Mountain Mining Term Paper

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Mountain Mining

Mining is the process by which minerals of various different kinds are taken out of the earth. As a general practice, a hole is dug into the ground, from where the minerals are harvested. These may be metals like gold or silver or copper, or they may be coal and salt and other like minerals, and they can be diamonds and other precious stones as well. It must be noted that most substances that are obtained form the earth are mined and mining also provides metal that can be used for steel making, and for other industrial purposes, and the gold and precious stones obtained from the earth can be used for the production of jewelry. The stones mined from the earth are used for building purposes, and they are also used for making the gravel that is used on highways. (The Topic: Mining, the basics)

There are in fact several different methods of mining, and the method depends on where the mineral or the coal deposits have been found, and how it has been found. While some minerals can be found very near the earth's surface, some others are only found very deep inside the bowels of the earth, and when they are closer to the surface, they are cheaper because they are easier to obtain, and when they are deeper inside, the are relatively more difficult to obtain, and therefore, dearer. When these minerals are to be obtained, the methods generally used are tunneling, wherein a hole is dug deep through the earth, and pumping, where the minerals are located under vast masses of water like for example, under the ocean. (The Topic: Mining, the basics)

It must be remembered that mining as an activity has been in existence for many years now, and the methods that were used at that time are no longer used today. Records of mining date back to as early as the sixteenth century, when there is in existence a picture of the copper mining and the metallurgy that was used at that time. An important fact is that in the older times, people who were involved in mining and in guilding would more often than not keep their affairs and methods a complete secret and not share it with the general public. Therefore, when Georgius Agricola in Freiburg, Germany, wrote his first book on mining and on metallurgy practices during the sixteenth century, named 'De Re Metallica', in the year 1556, and it was indeed a treasure for the people who wanted to acquire a deeper knowledge on the subject. (Copper in the middle Ages and Renaissance)

All his writings were based on his own personal observations, and he has detailed mining techniques, the various kinds of equipment that was used in those days, the mine surveying methods used at that time, the mining laws that existed, and the vein deposits and their recognition, the technique known as 'assay' which was used to determine the amount of copper in an ore rock, the methods that were used to 'smelt' the mined copper into cakes, and how to purify it. After reading this work it becomes obvious that mining was an industry that had seen very little progress from the time of the Romans, and that rocks were, even at that time, being plucked from the mountain sides and tunnels with shovels and with picks, in the absence of explosives. Tunnels that had been dug out were in general supported with timber; this is practiced even today, and the miners and the ore were raised or lowered into the shafts using winches. There were certain techniques used at that time, wherein water was drained away from deep shafts, and fresh air was pumped back in. In Italy, Vanoccio Biringuccio, of Sienna published the book 'Pirotechnica' in the year 1540, and this work was also equally valuable and was a treatise on the metallurgic practices and the mining of those days. (Copper in the middle Ages and Renaissance)

It must be noted that the Europeans, when they started to recognize mining for the valuable industry that it was, borrowed the concept of the 'water wheel' from the Chinese and from the Moors. Water wheels had been in use to grind corn, and when they were applied to the mining industry, it was easier for the miners to pump up water from the mines, and also to grind the ore, run the bellows at the blast furnace, and to operate the hammers at the goldsmith's forges. It was at this time that mining had become a very expensive business to operate, and wealthy families began to acquire mines and to employ many people to run them. One of the first examples of this is the Fugger Family that helped to finance copper smelters, the revenue from which they utilized to finance the Austrian 'Hapsburg dynasty' of emperors. This became a more common phenomenon as time went by, and the German and Austrian Princes and Emperors of the region became more and more wealthy on account of the mining industry.

It is said that most probably, the first explosives that were used to crack open the mines, instead of using picks and shovels, was in the year 1627, in the Hungarian 'Erzgebirge', and the method used was to fill in the holes that had been drilled into the mountainsides with black explosive powder, and then blow them up. It was in the year 1711 that steam engines were used for the purpose of pumping water out of mines, in Cornwall, England, and this was also the time when Thomas Newcomen happened to invent the first steam powered pump, to pump water out. An interesting fact is that it was the invention of this steam-powered machine to pump water out of the mines that was the cause of the subsequent Industrial Revolution. When the miners of Cornwall traveled on to the 'Brave New World', they also took with them a sure knowledge of the hard rock mining methods that were used in Cornwall, and this helped to start up the mining industry in the Western United States. (Copper in the middle Ages and Renaissance)

The Boundary Regions of the United States became some of the largest producers of copper in the world, and places like, for example, Greenwood, Phoenix, Boundary Falls, Summit City and Grand Forks were all made up to meet the miners who worked in the copper mines and in the smelters in those regions. One of the famous smelters still exists in Greenwood, and it was supposedly built in the year 1898 by the British Columbia Copper Company, which was a New York-based organization that had bought the Mother Lode Mine in 1898. It was in 1901 that the very first 'furnace' was developed, and soon the mine became known as a 'smelter' with 106000 tonnes of ore being smelted that very same year. This continued until 1912 when there came a shortage of ore, and during the World War, production had to come to a slowdown, until 1918 when it had to stop forever. (Mining History of the Boundary Country)

In January, in the year 1848, an incident took place in Coloma, in California, which would forever change the world. What happened was that James W. Marshall happened to be working near the South Fork of the American River when he happened to notice what looked like gold floating on the river. This could not be kept a secret, and this is the event that triggered the so called Gold Rush of 1849. (Coloma Valley Gold Discovery, the Gold Discovery that changed the world) The fact was that there were no taxes and there were no laws and rules to restrict anyone form helping themselves to the gold, and this meant that almost everyone could dig for the gold with crude implements, and wash it and hit pay dirt. New methods were invented quickly so that the pay dirt could be washed quicker and faster, so that more gold could be made. The methods destroyed the land and the people, but when gold was to be found, then there could be no waiting. The method most often used by these miners was referred to as 'panning'. (Coloma Valley, the California Gold Rush of 1849)

The California Gold Rush had created a Gold Rush in other regions, like one to the Fraser River, another to the Cassiar Region in British Columbia. In the Yukon River Region in Alaska, there was mining going on for gold, but it was when the strike in Klondike was made that Alaska was catapulted into the most popular mining area for gold. (The Klondike Gold Rush: Curriculum Materials for the History of the Pacific Northwest in the Washington Public Schools) Sluicing' was another very popular method used to obtain gold form mountainsides and form riverbeds. Hydraulic mining methods were used for sluicing, whereby powerful jets of water would be used to break down the gold laden gravel…[continue]

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