Flora Loughead ("Lockheed") "The Opal Queen" was one of the early owners of the Stonetree claim, and I am lucky to have these claims as she was known for selecting the richest ground in the valley.  These claims are mined as a tribute to her.

My son Chris standing next to the famous landmark Stonetree Petrified Log on the WRT Stonetree Lode Mining Claim.


This group of mining claims (centering on the WRT Stonetree) was one of the earliest mining claim locations in the Virgin Valley Mining District.  The Stonetree claim was originally discovered and located sometime prior to 1913.  It was reported by D.B. Sterrett of the USGS in 1914 as being one of four major groups that he visited at the time, which was owned by various parties.  Sometime later the mine was owned by the beloved and reknowned Flora H. Loughhead ("Lockheed") Gutierrez, (the "opal queen" of the Valley) and was referred to in 1916 to 1918 as the "Giant Tree" Opal Claim.  Lockheed was known to have selected the richest mining ground in Virgin Valley (Bancroft, 1984, p. 83).  Lockheed-Gutierrez sold the claim to the Rainbow Ridge Mining Company about 1918 and she began focusing her attention on the Rainbow and Bonanza Mines, leaving the Stonetree to become neglected.  Sometime after World War 1, the claim became idle and abandoned.  The original float (placer) deposits were exhausted between 1916 to 1940 by field collectors, with the only valuable deposits remaining being the in-place opal bearing horizon (lode).  In the 1940's the Stonetree was mentioned in the private publication of naturalist S.W. Denton, who visited the area and mined in Virgin Valley on a few occasions between 1915-1917.  The Stonetree was subsequently (and improperly) relocated as a placer deposit claim in 1966, and other adjoining claims were also improperly located as placers in the late 1960's through 1990's.  In February 2004 the known lode deposits were properly reclaimed as a Lode (in-place) deposit as part of the ten-claim WRT Stonetree Claim Group by the Wentzell Revocable Trust under the direction of Christopher Wentzell, who staked the largest number of mining claims in Virgin Valley in 2004 by agents.  The previous placer claimants asserted claim to the Stonetree claim was forfeited, expired and deemed abandoned about 2009 leaving the Wentzell Trust as the sole claimants to the Stonetree property.  The placer claimants still hold placer claims to some of the same ground as the other lode claims in this group, with the surface float or alluvial opal belonging the the placer claimants, and the subsurface and in-place opal-bearing deposit (lode) belonging to me.  Both claims co-exist under previous BLM and Court precedents (See Legal Info HERE).  Surface rights to the pre-existing placers only contain the right to any surface float and alluvial surface material existing on the date of placer location, not to any material removed, mined or tailings created from mining the in-place lode under the guise of the placer claim, as such would invalidate the placer claim ab initio for fraud.  You cannot obtain lode rights via the location of a placer claim.  Annual assessment work and development by agents of  The Wentzell Revocable Trust from 2007 to 2011 recovered significant amounts of precious black, crystal, jelly, and other opal types, including a large harlequin black opal.  The Stonetree Claim and group derived its name from the large 30+ foot petrified tree on the WRT STONETREE property.  This is a landmark fossil which belongs to the United States, cannot be mined, and must be preserved for all future generations to enjoy.  Between the summer of 2011 to January 2012, the entire WRT Stonetree mine group was sold to Alvin W. Wentzell Jr.  Al Wentzell has sold six claims out of the group and retained ownership of the four "core" claims.  In October 2013, Wentzell's agents' performance of assessment work on the claims uncovered several more small pockets of bright, fiery opal, including a 94 carat black opal and an even larger precious opal mass (which was broken during removal) weighing in at over 500 carats.  In the fall of 2013 the WRT Stonetree/Dominion Opal claims were featured in the Nevada Monograph by Lithographie.  The summer of 2014 - 2017 saw agents producing a large amount of opals over the claim group.    Work is ongoing and it is planned to bring heavy equipment onto the claims in the summer of 2018.  NO FURTHER CLAIMS ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN THIS GROUP.  The rest remain in my ownership under lease and working agreements and I have no plans to ever sell the remaining core claims.  Mining and development continue....

