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PART II. Metallurgical processes..
Chapter XI. The treatment of auriferous ores in Colorado
WASHINGTON, March 16, 1871. SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith my report on mines and mining in the States and Territories of California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. The anticipations of an increased prosperity of the mining industry, expressed in my last report, have been realized. Not only the augmented bullion product, a discussion of which will be found in the accompanying report, but an improved tone in the business itself, and the progressive reduction of the burdensome expenses under which it has labored, bear witness of substantial gain.
The year has been marked by comparatively few and feeble mining excitements, such as have in other times caused the depopulation of entire districts, and the emigration of vast throngs en masse to the new Eldorados. Something of this kind is the necessary consequence of the enterprise of the free-footed people of the West; it is by "stampedes" that all our new States and Territories have been explored and settled, but the waste and friction of the process are so great that we may be grateful for its gradual subsidence into the forms of slower and more regular progress.
The movements of the year, more detailed accounts of which will be found in the following pages, may be briefly enumerated as follows:
The gold mines of Southern California, near San Diego, discovered in 1869, were the scene of some excitement and activity early in the following season.
The silver discoveries in the Burro Mountains, on the confines of New Mexico, attracted much public attention, but it was speedily shown that these mines require capital for their development, and do not invite the penniless adventurer.
Rumors of rich placers on Peace River, far in the interior of British Columbia, were in circulation early in the season, but the memory of Fraser River, and its disastrous "stampede," seems to have quenched the zeal even of those adventurous souls who generally find the greatest charm of a new discovery in its remoteness and inaccessibility.
Several thousand miners were attracted to the bars of Snake River, mostly from other districts of Idaho; but this region is so near the railroad that the equilibrium of population was soon established, and a manufactured excitement was impossible. Such artificial enthusiasms are usually due to two causes: first, the presence of a crowd of unemployed, adventurous, and sanguine men, who keep up their courage,
moreover, because they cannot get away; and, secondly, to the merchants who have, at great cost, carried stocks of goods to the new districts, and who naturally encourage, by every means, the maintenance of the public interest and the increase of the population. Rapid communications and cheap freight paralyze both these sources of excitement. Both the motive and the means of creating false impressions of the extent and value of the new discoveries are measurably taken away, and the level of truth is reached after comparatively few and feeble oscillations.
The progress of developments upon the Comstock lode gives better promise for the future, and strengthens the opinion I have formerly expressed that this vast fissure will be found metalliferous at greater depths than any yet attained.
Meanwhile other parts of Nevada have sprung into sudden importance. The operations of one or two large companies at Meadow Valley, and the base-metal smelting operations of Eureka, have added heavy sums to the bullion-product of the State. At Austin, Mineral Hill, and elsewhere the Stetefeldt furnace has been steadily in operation, successfully treating, at a great saving in the cost of chloridization, large quantities of refractory silver ores, and establishing itself as the most important of recent improvements in American metallurgy.
The Territory of Utah has witnessed a sudden and rapid development of silver mining, facilitated by the railroad connections, which permit the shipments of ores and low-grade bullion. The comparative cheapness of wages, the comparatively populous settlements of the region, the advanced condition of agriculture, and the now not unfavorable attitude. of the Mormon authorities toward mining, combine to relieve this young industry in Utah from many of the disabilities which have attended its introduction elsewhere in the West.
In Colorado the principal novelty of the year was the development of the silver mines in the Caribou or Grand Island district. What will be the future importance and extent of this group of mines is at present uncertain. Two or three undeniably valuable and productive lodes have been opened.
For further particulars as to all these mining fields, together with others of greater age and more familiar fame, I respectfully refer you to the accompanying report.
The labor question, involving rates of wages, length of working shifts, and other issues between laboring miners and employers, has received, in many localities of the Pacific slope, a peaceful though, perhaps, but temporary adjustment. The general result of the disputes and conflicts of 1869 has been the reduction of wages, which the conditions of mining enterprises imperatively demanded, and the cheapness of provisions and clothing rendered reasonable. The miners' leagues, however, still exist in many places, and continue a more or less successful resistance to the inevitable fall in the price of labor. Their most unreasonable demand has been for equal pay to all classes of miners, without regard to