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Ch. VI.] QUARTZ LODES. 89
tion of gold), the quartz lodes contain sulphate of silver, peroxide of manganese, peroxide of iron, sulphides of iron and copper, and occasionally ores of lead. The quartz is generally very friable, full of drossy cavities, and.broken up into innumerable small pieces that are often coloured black by the peroxide of manganese. The gold is in minute grains, and generally distributed loose amongst the quartz. Pieces as large as a pin's head are rare, and specimens of quartz showing the gold in it are seldom met with, even in the richest portion of the lode. The fine gold-dust can, however, easily be detected by washing portions of the lode-stuff in a horn. The quartz and clay is washed away, and the gold-dust sinks to the bottom, and is retained in the spoon. This is the usual way in which the lode is tested by the mining agents, and long practice has made them very expert in valuing the ore by the wash in the “spoon.” Although most of the gold occurs loose, amongst the soft portions of the lode, the hard quartz also contains it disseminated in minute grains throughout. These can be obtained in the horn by pounding the quartz to powder and then washing it. One feature in the distribution of gold in the quartz lodes of Santo Domingo led to a most exaggerated opinion of their value when they were first mined by English companies. On the hills, near the outcrops of the lodes, the ore was in some places exceedingly rich. One thousand ounces of gold were obtained from a small patch of ore near the surface of the Consuelo lode, and . at Santo Domingo, San Benito, San Antonio, and Javali lodes, very rich ore was also discovered within a
few fathoms of the surface. When, however, these deposits were followed downwards, they invariably got poorer, and at one hundred feet from the surface, no very rich ore has been met with. Below that, when the works are prosecuted still deeper, there does not appear to be any further progressive deterioration in the value of the ore, and it varies in yield from two to seven pennyweights of gold per ton, upon which yield further depth does not seem to have any effect. The cause
of these rich deposits near the surface does not appear
to me to be that the lodes originally, before they were exposed by denudation, contained more gold in their upper portions than below, but to be the effect of the decomposition, and wearing down of the higher parts, and the concentration of the gold they contained in the lode below that worn away. We have seen that in the decomposed parts of the lode, the gold exists in loose fine grains. During the wet season water percolates freely from the surface down through the lodes, and the gold set free by the decomposition of the ore at the surface must be carried down into it, so that in the course of ages, during the gradual degradation and wearing away of the surface, there has, I believe, been an accumulation of the loose gold in the upper parts of the lodes from parts that originally stood much higher, and have now been worn away by the action of the elements.
This accumulation of loose gold near the surface of auriferous veins, set at liberty from its matrix by the decomposition of the ore, and concentrated by degrada
tion, is probably the reason of the great richness of
many of what are called the caps of quartz veins; that is, the parts next the existing surface, and has, also,
Ch. WI.] QUARTZ LODES. 91
perhaps, originated the belief that auriferous lodes deteriorate in value in depth. I at one time, after having studied the auriferous quartz veins of Australia, advocated this theory which was first insisted upon by Sir R. I. Murchison, but further experience in North Wales, Nova Scotia, Brazil, and Central America, has led me to doubt its correctness, excepting in cases such as we have been considering, where there has been an accumulation of gold in the superficial portions of lodes, since their original formation. Gold is distributed in quartz veins in bands, and patches of richer stone of more or less extent. These richer portions of the lodes, if sunk upon perpendicularly, will be passed through, but so also they would be if followed horizontally, their extent in one direction being as great as it is in the other. The chances of meeting with further patches of rich ore in depth, after one has been passed through, are about the same as they are in driving horizontally, and the frequency therefore with which the auriferous ores are met with along the surface will, as a rule, be an index of their occurrence in depth, if we be careful in distinguishing deposits belonging to the original condition of the lodes, and those due to subsequent concentration. To do this we must get below the immediate surface, and take as our guide the gold occurring in the Solid undecomposed quartz, and not the loose grains contained in the fissures and cavities. The lodes of Santo Domingo are worked by means of levels driven from near the bottoms of the valleys that intersect them. When these levels have entered sufficiently far into the hills, shafts are driven upwards from them to the surface, and other levels driven sixty feet higher than the first. This process is continued until the lode lying above the lowest level has been divided off into horizontal bands, each about sixty feet in depth. The quartz is then excavated above the topmost level, and thrown down the shafts to the lowest, where it is received into waggons and conveyed to the reduction works. As both the ore and the enclosing rocks are greatly decomposed and very soft, the whole of the ground has to be securely timbered as the work proceeds. The levels are timbered with “nispera,” a wood of great durability and strength, but the excavated portions between them are only temporarily secured with common soft wood, and at the end of every fortnight filled up with clay and barren rock. The mining is entirely executed by native workmen, principally
. . A, Levels; B, Rise, down which the ore is thrown; D, Stopes; C, Stopes
refilled with clay and barren rock.
Mestizos from the border lands of Honduras and Nicaragua, where they have been engaged in silver mining.
They are paid according to the amount of ground exca
wated, and are very industrious when poor; but when they accumulate a little money, they take fits of idleness
and dissipation until it is spent again.
Ch. VI.] QUARTZ LODES. 93
The ore is taken down to the reduction works in waggons that run down by gravitation, and are drawn up again by mules. It is then stamped to powder by iron beaters, each of which is lifted by cams, and let fall seventy times per minute. The stamped ore, in the form of fine sand, is then carried by a stream of water over inclined copper plates covered with mercury, with which is mixed a little metallic sodium. Nearly the whole of the free gold is caught by the mercury, for which it has a great affinity, and accumulates as amalgam on the copper plates, from which it is cleaned off every twelve hours. The sand and water then passes over inclined tables covered with blankets, the fibres of which intercept particles of gold and mercury that have escaped from the first process, and afterwards into a concentrating box, where the coarsest grains of sand and the sulphurets of iron, copper, and silver, are caught, and with the sand from the blankets retreated in arrastres. These arrastres are round troughs, twelve feet in diameter, paved with stones. Four large stones of quartz are dragged round and round in this trough, and grind the coarse sand to fine powder. The gold liberated sinks into the crevices in the stone pavement, a little mercury being put into the trough to form it into amalgam. The arrastres and all the amalgamating apparatus is cleaned up once a month. The amalgam obtained is Squeezed through thin dressed skins, and is then of the consistence of stiff putty, and of a silver colour. These balls of amalgam are placed in iron retorts, and the mercury driven off by heat and condensed again in water. These balls of gold so obtained are then melted into bars weighing about one