lead ore containing silver and copper was shipped from the claim. Some development work was done at the property in 1926, and a test sample of silver-lead ore was shipped that year. The mine also produced between 1942 and 1947 (it was owned at that time by Cris Herman). The production from 1,404 tons of ore was 21 ounces of gold, 2,289 ounces of silver, 105,288 pounds of copper, and 4,632 pounds of lead (Crowley 1963; WPA 1941; Sahinen 1935;
1912, 1917, 1926).
The Glaucus mine is located in a zone of bleached argillite, with some porphyritic sills (Crowley 1963).
Sandvig (1947) described the Herman mine as having values in silver and lead.
The June Bug mine was located about 3 1/2 miles northeast of Camas Prairie. In 1916, 24 - 30 tons of 5.7 percent copper ore bearing some gold and silver were shipped from the June Bug mine. The ore yielded 10 ounces of silver and 1,463 pounds of copper from 24 tons of ore (Sahinen 1935;
1916; Crowley 1963).
Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)
1994 Mining districts of Montana. Maps 1:100,000 and Map #94-NRIS-129. Compiled and edited by Joel Chavez. Prepared by Montana State Library Natural Resource Information System (NRIS) for Montana Department of State Lands. Helena
Alt, David, and Donald W. Hyndman
Roadside Geology of Montana
. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company.
Crowley, F. A.
1963 "Mines and Mineral Deposits (Except Fuels), Sanders County, Montana." Butte: Bureau of Mines and Geology, Bull. 34.
1912 Mineral Resources. p. 767.
1915 Mineral Resources. p. 605.
1916 Mineral Resources. p. 415.
1917 Mineral Resources. p. 360.
1921 Mineral Resources. p. 304.
1922 Mineral Resources. p. 481.
1926 Mineral Resources. p. 408.
Lyden, Charles J.
The Gold Placers of Montana
. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir No. 26. Montana School of Mines, Butte.
Sahinen, Uuno M.
1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte.
Sandvig, Robert L.
1947 "General Geology and Mines of Northwest Montana." B.S. thesis, Montana School of Mines.
Wolle, Muriel S.
Montana Pay Dirt. A Guide to the Mining Camps of the Treasure State
. Sage Books, Denver.
Works Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey
Montana Mine Index, An Alphabetical Index Arranged by Counties, Districts and Mines of Information on Montana Mines from 1867-1940
. Montana School of Mines, Butte.