The WRT Stonetree Group deposit is similar to most of the other precious opal bearing deposits in Virgin Valley.   The mining claims are underlain by in-place, horizontal ash, tuff, and tuffaceous sandstone beds.  The opal-bearing horizon can be traced and followed, and averages more than 4 feet (1.2 m) thick and consists primarily of light-colored bentonite containing varying amounts of petrified wood, rhyolite pebbles, ash, and opal.  Precious opals are usually found in the upper half of the horizon.  The opal-bearing layer is continuous and in-place.  The precious opals which have been recovered from this mine group are as bright as, if not brighter than, opals from the other area mines.  The largest precious opal found on this group of claims was approximately four (4) pounds.  Petrified wood is NOT mined on any of the claims but the precious opal is occasionally found in association with petrified wood.  We do NOT mine any petrified wood whatsoever.  The claims are located for the valuable gem and specimen opal deposits.  The WRT STONETREE Lode mining claim group lies to the southwest of the patented Royal Peacock Black #1-2 Lodes, a proven mine, along the same geological formation and trend (not to be confused with the better-known Royal Peacock Mine and fee dig in the southwest corner of the Valley).

The WRT Stonetree Group of lode mining claims includes, in addition to the WRT Stonetree Claim (NMC#865655), the WRT Moonbeams Child (NMC#865654), WRT Pleasures (NMC#865653), WRT Black Beauty (NMC#865656), WRT Fireworks (NMC#865657), WRT Cloud Nine (NMC#865658), WRT Fiery Embers (NMC#865659), WRT Fiddles & Diddles Opal (NMC#865660), WRT Sacred Fire (NMC#865661), and WRT Virgin Desert Flame (NMC#865662) LODE mining claims.  Each claim is approximately 1500 by 600 feet, or 20.66 acres per claim.  The entire claim group comprises approximately 206.6 acres total, of which at least 183+ acres contains opal-bearing deposits and reserves.  The claim group is located in the Northern 1/2 of Section 4, T45N R26E MDM (Mt Diablo Meridian-21), Virgin Valley Mining District, Humboldt County, Nevada, within the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge and part of the area set aside and allowing for mining claims within the refuge.  The claim area is depicted on the BIG SPRINGS BUTTE Quadrangle, Nevada-Oregon, 15 Minute Series Topographic Map, USGS.  Access to the claim group is by pre-existing dirt road leading south from Highway 140, and a secondary pre-existing dirt road leading generally north, from Virgin Valley Ranch Road.  Dirt road access exists to the WRT Pleasures, WRT Moonbeams Child, WRT Stonetree, WRT Fireworks, WRT Cloud Nine, and WRT Black Beauty mining claims.  Ownership is currently as follows: ALVIN W. WENTZELL JR (5 claims: WRT Pleasures, Moonbeam, Stonetree, Black Beauty, & Fiddles/Diddles Opal lode claims; BARGER (WRT Fireworks lode); NEWMAN (WRT Cloud Nine lode); MACDONALD (WRT Fiery Embers lode) and BOYCE (WRT Virgin Desert Flame Lode). None of these owners or individuals are related parties.  The WRT Sacred Fire claim is inactive and closed (although very good ground!, hint hint...). 

The WRT STONETREE Group of Lode mining claims contains numerous dirt roads and tracks, and various workings.  The most developed claims are the WRT STONETREE, WRT BLACK BEAUTY, WRT MOONBEAMS CHILD, WRT PLEASURES, and WRT FIREWORKS lode claims.  All claims have had an in-place precious opal LODE discovery.  The claims vary from barely-developed deposits to claims with small-to-medium sized workings, pits, and trenches.  These are not merely "prospects" where "opal is most likely to be or nearby to where opal has been found"-- rather, the WRT STONETREE Group of Lode claims are ACTUAL OPAL MINES and CLAIMS with RESERVES.  EVERY mining claim in this group has had PRECIOUS OPAL (not just "common opal discovery") found on it.  The following list details recent past assessment work, expenditures, and development for the claim group for each "mining assessment year" (September 01 thru August 31 each year):

  • 2004, $2,500.- was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2005, $2,500.- was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2006, $2,500.- was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2007, $2,500.- was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2008, $2,500.- was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2009, $2,500.- was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2010, $1,250.- was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2011, $1,250.- was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2012, $1,250.- was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2013, $1,250.- was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2014, $1,250.- was expended for labor and developments; 
  • 2015, $950.----was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2016, $875.00 was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2017, $935.00 was expended for labor and developments;
  • 2018, Work will be continuing for the 2018 mining year again by agents....

Several thousand dollars were also expended in originally having all of the mining claims surveyed, located and posted properly in accordance with the law, in addition to the assessment work costs and annual filing costs.  

