Slike strani

apprehended, notwithstanding the continual accumulation of knowledge on this subject. Even our splendid agricultural capacities, with advantages of soil, climate, and geographical position, will probably be surpassed by the majestic results of our mineral industry when once a scientific system shall control our enterprise.


The discovery of extensive deposits of gold and silver on the Pacific coast, at the middle of the present century, attracted immigration on a large scale from the older States and from foreign countries, even reversing the westward course of immigration in the old world, and drawing the Chinese and Japanese to work in the harness of western civilization.

The first phase of this mineral enterprise, however, was feverish, superficial, and demoralizing. The placer deposits of gold cropping out upon the surface were attacked by multitudes of all classes, ages, and nationalities, under a perfect furor of speculative acquisitiveness. This unscientific exploitation, besides being the occasion of social demoralization, not merely local in its effects, but affecting more or less the tone of civilization, has resulted in a waste of the precious metals, amounting to more than $300,000,000. The breaking up of this system of mining by the exhaustion of the surface deposits, though necessarily accompanied by a decline in the rate of annual production, is to be regarded, on the whole, as a very hopeful indication. The place of this irregular, spasmodic, and unintelligent speculation will gradually be occupied by scientific and regular enterprise, bringing into requisition a grand combination of cheimcal, metallurgical, and geological intelligence with financial skill. It is hoped that this change will be sufficiently rapid to prevent the necessity of legislative interference to arrest and prevent the enormous waste of our mineral resources. The importance of this branch of enterprise is seen not only in the support of a large special class of industrial population, but also in the influence which it has upon the monetary and financial condition of the whole world. The metallic base of the world's circulating medium is liable to dangerous fluctuations from irregular production. A steady expansion of this production gives an increasing relief to the populations burdened ith heavy national debts. Hence we look with uneasiness upon any permanent decline in our production of the precious metals. We are cheered to find that vein mining is now pursued upon intelligent and scientific principles, and that even placer mining is losing that purely speculative character which has so long injured it in public estimation.

The causes of the general decline of our production of the precious metals are enumerated under five heads by the Special Commissioner of Mining Statistics in his report for 1869, viz.: 1. The exhaustion of surface deposits. 2. The reaction from excited speculation and the consequent collapse of many dishonest schemes. 3. The increasing and novel difficulties attendant upon the management of deep mines and in the reduction of refractory ores. 4. The lack of communications, capital, and knowledge necessary to the extraction in large quantities of low-grade ores-the only stable form of mining. 5. The litigation which retards mining enterprise within the public domain.

The Commissioner is careful to state that the decline of production cannot be attributed to any exhaustion of our mineral resources. In regard to these he tells us that “the half has never been told." But

boundless as are these resources, they can be unlocked only by a careful recognition and compliance with the laws of their deposition.

The bullion product of the States and Territories west of the Rocky Mountains for the year 1868 was estimated by the Commissioner at $67,000,000, showing a decrease over the estimate of 1867 of $8,000,000, and over that of 1866 of $16,000,000. The estimate for 1869, not yet published, is stated in the newspapers at $63,500,000, representing a still further decline of $3,500,000. This estimate assigns to California, $20,000,000; to Nevada, $14,000,000; to Washington and Oregon, $4,000,000; to Idaho, $7,000,000; to Montana, $12,000,000; to Colorado and Wyoming, $4,000,000; tó Arizona, $1,000,000; and to miscellaneous sources, $1,000,000. In the summary of operations for 1869, prepared for the Commercial Herald and Market Review of San Francisco, thre yield of California precious metals is placed at $23,000,000, and a decline of from $6,000,000 to 88,000,000 for the Pacific slope is estimated. This latter estimate is derived from the manifests of uncoined bullion shipped by Wells, Fargo & Co.'s Express, the amounts for 1868 and 1869, respectively, being $38,543,228 and $30,976,036. The significance of this fact, however, is destroyed by the other fact that a rival express company, the Union Pacific, has already taken away a considerable portion of the business of the older company. The coinage of the San Francisco mint. in 1869 and the first half of 1870 shows a very great increase; during the former year it was $14,363,550, and during the latter half year, $10,019,000.

The aggregate production of gold and silver in the United States since the discovery of the California deposits in 1848 is estimated as follows: From California, $950,000,000; from Nevada, $125,000,000; from Montana, $92,000,000; from Idaho, $58,500,000; from Oregon and Washington, $38,000,000; from New Mexico and Arizona, $8,000,000; from Colorado and Wyoming, $10,000,000; from all other parts of the country, $60,000,000; total, $1,341,500,000. The gross products of the Australian gold and silver deposits, from their discovery in 1851 to the close of 1868, is stated by R. Brough Smyth, esq., secretary for mines of Victoria Colony, at £147,317,814, or about $725,000,000.

