Friday, January 14, 2011

The Fallacy of Extremist Theories—the Baja California Theory, Part VII

Continuing with the recent series of posts on Baja California, this post deals with the scriptural record about what Nephi found in the land soon after landing. “As we journeyed in the wilderness…we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.” (1 Nephi 18:25). This is within the entry in the record directly after the ship landed in the Land of Promise—thus, it might be concluded that the finding of these ores was close at hand to the landing site, referred to in “on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore” (Alma 22:28).

Gold and silver were had in abundance by the Nephites (Alma 1:29; Helaman 6:9), and there was “all manner of gold in both these lands, and of silver, and of precious ore of every kind (Helaman 6:11). Obviously, we should find evidence of abundant gold and silver in the area claimed to be the Land of Promise today.

However, gold and silver do not seem to exist in any quantity in Baja Califonria. It is interesting that legends of gold have persisted these many centuries, but gold has never been found there to any degree. Perhaps these legends come from the time of the Spanish. Hernan Cortes was convinced that there was an island of gold to the west of Mexico. Legends and myths among the Indians confirmed such a place. He set out to find it, but failed in two attempts. He sent two of his most trusted lieutenants to search. One was killed trying to sail around the tip of Baja Calfornia, the other claimed to have reached what today would be San Diego, California. However, no gold was ever found. But the tale of gold in Baja California persisted for several centuries.
Interestingly, the tale that drove Cortes, and later Spanish adventurers, came from “Las Sergas de Esplandian,” a fiction novel by the Spanish writer Garci Ordonez de Montalvo, and published in 1510. It is even said he plagiarized a 100-year-old unsuccessful predecessor. But Montalvo was very successful with his fictional books about an adventurous knight-errant style hero, Amadis de Gaula, who journeyed the world. After three successful writings, Montalvo wrote a fourth about the son of his hero who traveled in western North America, though what was known of the area at the time was almost nothing. In this work, Montalvo wrote about a group of Amazon women, one named Calafia or Califia, who was of majestic proportions and more beautiful than all the others, who ruled over the land as queen in the very vigor of her womanhood. It is believed by many early historians that California received its name from this queen, who had golden weapons, and the island on which they lived (California was believed to be an island at the time) was full of gold and precious stones and upon it no other metal was found.
Despite “Las Sergas de Esplandian” being sold as fiction, the Spanish explorers of western North America took it at face value. They succumbed to other implausible tales of gold and riches in the New World as well—the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola for one—but “Esplandian” was especially persuasive, and they began to mount expeditions from their colonies in Mexico, up the western coast of North America in search of the rich, gold-laden island described in the book. On one such expedition, Cortes himself found the Baja peninsula, which is separated from the Mexican mainland by the aptly named Sea of Cortes. He assumed the tip of Baja was the tip of the island that was Calafia’s empire, but further exploration many years later turned up nothing like an island kingdom filled with gold.

So, the questions arises—is there gold, silver and copper in Baja Califonria? According to the Baja Mining Corp., in a 2006 report, there is plenty of copper in new finds, but no gold or silver in Baja Sur. The Boleo Project is a copper-cobalt-zinc-manganese project along the east coast near Santa Rosalia. While some claim that gold and silver deposits exist in the Boleo Project for underground mining the company has filed no such certificate for credit with Exim Bank and KDB Funding, as well as Export Development of Canada or several commercial banks, nor with its two partners (Korea and Baja). The entire cost just for set up is 823-million dollars. The project is targeted for Copper commissioning in 2012, with at least 70% of copper and cobalt production for the first 10 years and a hedge of 50% copper production for the initial three years. It is estimated that at least 95% of the ore will come from underground mining operations.

Even if the area held gold and silver ore, two things work against it showing any connection to the what Nephi found: 1) the almost completely underground extraction of small, fault-bounded mining block required of the ore, and 2) the area is on the east coast of Rosenvall’s Land of Bountiful—hardly what Nephi found far to the south in the land where they first landed, or even in the area of his city of Nephi. In fact, even during the time of the gold boom in California and its extension into Baja, the deposits and mines were stretched along the border area with the United States. However, there are no ancient mines, diggings, or other works that would suggest that precious metals were ever found or taken out of the ground in the pre-Columbian period.

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