Work on a 780-foot tunnel that will let visitors experience what life was like in the historic Empire Mine is more than half finished, but it has been slow going.
"After a number of delays and hitting a lot of just bad, crumbly rock, we've finally ... hit some solid rock," said Ron Munson, Sierra Gold Sector superintendent. "We're making much more rapid progress now."
Part of the 780-foot tunnel being built at the Empire Mine State Park.
The Union photo/John Hart
When the tunnel is finished, a tram will carry visitors through rock and quartz to an intersection with the original mine shaft about 110 feet below the surface.
Work started last September, and contractor Michael Miller has dug about 485 feet of the shaft, Munson said. Crumbling rock has required additional shoring of the tunnel walls, delaying digging. The long-planned project is expected to be complete in December.
While riding the tram, visitors will be able to see dioramas showing the progression of mining from the first discovery of gold in 1850 by George Roberts until its closure in 1956. The ride is expected to cost $6.
But none of that will happen until another $1.4 million is found to pay for a visitor center, parking lot, septic system, and pubic restrooms.