Idaho History Jan 6, 2018 Pt2

Stibnite 1949 Radio Script

Part 2
Valley County, Idaho

Rec Hall (left) and School (center)

probably mid 1940s

source: The Mike Fritz Collection 
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Radio Script and Photo Collections shared by Sandy McRae courtesy Jim Collord

Stibnite Idaho Radio Series Part 2

Peffer CBS Radio Station KGDM Stockton, California 1140 on Dial

From Mr and Mrs. Edward F. Peffer

This is the second of the Stibnite stories compiled and Written by Elsie Flower, KGDM script-writer, now on vacation at the lake-shore Summer-home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward F. Peffer on Payette Lakes in Idaho. The Stibnite stories are broadcast especially for Idaho listeners from the Peffer CBS Station KGDM in Stockton, California, Bill Hill, special announcer for Idaho, at the microphone, September 23, 1949.

We concluded the first Stibnite story last night with the co-incidence of two generations of the Bradley family furnishing the bulk of the world’s tungsten supply in two world Wars. During the first war, the senior Bradley, Frederick W., in association with Bernard Baruch, dug the tungsten from California’s Mojave Desert deposits. In the second war, Bradley’s three sons mined half a million tons of tungsten ore from one huge deposit in the Yellow Pine Mine at Stibnite, Idaho.

The discovery of the Idaho tungsten deposit was made in 1941, eight years after the death of Frederick Bradley, the most heroic and adventurous figure in all Western mining. At his death in 1933, Bradley was associated financially in the development of the Yellow Pine Mine, with Ogden Mills of New York and Washington, D. C. and William H. Crocker of San Francisco. Bradley held a half interest, the other two each a fourth. In 1938, the Yellow Pine interests of the three men were held in their estates. It was in that year, that the youngest of the three Bradley brothers, John D. Bradley, Manager of Idaho operations of the Bradley Mining Company, went to heirs of the Mills and Crocker estates and purchased their interests in the Yellow Pine Mine at Stibnite. We shall now continue with the story of the mine as narrated to us by Robert McRae, mill and smelter superintendent.

The Yellow Pine Mine, under the operation of the Bradley Mining Company, dates from 1927. The original workings were on Meadow Creek. In 1937, under active direction of John D. Bradley, large deposits of antimony and gold ore were discovered two miles down-stream from the Meadow Creek development. Operations in that year were transferred to the new deposits of ore. Open-cut mining methods with power shovels reduced costs to a low figure. The ore bodies had had three years of mining, and the mill had been built up to 400 tons a day, when in 1940, the SPECTER OF ANOTHER WORLD WAR LOOMED IN THE NATION’S HORIZON.

The United States Bureau of Mines began exploring for additional antimony ores in the area worked by the Bradley Mining Company. In 1941 the Bureau of Mines’ drilling program had located large bodies of antimony ore. On close examination of the drill core under ultra-violet light, scheelite ore, rich in tungsten, was discovered. THIS WAS THE TURNING POINT IN THE HISTORY OF THE YELLOW PINE MINE.

Up until this time the margin between profit and loss, had been exceedingly narrow. The three Bradley brothers, and their mother, Mary, who is now Mrs. Frank R. Girard of San Francisco, started a very active program involving great expenditure of money to place the mine in large-scale production. Their purpose was not only to recover antimony, but to mine the newly-discovered and highly strategic mineral, tungsten.

By the latter part of 1941, milling was well underway on antimony and tungsten ores. By 1942 the Yellow Pine Mine was one of the world’s greatest producers of both antimony and tungsten. Production, at the request of the Ore Production Board, continued to be increased, until by the end of 1943, the Yellow Pine Mine, in some months, produced more tungsten than all the rest of the mines in the world combined. High officials have many times credited the Bradley Mining Company and its employees with having shortened the War by many months by their high rate of tungsten production.

Tungsten enters into the manufacture of all high-class steel, which, during the war, was made into armor-piercing projectiles for naval and anti-tank defense. The Armed Forces used tremendous quantities of antimony. Its principal strategic use was as a flame-proofing agent to render fabrics fire-proof.

China was the world’s main source of antimony and tungsten until 1940, when the Japanese forces disrupted and isolated Chinese mining regions, and cut off the supply to the outside world. A small amount of antimony and tungsten was being flown over the Hump for the United States and the Allies, but the amount was negligible in comparison with the need. For lack of these two metals, the Nation found itself in a highly vulnerable position. The Allies were no better off. IT WAS AT THIS MOMENT IN 1941 and 1942 THAT THE YELLOW PINE MINE BEGAN TO POUR FORTH THE METALS TO FILL THE NEED, AND IT CONTINUED TO POUR FORTH, THROUGH THE YEARS OF ’43 and ’44 UNTIL THE EMERGENCY WAS PAST.