Some new discoveries of gold and silver deposits are reported in the older auriferous and argentiferous regions of the Pacific slope. In some cases abandoned mining enterprises are renewed and found to be very profitable with the improved processes now in use. The argentiferous lead mines of the Aligal rancho, in the county of Monterey, California, were first discovered in 1803, by Captain Ortego, of Santa Barbara, and from the top ore silver spoons had been made by the Mexicans by smelting, as far back as 1821. These were mentioned, as in the possession of old families of the country, by De Mofras, Forbes, and other writers, before 1848. Attempts were made to work these mines by the Mexicans, in 1830, and by the Americans, in 1854, and again in 1862 and 1863. But in those days any ore paying less than froin $300 to $500 per ton was looked upon with contempt. But this mineral with the neighboring deposits, the argentiferous lead mines of Cerro Gordo and Lone Pine, are found to overpay in final results some of the higher grade ores. The Cerro Gordo mineral is smelted into pigs and sent monthly 300 miles to Los Angeles, and thence shipped 300 miles further to San Francisco. Yet it pays a handsome profit, although the mines are 7,000 feet above sea level, involving a great expense of wood, provisions, labor, transportation, &c. The ore yields about 500 pounds of argentiferous galena to the ton, and the latter embraces about $100 to $150 in silver. This fact, among many others, appearing from the correspondence of this office and from newspapers, indicates that the scientific exploitations of low-grade ores may yet be looked to as the salvation of the mining interest. Considerable sensation was created by the accounts of a secret expedition fitted out ostensibly for Arizona, but really for New Mexico, the purpose being to work the silver mines fifteen miles beyond the Arizona line, near Apaché Pass, where the formidable chief, Cohies, has his stronghold. Samples of ore from these deposits were shown in San Francisco, which indicate great richness. The ledges are said to be from 50 to 300 feet in width, and situated in a mountain of quartz, the base of which covers an area of 400,000 square yards, with a height of nearly 1,000 feet. From the base of this mountain, spurs shoot out, the croppings of which are said to have assayed $200 per ton, while the interior ore has rivaled the fabulous richness of the White Pine, reaching over $2,000 per ton. Great excitement was created, almost depopulating several places in Arizona. This seems to indicate an eastward movement of argentiferous discoveries.

Gold and silver deposits are extensively worked in other parts of the world, but our country is supposed to produce between 40 and 50 per cent. of the entire annual product of the world. Gold has been found in greater or less quantities in half the States of the Union, but the richer deposits of both gold and silver have all been found within the public land States and Territories. The influence of an enormous addition of $1,350,000,000 in 22 years, has already been felt in revolutionizing the financial settlements of the world. The drain of specie to the East, a problem as old as the days of Pliny, which has not yet received its solution, still continues. Oriental nations are still large exporters of their peculiar products and immense absorbers of the precious metals. Our nearness to oriental markets, secured by our position on the Pacific Coast, bas enabled us already to take advantage of this circumstance. It is important that our gold and silver productions suffer no serious decline, and hence we anxiously await such improvements in mining processes as will give us a regular increase of production.


On the Pacific slope there is a marked distinction between the nobler and the baser metals; gold and silver being classed in the former, and all others in the latter category. The general distinction between pre

. cious and useful metals is sufficiently graphic. Among the useful minerals, mercury seems to have acquired a sort of preëminence. The production of cinnabar, the red sulphuret of mercury, from which that metal is smelted, has, during the past year, been declining.

The product of the New Almaden mine is perhaps less than that of its leading rival, the title to the latter being in controversy. The X L CR mine, is in Lake County. The Manhattan mine, in the vicinity,

, has commenced operations with new machinery and new processes. The Phenix mine, in Napa County, and a new mine, unnamed, between Vallejo and Benicia, are yielding promisingly. The San Juan Baptista mine, near San José, also yields a few flasks monthly.

New localities in California have lately been prospected with success in search of cinnibar deposits. Rich ores are said to have been discovered at the Cerro Bonito mine, and also in the San Rafael Mountains, about 30 miles north of Los Angeles. The latter is highly spoken of, as also an outcrop at City Creek, near San Bernardino. These discoveries are made slowly, on account of the lack of skill in de

tecting the cinnabar rock by many of the prospectors. The supply of quicksilver in California is far short of the demand, hence the search for new deposits is keen and indefatigable. The total monthly product of California has averaged, probably, less than 2,250 flasks per mouth.


