Crystal Ball Cave up for auction on eBay

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UPDATE -- In an earlier version of the story about Crystal Ball Cave being offered on eBay, we reported that the cave was discovered by the Bates family more than 50 years ago. We've since learned that the actual discoverer was Cecil Bates' brother-in-law, George Sims. Sims and Bates' family members later filed mining claims.

That version of events is supported by a document describing the history and geology of Crystal Ball Cave, viewable by clicking here.

SALT LAKE CITY -- One of Utah's spectacular natural wonders has been put up for auction on eBay. The proposed sale has sparked questions about whether it's illegal, even criminal. The family that's controlled access for two generations worries the unique attraction will be destroyed. It's not one of Utah's world-famous attractions, like Zion or Bryce Canyon, but it is an extraordinarily beautiful work of nature. It's under federal land near the Bates family ranch in western Utah, and they held a mining claim on it for nearly a half century.

The family shows it off to select visitors, including KSL 5 News for a story we did in 1995. We quickly learned then why it was named Crystal Ball Cave. Almost every surface is covered with Crystalline material.

"I was amazed at how many crystals there could be in a place like this," the late Cecil Bates said in 1995.

Jerald Bates told us, "I never expected there was that much crystal anyplace."

The Bates family staked a mining claim long ago but never used it. "We could have done, but we didn't really desire to because we wanted to preserve the beauty of it for other people," Jerald said.

Now, a surprise twist: Someone else has staked two mining claims. Corey Shuman of Gold Rush Expeditions discovered that the Bates didn't pay their fees and allowed their claim to lapse four years ago. Now he's putting his new mining claims up for auction on eBay; the starting bid is $10,000.

"[I have] no intent to destroy any of the crystals, and I don't think anybody that bids is going to," Shuman said.

He claims his group is nonprofit, and the actual purpose is to protect the cave. "As a preservation, I would think a caving group or someone of that sort would buy it and hold onto it and make sure it doesn't get destroyed," Shuman said.

But Shuman has a history of battling the federal government over mine reclamation and environmental cleanups; the Bates don't trust his motives. "Millions of years of growth in there on that stuff that's grown, and somebody [could] go in there and tear that up in a few minutes, and we'll never see it again," Jerald said.

Federal officials say the cave is fully protected under the law and can't legally be sold or mined for its resources, but they worry someone will try.

"So, could they try and tear it up? You bet," said Glenn Carpenter, of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. But he says his agency will "absolutely not" let that happen.

Shuman disputes the claim that mining would be illegal; it's a gray area of the law, he says. Meanwhile, federal officials are looking into whether it's illegal even to advertise a sale, and they plan to speak with eBay about their concerns.



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John Hollenhorst


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