aka Eagle aka Beaver Creek

The White Pine mining district is located in both Sanders County, Montana, and Shoshone County, Idaho. The district encompasses the drainage of Big Beaver Creek which flows north from the Bitterroot Mountain range to empty into the Clark Fork River. The district is southwest of the town of White Pine on the Clark Fork River. The Jack Waite mine was the only mine of importance in the district.

The real development of the region began in 1883 with the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad. For a time, Belknap was the nearest railroad point to the Wallace, Idaho gold mines. The 1883-84 gold rush to the Coeur d'Alenes caused the sudden growth of three towns along the western Clark Fork. One trail left from Belknap and went up Big Beaver Creek, another left from Trout Creek and followed that creek, and the third left Thompson Falls and followed Prospect Creek. For four to five years there were thousands of people in the area, mostly seeking placer gold. By 1890, the rush had ended. Sanders County was created in 1905, with Thompson Falls as the county seat (Davis 1958).

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. Glacial Lake Missoula 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 Valley 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 ores in the district contain lead, zinc, and silver and are associated with sedimentary rocks of the Belt series (Algonkian). Beaver Creek drains an area underlain by Prichard formation, Ravalli group, and Wallace Formation rocks. The Prichard crops out on the divide to the west and forms the country rock at the Jack Waite mine. Ravalli Formation sediments occur along the middle portion of the creek. Near White Pine and Belknap these sediments are overlain by northeast-dipping argillites of the Wallace Formation (Crowley 1963; Sahinen 1935).


According to Crowley (1963), "The area drained by the Big Beaver Creek west of Belknap is known as the White Pine (Eagle, Beaver Creek) mining district."

Sahinen (1935) defined the White Pine district as located 15 miles southwest of White Pine and as encompassing the drainage of Big Beaver Creek.

Figure 1 shows the district as defined by the AMRB (1994) as encompassing the Beaver Creek and White Pine Creek drainages.


Jack Waite

The Jack Waite mine (also called the Silver King) was the principal mine in the White Pine district. Located near the state boundary, the mine produced ore from both Montana and Idaho. In Montana, the company's patented ground covered parts of the SE1/4 of Section 17, T22N, R32W. Before 1930 production from the Montana side was negligible, but the mine was quite active in 1930 and 1931; the production for those two years from about 62,000 tons of milling ore and about 2,000 tons of high-grade shipping ore was valued at almost $440,000. The district was inactive in 1932, but the Jack Waite mine was reopened in the fall of 1933, and the American Smelting and Refining Company took over operations in 1934 (Sahinen 1935; Crowley 1963).

The outcrop of the vein was discovered in the early 1900s by Jack Waite, who was traveling from Belknap, Montana, to Murray, Idaho. The Jack Waite Mining Company was incorporated in 1909 and bought the property (9 claims) from Senator Lee Mantle of Montana, reportedly for $250,000. Until 1927 the development work was sporadic because of poor roads, high zinc content, and the lack of milling equipment. In 1927, however, a 125-ton mill and an electric power line were built and underground reserves increased. By 1928 work had started on the 1,500-foot level, which was eventually driven to the Jack Waite extension, or Silver King property, on the Montana side. The mill capacity was enlarged to 400 tons per day that year. In 1934 the American Smelting and Refining Company took over the operation under lease and operated it until 1961, after which it was operated by private lessors (Crowley 1963).

In 1930, the Jack Waite Mining Company extracted ore from both states. The output from the Montana area consisted of 14,000 tons of ore and was treated at the company's mill at Murray, Idaho. In 1931 the company extracted 2,000 tons of lead ore and 4,800 tons of lead-zinc ore from the Montana side of their property. The milling ore was treated at a flotation plant in Duthie, Idaho, and the rest was smelted. The property was ranked first in the output of lead for Montana for 1931, second in zinc, and third in silver (Mineral Resources 1930, 1931).

Prior to 1931 little attention was given to the development of ore below the main tunnel level. Since then, a prospect winze was sunk to 210 feet on the dip of the vein in the Montana section of the vein. The main level of the mine was driven about 6,000 feet from the portal. The Idaho stopes were productive until the mine force was reduced and the development policy changed on May 1, 1931. Thirty-five men were working underground at the end of 1931, and the daily output averaged 150 tons of ore. Because of low metal prices, the plan was to mine enough ore to defray the expenses of operating and developing the newer Montana section of the mine (Turner 1931).