PAST PRODUCTION & FUTURE POTENTIAL OF THE CLAIMS:  These claims have a track record of opal production, and have made an excellent personal investment for me as well as a  business mining claim operation.  Several operations and nearly 200 private claims are active in Virgin Valley today, although only a small handful of claims produce the highly-sought precious opal.  These mines are some of the few claims with a history of proven precious opal.  Even better, the claims have significant provenance, at one time part of the ground covered by these claims was owned by the reknowned Flora Lockheed.  Very few claimholders have this provenance, as she only held 10 mine groups during her time in the Valley.  Many will claim it, but few have the documentation to prove it.  She was known for selecting the richest ground in the Valley.  The Stonetree claims were also noted by John Sinkankas in "Gemstones of North America" (1959).   Comparable deposits have been (and continue to be) mined successfully as fee digs, private mines, and corporate shareholder operations lasting decades and longer.  Recent production records are:

  • Between 2004 to 2007, my sons agents  produced a limited amount of opal.
  • Assessment year ending 9-1-2008, my sons agents recovered 2 1/2 jars of precious black crystal & fire opal (valued at $32,500.- wet), and a 5- gallon bucket 3/4 full of precious opal in clay matrix chunks.
  • Assessment year ending 9-1-2009, my sons agents recovered 3 (three) 5-gallon buckets of clay matrix chunks containing precious opal from a black opal pocket, and 4 jars of precious black and crystal opals (valued at $41,000.- wet) plus one large precious black harlequin opal (of undetermined value).
  • Assessment year ending 9-1-2010, my sons agents recovered an amount of opal (produced under a confidentiality agreement with an agent working the claims).
  • Assessment year ending 9-1-2011, my sons agents recovered an amount of opal (produced under a confidentiality agreement with an agent working the claims).
  • I acquired the mining claims from my son between the summer of 2011 to January 2012.
  • Assessment year ending 9-1-2012, my agents recovered a limited amount of opal (produced under a confidentiality agreement with an agent working the claims).
  • Assessment year ending 9-1-2013, my agents recovered a small amount of opal (produced under a confidentiality agreement with an agent working the claims). 
  • Assessment year ending 9-1-2014, my contract agents have recovered a good amount of opal.
  • Assessment year ending 9-1-2015, my agents recovered a good amount of opal.
  • Assessment year ending 9-1-2016, my agents recovered a fair amount of opal which is now being dried.....
  • Assessment year ending 9-1-2017, my agents recovered some good opal.
  • 2018 Assessment work year is pending and mining is continuing......

The assessment work documents reflecting the above are a matter of public record.  The amounts of opal  produced from our annual assessment work operations which were (on average) about 14 to 21 days per year.  I maintain the records as to where and when and what was found, but i do not make this public because of the value of opal and obvious claimjumpers and theft which occurs.  My workers/agents are under a confidentiality agreement.  I do not publish on the website when my agents will be on the claims doing assessment work because then it lets the "highgraders" and claimjumpers know when not to be there (we would love to catch them digging and stealing from the claims on camera or video but so far they have been elusive and camera shy).    

All assessment work has been performed and is current for these mining claims.  All filings have been (or will be) made and are current with the County and BLM offices.  All of the ALVIN WENTZELL claims are current, active, and valid.  Dominion Opal Mines & Exploration is currently (2012-2016) in charge of mining and assessment work operations through its independent agents.  Copies of claim documents are on file with the BLM NEVADA STATE OFFICE (Reno, NV) and HUMBOLDT COUNTY RECORDER (Winnemucca, NV) and copies can be reviewed at and/or obtained from those offices.  "LINKS" to those offices are provided on the "Links & Travel Info" Page of this site.  The mining claims which comprise the Dominion Opal Mines holdings (WRT Stonetree Lode Mining claim Group) (excepting any sold claims) are owned exclusively by Wentzell.  The 6 "core" claims (WRT Pleasures, WRT Moonbeams Child, WRT Stonetree, WRT Black Beauty, WRT Fireworks, WRT Fiddles & Diddles Opal) are scheduled to go into full small-scale mining and production in 2016.  This production (rough dry opal, wet opal dome specimens, opal jewelry, and stable polished opals) will be offered thru an online store on this website as well as thru consignment at Birchtree Art Gallery in downtown Watertown, South Dakota, my son's company DOMINION GEMS, and at various gem and mineral shows beginning in 2016.  Some old-stock opals and cut stones (which have been dry between 3-10 years) from personal stock will also be offered for sale at that time. I plan to document the mining process from the beginning of new work all the way through final polishing of the gems, both through photography and video which will be added to this website at that time.  Please check back in the future to see the amazing opals that will be mined, polished, and offered for sale.


