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Mystery buyer purchases California ghost town for $22.5 million

What's the going price for a town full of crumbling buildings and tumbleweeds nestled in the heart of the California desert? Big bucks, it turns out.

A mystery buyer on April 17 paid roughly $22.5 million for the property and mining claims of Eagle Mountain, a former iron-mining town, according to a recent regulatory filing.

Little is known about the ghost town's buyer, Ecology Mountain Holdings. The California-based company snapped up the decaying desert town from Eagle Mountain Acquisition, the last of several mining company subsidiaries that owned the land, SFGate reported. Its plans for the vast property remain unclear. 

Ecology Mountain Holdings did not immediately reply to CBS MoneyWatch's request for comment. 

Eagle Mountain, founded in 1948, served as a bustling company town for Kaiser Steel Mine until its closure in the 1980s. The mining company extracted iron ore from the nearby hills, which was converted into steel. At its peak, the town had more than 4,000 residents, boasting a shopping center, several churches, three schools and more than a dozen businesses, the town's website shows.  

In 1981, Kaiser announced it would wind down and eventually cease all activities at its Eagle Mountain site, forcing community members to move. The mine had wracked up consecutive years of steel operations losses, the New York Times reported at the time. 

That wasn't the end of Eagle Mountain, however. The town's cafe, bowling alley and other buildings would later be integrated into Eagle Mountain Community Correctional Facility, a low-security prison that opened in 1988. The facility served more that 400 inmates, but closed after a deadly prison riot in 2003 over a viewing of that year's World Series. 

The uninhabited town of Eagle Mountain has remained popular with urban explorers, and has served as a backdrop for Hollywood movies and music videos. Getty Images

Since the prison closed down, Eagle Mountain has remained uninhabited but not necessarily abandoned. The site is popular with urban explorers, Youtube videos show. It has also served as a backdrop for Hollywood movies and music videos. Fourteen movies, including Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" and Michael Bay's "The Island" have been filmed at the site, according to IMBD. Carole King also shot the music video for her 1993 song "Lay Down My Life" in the town's cafe. 

Eagle Mountain isn't the only deserted community that has attracted interest in the real estate market. In 2021, trucking businessman Balwinder S. Wraich snapped up more than 1,000 acres of Desert Center, a neighboring town that shares a road with Eagle Mountain. The mogul plans to build a truck stop, gas station and hotel on the deserted swath of land, SFGate reported. 

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