The Jack Waite Mine: A Leading Lead Producer in Two States


One of the leading lead producers in the nation, the Jack Waite mine extracted lead ore from two orebodies, one in the state of Montana, the other in Idaho.

The original ore outcropping of the Jack Waite mine was discovered in the early 1900’s by the man of the same name near the Idaho Montana border. By 1909 the Jack Waite Mining Co. was incorporated in the state of Idaho, and the company bought its original nine claims from Senator Lee Mantle of Montana for $250,000. Production began in 1911, but there was little development until 1927, due to lack of roads, high zinc content, and a lack of mining equipment.

In 1928, a new mill was built, and an electric power line was run to the mine. The corporation also acquired several new claims, known as the Jack Waite extension in the neighboring state of Montana. The mill was capable of processing 400 tons per day (tpd) of ore. Work began on the 1500 level of the mine, which was the level eventually driven into Montana.

J.F. Duthie Takes Control

J.F. Duthie of Seattle assumed control of the mine in 1930, and by 1931 had expended $350,000 dollars to streamline mine production. By 1931 a new flotation mill had been constructed, and the electric haulage tunnel had been enlarged. The road to the mine was improved, and a tailings dam was constructed on Eagle creek control pollution. The dam trapped mine waste before it could flow downstream and pollute the North Fork of the Coeur d’ Alene river.

The mill was designed by W.L. Ziegler, a metallurgical engineer and superintendent of mills for Hecla mining company. It had a capacity of 500 tpd, and was expandable to 1000 tpd if new production demanded it. With these changes in place, by July of 1931 the mine was shipping one carload of ore per day for every man on the payroll, about thirty cars per month.

Snow slides blocked the road in March of 1932, and operations were suspended till July. Low metal prices kept production low, and little ore was shipped till prices rose later that year.

ASARCO Leases Mine: Federal Mining and Smelting Manages

Stockholders in 1934 voted to allow American Smelting and Refining Company(ASARCO) to operate the Jack Waite mine on a forty year lease. The Federal Mining and Smelting Company of Wallace, Idaho was subcontracted to manage and perform day to day operations at the mine. Immediately with the introduction of more capital and manpower, production increased.

In 1936, a giant orebody was exploited on the Montana side. In 1940 more ore was discovered in what was known as the Idaho vein. Oddly, the nature of the ore changed at the state line, and the mine extracted ore out of two vastly different bodies throughout its history. Since it was situated on a state line, the mine had to report two different production statistics, one for each state. At one time, the Jack Waite was the leading lead producer in both Montana and Idaho.

Due to a shortage of able bodied manpower, production dropped off in 1943, but by 1949 was back up and costs were down, Metal prices fluctuated in the early 1950’s, so even when production was up, often income was down, although the company did pay a dividend to its stockholders in 1950. In 1958, stockholders sought to sign a new lease agreement with ASARCO, but by 1961 the company ceased its operation of the mine.

Final Days

From 1963 to 1969 the mine was operated by individual lessors. By 1969 all operations had ceased, and the mine went up for auction in 1977. In 1979, a remediation project was undertaken my the Forest Service, Shoshone County, and the USDA, to clean up the old mine site. Tributary Creek was diverted around the old tailings piles, and grass was planted on the piles to stabilize them. By this time it was uncertain who even owned the patented claims the mine rested on.

Production Information for the Jack Waite mine

Between 1911 and 1963 the mine produced 687,425 tons of ore recovering 1,549 ounces of gold, 616,515 ounces of silver, 1,035,240 pounds of copper, 133,953,045 pounds of lead, and 20,871,892 pounds of zinc. Despite these impressive numbers, the Jack Waite, like many other lead mines, has passed into history.