A California ghost town sells for $22.6 million to mysterious company

A woman at right walks past a row of boarded-up single-story homes. A mountain range is on the horizon.
A street in Eagle Mountain with boarded houses, shown in 2003. A mysterious company has purchased the town for $22.6 million.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

One of California’s biggest ghost towns has been sold to a mysterious buyer whose plans are unclear.

Eagle Mountain, located in Riverside County near the southeast corner of Joshua Tree National Park, was once a bustling iron mine. The 10,000-acre site has sold for nearly $22.6 million, according to Securities and Exchange Commission records.

For decades, the mine and company town around it have been abandoned, occasionally used in films like Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.”


After a visit in 2017, Bettina Boxall of The Times described the landscape:

Just beyond the southeast corner of Joshua Tree National Park, rows of boarded-up houses, gouged mountainsides and concrete ruins are an ugly reminder of the never-ending battle over the West’s public lands.

— Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times

After World War II, Kaiser Steel began mining operations in Eagle Mountain and created a company town whose population reached the thousands. Over three decades, the company blasted millions of tons of iron ore from the mountainsides, shipping it by rail to its steel plant in Fontana.

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With the decline of steel manufacturing, the mine and town shut down in 1983. A private company tried and failed to convert it to the Eagle Mountain Landfill and Recycling Center.

In 2000, Los Angeles County went into escrow to buy the land for $41 million for use as what would have been the country’s largest landfill. But the plan was caught in a decades-long legal battle and never came to fruition.

“It’s been a sordid history,” Mark Butler, a former Joshua Tree superintendent, told The Times in 2017.

In 2015, Eagle Crest Energy Co. bought the land and attained a license to build a $2.5-billion hydro power plant in the former mine. The plan faced pushback from conservation groups over the possible depletion of groundwater.


On Oct. 12, 2022, Eagle Crest Energy Co. submitted an amended hydroelectric application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, seeking to change the project’s boundary.

A representative for Eagle Crest Energy Co. did not immediately respond to request for comment. The project’s website remains active.

Iron structures led to a a rusted metal building with arid, rocky mountain above it.
Remnants from the Eagle Mountain iron mine remain.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

An SEC filing describes the next development in the property’s saga as taking place April 17, when Eagle Mountain Acquisitions sold what it called Kaiser Eagle Mountain to Ecology Mountain Holdings. The price: $22,580,000.

The sale of the land was first reported by SF Gate.

For now, the buyer’s motive remains a mystery. The listed agent for Ecology Mountain Holdings, a Cerritos-based limited liability company that incorporated in March, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Levi Vincent, president of the Greater Palm Springs Film Office, which coordinates movie and television shoots at the mine, said he has been in contact with the new buyer.

“We’re going to continue to operate as normal,” he said, offering no more information about the transaction.

The land, once part of Joshua Tree National Monument, is almost surrounded by the national park. Conservationists have long argued that the land should have been returned to the park after mining stopped in 1983.

Times staff writers Bettina Boxall and Sammy Roth contributed to this report.