Massive Silver Nuggets: Bolas and Planchas de Plata

Form the Expedition!

It is a fact that that massive silver nuggets (boulders, really) have been found in the Arizona-Sonora border region. The tales of the Bolas del Plata (balls of silver) and Planchas de Plata (planks of silver) add credence to the idea that much wealth was extracted from the far frontier of the now American southwest by the Spanish empire during the colonial days. That these finds were real is documented in an ancient court case: the found silver was so rich that the Spanish Crown declared it “treasure” rather than a minable resource, and thus laid claim to it. Many years passed after 1736 before the case was resolved, and of course no large-scale miner would toil in the area with the threat of total confiscation hanging over their heads. When the court case was finally resolved… you guessed it: treasure! – and thus the property of the King. The largest recorded mass was 2,700 pounds (they would have used “arrobas”) of nearly-pure Silver! Far too large to haul in a typical full-size truck of today, let alone throw a rope around and drag to the road. Of course, there we basically no roads back then, only sweat, muscle, pain, toil, and travail.

Are there precedents for such a huge mass of pure silver ever being found? It sounds too fantastic to be true! Actually, yes, there are a number of historical occurrences of extremely rich silver masses of up to boulder size being found across the American southwest. Two easy to verify examples are: 1) the field of silver boulders found on Chloride flats just outside Silver City, NM that led to the (re)discovery of the rich resources throughout the local region, exploited in the modern day by two huge open-pit copper mines as well as the historically very rich gold placers in nearby Pinos Altos, and 2) Lake Valley, NM where the almost impossible to consider Bridal Chamber filled with stalactites of nearly-pure horn silver was located only feet below the surface of the parched and rugged terrain at the foothills of the foreboding Black Range.

Some would say that every inch of the country has been searched over and over by the prospectors of yore and that there is nothing new under the sun. Hmm. Sounds like a good excuse to hug the couch, but that sentiment is entirely wrong! How do I know? No theory or pontification required: just facts. Fact: here is a picture of what could be a long-lost “little brother” to the bolas and planchas which was found only a few years back. It is one of many, probably in excess of 60 lb for the group, recovered through use of the carefully trained Eye.

Rich silver
A six pound chunk of rich silver ore recovered near the AZ border

The thing is: the mine where this was found and other in the area have more. I have been back several times, finding as much with the metal detector as by eyesight, and never come away disappointed. It is a remote, bandit-infested area near the AZ-Sonora border, not exactly where the legendary finds were made, but close enough, geologically. There is doubtless ore out there, in areas I will never have enough time to get to, so fire up your Eye and your metal detector and go grab some for yourself!

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