Thieves make off with $2 million in gold and gems from California mining museum
Mariposa, CA, United States (4E) – Robbers donned in face masks and night vision goggles escaped with about $2 million in gold and precious gems from the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa last Friday.
According to authorities, the intruders broke into the museum, threatened museum curator and guide with pickaxes while employees were shoved into a corner of the building. No one was hurt during the robbery.
State parks spokesman Roy Stearns said that the armed men wanted the famed Fricot Nugget, an almost 14-pound swirl of crystalline gold, renowned to be the biggest chunk to survive the Gold Rush.
The thieves were not able to get into the iron safe where the nugget is located because the doors to the vault room automatically closed after the burglar alarms sounded. But they managed to escape the building taking other gold and gems.
Officials reported that the museum’s valuables have been transferred to a different location and an inventory is being done to determine the missing pieces.
The museum collection dates back to 1881 when it was initially exhibited at the San Francisco Ferry Building before it was moved to Mariposa in 1983.
The state Department of Parks and Recreation was handed responsibility for the historical gems and minerals from the state Department of Conservation in 1991.
Local volunteers have long argued about the probability of such a heist happening, the reason why they have been asking the state Parks Department to turn over control of the museum to them.
Financial difficulties almost led the state to close the museum by of July. But the discovery of previously unreported $54 million state parks money on July 20 kept it open, pending a final decision.