Monster gold nugget foils greedy thieves

When a team of pick-axe wielding thieves brazenly robbed the California Mining and Minerals Museum in rural Mariposa last week, they made off with more than $2 million worth of gold and precious gems.

But they failed to abscond with the museum’s prize possession: An exquisitely gnarled, nearly 14-pound chunk of organically-formed gold known as the Fricot Nugget.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. KTVU reported the robbers accidentally set off an alarm trying to grab the massive nugget, resulting in a significant — but ultimately fruitless — response from authorities.

In the sticks of Central California, it’s unlikely any operation would be executed with Thomas Crown Affair-like precision. But the Merced Sun-Star reported the thieves dressed in black, wore hoods, and may be armed and dangerous.

The group threatened museum staff before gaining access to the museum’s vault late Friday afternoon. The Fricot Nugget is housed in a secure vault (jump to 23:45 of the video) within the museum to protect it from troublemakers just like these.

Authorities are trying to determine if a link exists between this heist and a robbery earlier this year at a Siskiyou County courthouse that netted thieves large chunks of gold that were on display.

The Fricot Nugget’s 14-pound heft may be impressive, but it whithers compared to the largest nugget ever found, writes Gerry Hayes, professor of geology at Modesto Junior College on his blog:

“The biggest nugget ever recovered was found at the Carson Hill mine in 1854, and weighed about 195 pounds. It was smelted, of course, since no one cared how they looked.”