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The History of Gold Mining
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The first thing that comes to mind for many people when they first hear the word “mining” tends to be an association with coal or precious metals. One commonly mined metal is gold. Gold is one of the most popular metals used in jewelry and currency. Even now, in the 21st century, gold is a highly sought-after element. But before you go all California Gold Rush looking for some, you may want to learn a little more about gold mining first.

When the Gold Rush started in 1848, California was just a territory in the growing United States. As so many people traveled to the area in search of gold, California was admitted to statehood just two years later in 1850. As gold is one of the first metals to be discovered by man, and has a high rarity, it’s no wonder so many people headed out westward in search for the element.

But once there, people had to locate the gold. This is where panning, mining, and other techniques come in. Panning is when a person fills a pan with sand or gravel and shakes the pan to separate the gold from other substances. Panning can be a quick and easy way to find gold, but isn’t always the best option when searching for large amounts of the precious metal.

Since folks were looking to get rich quick during the California Gold Rush, other methods of mining formed. Sluicing allowed people to place a box in part of a riverbed to slow the current down, and then dig for gold at the bottom of the riverbed. Hydraulic mining, which is when a high-powered hose directed its stream of water at a gravel bed that was thought to contain gold, became another prevalent method of hunting for gold. However, this spike in using hydraulic mining caused large amounts of gravel and silt to go into rivers. Which created exposed earth that cannot support plant life.

With so many people taking what gold they could, the easily accessible pieces were slim-to-none in the late 1850s. People still had gold fever, though, and in the latter half of the century, professional miners came in along with dredging. Dredging excavates for gold by placing a dredge in bodies of water. The dredge then gathers up the sediments of sand, gravel and silt to separate them from the gold.

Dredging for gold is one mining method that is still around today. Another method to search for gold that produces most of the world’s gold in today’s age is hard rock mining. This technique extracts gold directly from the rock in which it was encased. This means mining underground and sometimes requires explosives to access the rock.

Gold exists in parts of the U.S. today and has many miners in numerous states. If you still have gold fever after reading about all these types of gold mining, then perhaps you should head out west in hopes of finding some gold. But don’t get disappointed if you cannot find any — there are still plenty of other types of mining that can have a global impact.





 
 
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