Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living



Mineral Survey of Santa Cruz County - Coal
by C. McK. Laizure

Prepared by C. McK. Laizure,
Mining Engineer of the California State Mining Bureau

Several small veins of lignite coal have been found in Santa Cruz County. Prospecting for coal north of Watsonville was active during the early eighties and a little coal was mined on Corralitos Creek about that time. During the past year one of these veins in the vicinity of Corralitos was reopened and the coal sold for domestic purposes in Santa Cruz.

As much of the coal in California is lignite, or of such low grade that it can not be used to advantage as a steam coal, investigations have been under way in various quarters looking to a more economical method of utilizing the deposits. Research has taken the form of its possible utilization in the direct production of sponge iron and steel in the electric furnace. Others have investigated the low-temperature distillation process with the production of a semi-coke briquette, said to be an ideal smokeless domestic fuel, and various by-products. Experiments which give promise of success have been made to purify lignites and low-grade coals by some process such as the Trent method, which consists in agitating together powdered coal, water and oil. This produces a partly de-ashed plastic fuel called 'amalgam', the oil selecting the coal particles and largely excluding the water and ash. In one experiment on a California lignite, the ash reduction amounted to 26.8%, the combustible recovery was 95%, and the sulphur reduction was 12% after treatment. Others have considered the manufacture of calcium carbide (CaC2) from lime and lignite coal. Still other investigators have undertaken to show how these coals may be utilized in powdered form, either alone or with oil in 'collodial' fuels; to make them into briquettes without the use of an expensive binder; to manufacture producers gas from them; and to obtain for commercial use their other constituents, including ammonia, benzol, toluol, solvents, drugs, oils, and other coal tar products.

One of the newer developments is a process for extracting oil from coal, in which powdered coal held in oil is subjected to high temperature with agitation in an atmosphere of hydrogen. Under these conditions it is reported that 10 to 45 per cent of the coal will become soluble. After removal of the carrying oil there remains a pitch of asphalt-like product possibly capable of further hydrogenation.

These various possibilities lend additional interest to the development of any coal beds within the county in addition to the ordinary use of the coal for domestic fuel.

Look Coal Mine

This property comprises 10 acres situated on Redwood Canyon in Sec. 30, T. 10 S., R. 2 E. Owner, C. R. Look, 44 Clay street, Santa Cruz. There is a good road to the mine from Corralitos, the nearest town. It is approximately 9 miles from the mine to either Watsonville or Aptos, the nearest railroad points, and 19 miles to Santa Cruz. Elevation at the mine, 800 feet. The surface rises steeply from Redwood Creek toward the west, and is thickly covered with redwood, tanbark oak and brush.

The existence of a vein of coal on this property and croppings on adjacent tracts have been known for many years, but were considered of little importance. The showing here was the most prominent and the present owner acquired the land about ten years ago, but only started work on the coal vein in 1924. Development was continued in 1925, the old adits being cleaned out and extended. A raise is now being put up on the vein from the lower to the upper adit. Between 75 and 90 tons of coal removed in doing this work was sold in Santa Cruz and vicinity. One man is employed.

The vein appears to strike east-west and dips 45 degrees south, but is exposed only near the creek level where the canyon cuts across it. Both adits are driven in on the vein and run almost due west. The lower one is in 200 feet and the upper one, about 20 feet higher and 20 feet northerly, is in 100 feet. Both roof and floor are sandstone. The vein is fairly regular but varies in width from three to four feet. The coal is a fair grade of lignite, black in color, but showing some laminations, and inclined to slack on exposure, though this slacking is not pronounced if the coal is protected from the weather. It has not proved to be a satisfactory fuel in an open fireplace, but the writer saw it burning freely with no soot in an ordinary kitchen range, giving a bright hot fire. The ash is fine, reddish gray in color, but may amount to as much as 20 per cent. No analyses have been made. The owner states that where the coal has been burned in a stove with a grate and good draft, users report it very satisfactory.

There are indications of some parallel veins nearby, but no work has been done on them. On another ranch, about one-quarter mile east of the Look workings and approximately on the strike of this vein, there is another exposure in a road cut. This may be an extension of the Look vein, but at the latter point the dip is exactly opposite, being about 45 degrees north. Possibly this is only a localized fold of break-over. No work has been done here.

Leonard Ranch Coal Deposit

A vein of lignite from 6 to 18 inches in thickness, lying approximately horizontal between sandstone walls, is exposed in the bluffs facing the ocean beach on the P.M. Leonard ranch, two miles southeast of Aptos. The property is under lease as a ranch to Bontadelli and Son. In a small creek some distance back from the beach a hole about six feet deep shows 18 inches of the coal. It is black in color but laminated and friable due no doubt, in part to long exposure, as no fresh material was exposed. The bed is thicker here than on the beach, indicating that still farther inland a workable vein might be developed.


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Bituminous Rock   Gold Mineral Water
Black Sand Granite Moulding Sand & Peat
Cement Iron Petroleum & Potash
Clay Lime Stone Industry
Coal Limestone   

The Mineral Survey of Santa Cruz County was printed in the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce Annual Report, 1926. Reproduced by permission of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce.


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