BLM Printout dated 9/17/2013 showing the 9 remaining  ACTIVE LODE mining claims making up the WRT STONETREE group owned by Alvin Wentzell..


Any opal and mineral material found "in-place" (or, "in-situ) within the opal-bearing clay layers are part of a LODE deposit which cannot be acquired by placer mining claims.  A placer mining claim located for a lode deposit it void, under the U.S. Mining laws and decisions of the Nevada Supreme Court, 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court, as well as the rulings of the Interior Department.  The WRT STONETREE GROUP of mining claims were properly located as LODE claims within the laws of the United States.  The WRT STONETREE group of lode mining claims are VALID mining claims with exlusive ownership and rights to the in-place opal bearing horizon and deposit therein.  They were all fully located, monumented, and recorded, and maintained/held in compliance with all state and federal laws.  For a complete overview of the legality of mining claims in Virgin Valley, CLICK HERE.

Straight out of the law books:  if the mineral is contained in rock in-place, it can be located only as a LODE claim, as the WRT STONETREE Group of Lode claims.

PERMISSION TO VISIT CLAIMS & WAIVER REQUIRED FOR MINERAL RELATED ACTIVITIES: The mining claims are valid claims with exclusive rights to the minerals and opals, and without permission you would be committing a mineral trespass if you were caught, observed, or recorded searching for minerals, ores, determining the mineral potential or content of the claims, prospecting, rockhounding, etc.  If you remove minerals from the claims without permission, it is criminal and civil theft.  Anyone caught doing so will be prosecuted.  You do have the right, without my permission, to access the ground covered by these claims and to go across them for activities NOT RELATED or interfering with minerals, mining, or prospecting, under Federal law, but you cannot sample, collect, rockhound,  evaluate, or prospect on them, without my prior express written permission.  I hope that you understand, opals are a valuable commodity exposed on the claims, and we have had problems with a few people (even other area miners) going into the claims and digging on them.  So this is a necessary protection for the property now and into the future.  Also, please note that due to past problems, local Virgin Valley claimholders, "tourguides," & individuals ARE NOT, and WILL NOT EVER BE ALLOWED to "tour," "evaluate," or "show" the mineral content of these mining claims with or for you, or any other person.  Period.   After all, they are in the same business, and are either friends or competition, and within the mining district certain biases and conflicts are possible or do exist.    The mining claims on this website, and others in the valley, are a matter of public record  that anyone can find out.  You don't have to pay someone to find out where they are.  If ANYONE, including JOHN CHURCH OF SWORDFISH MINING, charges you a fee to see these claims for a tour, dig or showing, report it to ME and to the BLM, USFWS, and HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF.  It is illegal to charge any fee on federal public lands without a permit and insurance, and he has NO RIGHT OR BUSINESS TO BE SHOWING YOU THESE CLAIMS!  JOHN CHURCH does not have any permission to prospect, dig or tour MY claims whatsoever.
          The Dominion Opal Mines Group of Mining Claim holdings, comprising six (6) unpatented lode mining claims in Virgin Valley, are solely owned by ALVIN W. WENTZELL JR/THE WENTZELL REVOCABLE GEM TRUST, and they are NOT open to public collecting, rockhounding or digging.  Mineral trespass will be dealt with both in the Courts (civil and criminal) and through other legal means.  Security measures are in place to protect the claims and valuable mineral deposits therein owned by Wentzell, and to document and identify the trespassers.  Wentzell is vigilant in protecting his mineral claims and rights.  The ONLY person/s with authorization to be digging on these claims are those listed on notices/affidavits that work is currently being performed on the claims and those persons doing the work will have a NOTARIZED document in their pocket/on their person while doing the work. Sometimes these notices are  FILED with the Humboldt County Recorder in Winnemucca, Nevada IF Chris is also present because one local piece of work likes to call the sheriffs on him trying to stir up sh*t..  Anyone else caught, recorded, or observed rockhounding, digging or removing minerals are Trespassers and thieves.  You can CONTACT ME with any questions or concerns, or to report any mineral trespass, theft, suspicious, or illegal activity on my mining claims.  Thank you.