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City digs in to Big Gun Quarry closure

Public help sought for proposed mining interpretive history center
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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More than 150 years of granite mining in Rocklin is officially coming to an end as the city finalizes state mandated mine closure procedures for the Big Gun Quarry. Last week, crews from the city’s contractor, Geo Con, used earth moving equipment to shore up the sides of the quarry adjacent to the City Administration building on Rocklin Road. Among the conditions in the mine closure plan are perimeter fencing of the quarry, erosion control, rock slope stability, re-vegetation plan and storm water pollution prevention. The city is expected to spend up to $227,000 on the project, according to city documents. The city, through the Rocklin Redevelopment Agency, purchased the site for $1,000,000 in November from Sonco LLC and managed by Darron Epperson, according to the city. “Epperson had a permit to keep the Big Gun Mine in idle state,” Rocklin’s Department of Public Services Director Rick Forstall explained. “This meant that he had the ability to re-open the mine. When the city bought the Quarry, we changed the state of the mine to closed.” According to the Rocklin Historical Society, the quarry has been idle for about a decade.  However, the pit mine’s past is set in stone at the state Capitol and in San Francisco’s landmarks. Rocklin granite was used to build the Capitol building in Sacramento in the 1860s. During the 1970s crews processed 6,000 tons of Bear River Quartz to build the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. The large rock crusher used for the quartz remains on the property. The Rocklin Historical Society is working with the city to identify and preserve artifacts. So far there has been little, if any, cost. “For example, the previous quarry owners have given up their right to sell some items requested by the historical society — leaving the artifacts at no cost for the community,” said Rocklin Historical Society member Gene Johnson said. Johnson said the group is hoping to raise more than $10,000 to help salvage materials from the existing buildings. “The huge crushing facility is far too large to save, however, a representative portion of the crusher will be retained,” he continued. Historical Society members plan to work with the city to transform the site into a Quarry Heritage area and interpretation center to highlight Rocklin’s 61 quarries and two centuries of mining history. “Public tours are part of our proposal to the city and they are encouraged that this is included in our overall plan,” RHS President Skip Gebel said. Gebel hopes concerned citizens will come forward to volunteer and donate to the huge costly undertaking. “Fundraising will be a vital component for not only the Rocklin Historical Society but also other community service organizations wishing to participate in this endeavor with us,” Gebel said. “The amounts needed, in terms of both money and in-kind contributions, are unknown at this time.” The city anticipates the completion of the mine closure plan by the end of July. Anyone interested in assisting with the project is invited to join the Big Gun committee. “We need grassroots input from throughout the community and are especially in need of people interested in mining equipment restoration,” Gebel said. For further information, call Gene Johnson at (916) 624-2378. Gebel said membership in Historical Society is not required.