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Masked robbers steal $2 million of gold, gems from Calif. mining museum

Authorities say masked robbers broke into a mining museum in California during the daytime and stole gold and gems valued at up to $2 million. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

LOS ANGELES — Robbers wearing masks and goggles broke into a mining museum in California in broad daylight and stole gold and gems valued at up to $2 million, authorities said.

Although no-one has been identified in connection with the burglary, California investigators are searching for at least two suspects.

The masked men broke into the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa, California, on Friday afternoon with pickaxes and forced employees into one end of the building, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing a state parks spokesman.


 

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But the thieves didn't get away with the biggest prize of all — the nearly 14-pound Fricot Nugget, a giant crystalline gold mass unearthed in the California Gold Rush era. The robbers triggered an alarm as they tried to break into the iron safe where it was held.

According to the museum's website, the Fricot Nugget was discovered in the American River in Northern California in 1864 and is the largest intact mass of crystalline gold remaining from the Gold Rush era.

John Palmer / California State Parks via AP

Authorities say thieves made off with an estimated $2 million in gold and precious gems during the armed robbery at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, seen in this 2009 photo.

The California State Mining and Mineral Museum is described on its website as offering visitors the chance to explore the variety of the state's mineral wealth and view "breathtaking gems and minerals from around the world."

The California department of parks and recreation issued a statement on Monday saying the museum would be closed "until further notice while repairs are completed."

The statement added that the museum is taking an inventory of the stolen items this week, which will allow it to confirm what was taken and exactly how much the items were worth.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the museum had moved its treasures to an undisclosed location in the meantime.

The burglary was the second theft of this year involving rare, valuable minerals in Northern California. Chunks of gold were stolen from the Siskiyou County courthouse in February.

No suspects have been identified and authorities are investigating whether there is a connection between the two incidents.

NBC News staff and Reuters contributed to this report.

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