In these years the mill was handling 800 tons daily. In 1945, additional development went forward toward a 2500 ton daily milling production. This was accomplished by 1946, and since that time, production of antimony ore has been maintained at an annual output of 600,000 tone, This is 95 per cent of all domestic production of antimony. During these years, we have just reviewed, concentrate from the Yellow [Pine] Mine were shipped to distant points for refining. The tungsten concentrate, produced during war years, was shipped to Boise, Idaho and Salt Lake City, Utah for refining.

Antimony concentrate, until last August, was shipped to Southern California for further treatment. Gold concentrate went to Utah. This was an expensive process. Charges for transportation, freight rates and refining costs left the Bradley Mining Company with only 60 per cent of the actual value of the ore.

In 1948 the company decided to build its own smelter for production of antimony, both as metal and an oxide, and also for gold and silver bullion. Metallurgical research had been under way for several years in preparation for this step. The Stibnite staff of Metallurgists collaborated with the Bunker Hill staff In solving the smelting problems presented by the ore,

The men who pooled brains, knowledge and experience in this effort were Harold Lee, research metallurgist for the Bunker Hill and Sullivan Mine and Robert McRae, mill superintendent and metallurgist for the Yellow Pine. These two men worked on all test work in close association with Harold D, Bailey, general manager of the Yellow Pine, and Silas Doo Foo, a young Chinese graduate of the Colorado School of mines, who has been assistant metallurgist at Yellow Pine for seven years.

Some of the major problems connected with treatment of the Yellow Pine concentrates were their high ‘arsenic content’ and their extreme fineness as they came from the mill. All antimony smelters, before the installation of the electric smelter at Stibnite, treated ores in lump form. The lump ore smelter could not adapt its method to the fine concentrate of the Yellow Pine Mill. The smelter at Stibnite was designed to overcome difficulties presented by the fine concentrate. Another problem to be solved was the transportation cost of fuel, used in the conventional antimony smelter for melting down the concentrate.

This problem was overcome by the use of an electric smelting furnace, which draws up to 2000 kilowatt hours or 3000 horsepower, This is converted into the heat which does the smelting. Power is derived from the 110 mile transmission line built during the war by the Idaho Power Company for the Yellow Pine Mine, The project involved the expenditure of one and a half million dollars for the smelter, and in addition, a half-million dollars to erect new houses for the accommodation of smelter employees and their families.

The smelter, which went into operation in August of this year was dedicated by Governor C. A. Robins of Idaho at Stibnite’s sixth annual barbecue held on the Saturday of August 20th. At that time, Governor Robins said, and we quote ‘The accomplishment of bringing the machinery and the building equipment to this isolated mountain community over forest roads is a tribute to initiative that would have been impossible under any system but the free enterprise system’. (end quote)

The smelter, designed to process the precious metals of gold and silver, as well as antimony and antimony oxide, is the only smelter of its kind in the United States, It is designed with a flexible capacity. In times of extreme need for antimony, it can process up to 600 tons of metallic antimony per month. In slack times, antimony production can be adjusted to suit the needs of the country, and gold ores substituted.

The Bradley brothers are following in the footsteps of their father, in extracting every iota of value from ore, whether of high grade or low-grade. The smelter is making the antimony yield outstanding and is putting gold production on a paying basis. It is prolonging the life of the Yellow Pine Mine and the Village of Stibnite, the world’s most unique community.

[End Part 2]
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1942 Stibnite School1942stibniteschool-a
(click image for source size)

source: Idaho State Historical Society Stibnite Photo Collection
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1951 Stibnite School

photo from Sandy McRae
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1943 Stibnite Hospital

: Idaho State Historical Society Stibnite Photo Collection
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Yellow Pine Pit (circa 1946)
Photograph courtesy Robin McRae
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Antimony Smelter under Construction (circa 1948)

Completed Antimony Smelter (circa 1949-50)

photos from “History of the Stibnite Mining Area, Valley County, Idaho”, from a report prepared by Victoria E. Mitchell of Idaho Geological Survey, dated April 2000 (27 meg)

1949 Stibnite Idaho Radio Series Part 1

1949 Stibnite Idaho Radio Series Part 3

page updated Sept 8, 2020