In 1932 one lode mine in the district (presumably the Jack Waite) produced 8,236 tons of ore that yielded $516 in gold, 7,681 ounces silver, 8,825 pounds copper, 1,542,767 pounds lead, and 56,367 pounds zinc valued in all at $51,214. In 1933 the Silver King produced 13,679 tons of ore that yielded 50.26 ounces gold, 14,897 ounces silver, 7,922 pounds copper, 3,041,135 pounds lead, and 191,143 pounds zinc. The total value was $127,310, and it was operated by the Jack Waite Mining Company. The next year, the Silver King produced 28,762 tons of ore yielding 103.72 ounces gold, 25,706 ounces silver, 18,400 pounds copper, 5,119,946 pounds lead, and 763,163 pounds zinc, with a total value of $243,969. (Mineral Yearbook 1932; 1933; 1934; Rowe 1941).

From 1911 to 1961, total production at the Jack Waite mine was 687,425 tons of ore that had a recoverable metal content of 1,549 ounces gold, 616,615 ounces silver, 1,035,240 pounds copper, 133,953,045 pounds lead, and 20,871,892 pounds zinc. The average grade was 0.0022 ounce gold per ton, 0.88 ounce silver per ton, 0.069 percent copper, 9.5 percent lead, and (since 1928) 1.59 percent zinc (Crowley 1963).

In 1956 the mine reportedly had about 24,000 feet of drifts and crosscuts, with several thousand feet of raises and winzes. The ore mined from the Montana side was brought to the mill at Duthie, Idaho. The ore was sorted in the mill and shipped direct to the smelter. The crude ore and concentrates averaged 70 percent lead and 6 ounces silver per ton (Crowley 1963; Turner 1931).

The Montana-Idaho state line marks a change in the nature of the mineralization, with more occurrence of high-grade, fine-grained galena. The natural trend of mine development is easterly along the vein. It is located in an area of Prichard slate. The ore deposition follows a well-defined fissure with two periods of mineralization. Two ore bodies appear to follow the fissure and are called the Montana Vein and the Idaho Vein. The Montana Vein has associated aggregates and veinlets of galena in a siliceous gangue of crushed country rock with a small amount of quartz. The low-silver ores of the mine contain siderite, quartz, and breccia fragments of country rock as gangue (Turner 1931; Crowley 1963).

Lucky Luke

The Lucky Luke mine was also known as the Royal Copper and the L & N. It was reportedly located 4 miles north of Belknap within the Seepay or Sleepy Creek district. The 1931 Mines Handbook reported that the Royal Copper Mining Company property had been taken over in 1926 by the Lucky Luke Mining Company, and this mine is shown in the SE1/4 of Section 18, T22N, R30W, about 4 miles west of Belknap. Production records, however, used the sub-district name Seepy Creek, which they identified as within the White Pine district (Crowley 1963).

In 1909 the Royal Copper Mining Company was developing a property with a 463-foot crosscut adit that contained a vein average 6 percent copper, 18 percent lead, and a small amount of silver. By the next year there were two adits, 50 and 600 feet long. In 1926 the Royal Copper mine yielded 1 ounce gold, 44 ounces silver, and 5,631 pounds copper from 51 tons of ore (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


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. 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.

Davis, Evelyn M.

1958 "Steamboats Once Operated on Clark Fork River."

Sanders County Ledger

. 6 February.

Mineral Resources.

1930 p. 424 1931 p. 507.

Mineral Yearbook..

1932 p. 52. 1933 pp. 392-405. 1934 App.

Rowe, J. P.


Geography and Natural Resources of Montana

. Missoula: Montana State University, 1933 (revised 1941).

Sahinen, Uuno Mathias


Mining Districts of Montana

. M. S. thesis, Montana School of Mines.

Turner, John R.

1931 "The Jack Waite Mine",

Min. Cong. Journal

, Vol. 17, No. 12, pp. 671-673.

Wolle, Muriel Sibell


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. Denver: Sage Books. Works Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey

1941 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.