Northern California Science Writers Association

Underground tour of Black Diamond Mines

  • Saturday, May 24, 2014
  • 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
  • Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Antioch


Break out your hard hat and join NCSWA members in an underground tour of the former coal and silica mine at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch. With tour guides Kim Knight, a geologist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and mine supervisor and geologist Sue Shallenberger, we'll traipse through mine tunnels not on the standard tour and find out about the history of mining in the area and the underground geology of the area. The tour is limited to 20 people, but we'll keep a waiting list.

We'll meet at the mine entrance on Saturday, May 24, at 9 a.m. (so as not to overlap with public tours, which begin at 10 a.m.) and view a half-hour slide show about the mine's history and the long-gone city of Somersville in which the miners lived. Then Shallenberger and Knight will distribute hard hats (you don't have to bring your own) and we'll head into the mine for a 90-minute walking tour. We'll see about a quarter-mile segment of the 8 miles of silica mine tunnels, with sites including mine workings, ore chutes, the shifter's office (mine boss) and ancient geological features, including fossils, coal and mineral seams. An earthquake fault cuts through the mine, and we’ll visit the seismic station installed in the mine by the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory.

The cost is $10/person, though the park charges an additional $5/car at the gate. We'll organize car pools, but you can also reach the park via BART (Pittsburg/Bay Point station) and a 9-mile bike ride. Early birds can camp overnight at a walk-in group site and get in some excellent bird watching before the mine tour. While the public tour allows children 7 and older, we will be going deeper into the mine, so we ask that any accompanying children be 16 or older.

Sign up ASAP at

Kim Knight is a staff scientist at LLNL focused on nuclear forensic research. She has a strong background in field-based geology, in particular geochronology and geochemistry, and describes herself as "endlessly fascinated with radioactive materials."

Sue Shallenberger, who has a degree from UC Berkeley in geology, has worked for the East Bay Regional Park District for six years, and has been mine supervisor for the past year at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

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