Copper was the metal in most general use among the ancients. The earliest copper mines on record were on the island of Cypress, and were extensively worked by the Greeks. The annual production of the world does not exceed 32,500 tons, valued at $13,000,000, averaging about $400 per ton. The richest deposits in this country are found in the Lake Superior copper region, yielding native copper in true veins in trappean rocks, associated with conglomerates and sandstones of the lower silurian age. These constitute the great center of copper production in this country. The copper deposits of the Mississippi Valley, chiefly pyritous in the lower silurian rocks, are worked to a very limited extent. Of the cupriferous deposits of the Atlantic States, embracing copper-bearing veins of the metamorphic paleozoic age in the Appalachian Mountain system, those of New Jersey and Connecticut are now abandoned. Veins traversing the new red sandstone and older metamorphic rocks, in Chester and Montgomery Counties, in Pennsylvania, have been extensively worked of late years. There are large deposits of copper ore on the Pacific slope, but generally of too low a grade to render profitable any system of working them that does not involve a very considerable capital and elaborate scientific processes. They will probably await the dawning of perfected mining enterprise.


The value of the tin produced throughout the world is estimated at $8,215,000 per annum. In the United States tin has been discovered and mined in several localities. In the mineralogical cabiuet attached to this office are beautiful specimens of this metal, from the ore as it comes from the mine to the fabricated utensil ready for use. In California extensive leads of tin ore have been discovered in the northeastern part of San Diego County. A mining district has been organized, and two companies have commenced working these deposits; specimens from the Vanderbilt ledge, owned by the California Company, are pronounced by assayers to contain as much as 80 per cent. of the pure metal. Preparations have been made for working these mines upon a more extensive scale, and to smelt the cres at the mines.

LEAD. The annnal value of lead produced throughout the world is estimatel at nearly $22,000,000. The argentiferous lead ores are more widely diffused throughout the States and Territories on the Pacific slope than any other mineral deposits, and greatly resemble in character the deposits of the Hartz Mountains, in Germany, where their abundance and richness are greatly celebrated. Nevada, Utalı, Arizona, and Catalina Island, are superior in value to the deposits of the Eastern States, and their exploitation is encouraged by the amount of silver contained iu them. Most of the Nevada lodes contain galena. The ores of Utah are also galena, and in a finer condition than those of Nevada, being altogether free from the antimonial adulterations of the former. They contain considerable quantities of phosphate of lead, and are rich in silver, yielding from 50 to 250 ounces to the ton.

The lodes of Arizona contain large bodies of sulphate of lead, and


are rich in galena, but not so rich in silver as either the Utah or the Nevada ores. The ores of Catalina Island are a mixture of galena with the sulphates and carbonates of lead. These ores are brought to market in such an unmerchantable condition as to afford but little chance of profitable trade. Scientific processes, however, will doubtless correct this, and give to the trade a solid and substantial basis in a more effective production. The present defective system is limited to a coarse crushing and an imperfect separation of the ore from its matrix, much of which is sent to market. The question of smelting at the mines has been started. Many of the ores are of such low grade that it would be much more profitable to ship them to localities where they might be smelted in connection with pure ores. These questions all point to the necessity of higher skill in metallurgical processes, which can be secured only by extending the means of acquiring a professional engineering education. The importance of cherishing this industry is seen in the fact that we annually import from Europe from 15,000 to 20,000 tons of lead, besides about 12,000 tons from China and Japan. It is desirable to diversify our industry by producing everything at home of which our resources will admit.


The present age has been called the age of iron, from the enormous use of the mineral as compared with the previous ages of the world. It is the most abundant of all metals, if we regard only its adulterated deposits; yet, strange as it may seem, pure iron is a greater rarity than pure gold. Its wide scope and great strength of affinities render its combinations very numerous. It has been attempted to show that the civilization of a people is in proportion to its use of this metal. It is used in enormous quantities in our railroads. It is superseding wood in the construction of ships, and masonry in the erection of land buildings. The annual production of iron is estimated at 9,500,000 tons, worth, in the pig, $30 per ton, or a total value of $285,000,000. Esti. mating the population of the world at 1,000,000,000, the annual production amounts to about 20 pounds per capita. England consumes about 189 pounds per head per annum; Belgium about the same; the United States about 100 pounds, and France about 69.4 pounds.

If the annual consumption of the whole world should be brought up to the standard of England, the production must enlarge to 90,000,000 tons per annum. That such will be the case is scarcely doubtful, after a careful comparison of the present consumption of iron with that of former periods.

The prospective enlargement of iron consumption in the world raises the question of its supply. Those countries which abound in deposits of coal and iron ore, in close juxtaposition, will enjoy incalculable advantage in the immense industrial movement which will be devel. oped by this expansion of iron consumption. Sweden possesses exhaustless supplies of the very best and richest primitive ores, but she has no coal, or at least no known deposits of that mineral. She must, then, either transport the coal and engage in manufacturing iron, or she must export her ore for raw material to supply foreign industries. The transportation of coal, the more bulky of the two elements, will probably be more costly than that of the ore, which represents a much greater money value in the same weight. The limit of iron manufacture with wooden fuel has been reached in Sweden, and hence her iron deposits can be looked to only in case of the decline of other sources of supply. In Russia, also, the lack of any considerable coal deposits, so far as yet

« PrejšnjaNaprej »