Gold at Fortymile Creek: Early Days in the Yukon

By Michael Gates | Go to book overview

APPENDIXES

Appendix A: Mining Methods and Terms

Prized since ancient times, gold is a soft, yellow, virtually indestructible element with a melting point of 1,994 degrees Fahrenheit and a density more than nineteen times that of water. It is commonly found in hard rock deposits, where it is incorporated into the rock, or in concentrations of more or less free particles (nuggets), which are found in unconsolidated gravels. In the latter form, it is known as placer gold, and the recovery of gold in such deposits is known as placer mining.

Ranging from tiny, almost microscopic granules (dust) to large nuggets weighing many ounces, its density causes it to settle quickly to the bottoms of streams, even when the water is moving at a rapid speed. It tends to concentrate in small backwaters or eddies and can lie in these deposits for tens of thousands of years, awaiting discovery.

A prospector will investigate stream beds looking for gold, testing the bottom materials with a gold pan, which has a circular, flat bottom and broad, sloping sides. Mixed with water, the gold in the gravels will, when agitated vigorously, settle to the bottom of the pan. The pan is normally agitated at a slight incline, so that the dense yellow particles will be trapped in the angle formed by the bottom and sides of the pan. After centuries of mining, this is still the first basic step in the gold refining process.

Once concentrated deposits are found in a stream bottom, the material is trapped in a sluice box, which is a long, narrow, open-ended box, slightly inclined so that water will flow through it. The placer gravel is excavated and dumped in the upper end, where it is mixed with generous quantities of water. As this mixture flows down the incline, the gold falls to the bottom of the box and is trapped between rows of ribs, or riffles, that are placed in the bottom of the sluice box at right angles to the current. The sluice box is still incorporated into every complex mechanical device used for gold recovery.

Another form of gold recovery involves the use of the rocker, a box-like device,

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Gold at Fortymile Creek: Early Days in the Yukon
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS ix
  • PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS xi
  • 1 - Early Days: The First Gold-Seekers Arrive 3
  • 2 - The Chilkoot Pass and Early Transportation 9
  • 3 - Early Developments on the Yukon River 18
  • 4 - The Miners' Code 25
  • 5 - The Fortymile Stampede 32
  • 6 - Strangers in a Strange Land 44
  • 7 - Years of Change 51
  • 8 - Forty Mile: Anatomy of a Gold Rush Town 68
  • 9 - The Arrival of the North-West Mounted Police 88
  • 10 - Death of the Miners' Committee 106
  • 11 - Circle: The Largest Log City in the World 115
  • 12 - The Discovery of Gold in the Klondike 129
  • 13 - Epilogue 146
  • APPENDIXES 151
  • Notes 169
  • Bibliography 187
  • Index 195
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