[[File:mon Hydraulic mining, or hydraulicking, is a form of mining that uses high-pressure jets of water to dislodge rock material or move sediment. In the placer mining of gold or tin, the resulting water-sediment slurry is directed through sluice boxes to remove the gold.
Precursor - ground sluicingEdit
Hydraulic mining had its precursor in the practice of ground sluicing, a development of which is also known as "hushing", in which surface streams of water were diverted so as to erode gold-bearing gravels. This was originally used in the Roman empire in the first centuries AD and BC, and expanded throughout the empire wherever alluvial deposits occurred The Romans used ground sluicing to remove overburden and the gold-bearing debris in Las Médulas of Spain, and Dolaucothi in Britain. The method was also used in Elizabethan Britain for developing lead, tin and copper mines.
Water was used on a large scale by Roman engineers in the first centuries BC and AD when the Roman empire was expanding rapidly in Europe. Using a process later known as hushing, the Romans stored a large volume of water in a reservoir immediately above the area to be mined; the water was then quickly released. The resulting wave of water removed overburden and exposed bedrock. Gold veins in the bedrock were then worked using a number of techniques, and water power was used again to remove debris. The remains at Las Medulas and in surrounding areas show badland scenery on a gigantic scale owing to hydraulicking of the rich alluvial gold deposits. Las Medulas is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site shows the remains of at least seven large aqueducts of up to 30 miles in length feeding large supplies of water into the site. The gold-mining operations were described in vivid terms by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia published in the first century AD. Pliny was a procurator in Hispania Terraconensis in the 70's and must have witnessed for himself the operations. The use of hushing has been confirmed by field survey and archaeology at Dolaucothi in South Wales, the only known Roman gold mine in Britain.
California Gold Rush Hydraulic MiningEdit
The modern form of Hydraulic mining, using jets of water directed under very high pressure through hoses and nozzles at gold-bearing upland paleogravels, was first used by Edward Matteson near Nevada City, California in 1853 during the California Gold Rush. Matteson used canvas hose which was later replaced with crinoline hose by the 1860s. In California, hydraulic mining often brought water from higher locations for long distances to holding ponds several hundred feet above the area to be mined. Insofar as California hydraulic mining exploited primarily river gravels, it was one form of placer mining, that is, working of alluvium (river sediments).
Early placer miners in California discovered that the more gravel they could process, the more gold they were likely to find. Instead of working with pans, sluice boxes, long toms, and rockers, miners collaborated to find ways to process larger quantities of gravel more rapidly. Hydraulic mining became the largest-scale, and most devastating, form of placer mining. Water was redirected into an ever-narrowing channel, through a large canvas hose, and out through a giant iron nozzle, called a "monitor." The extremely high pressure stream was used to wash entire hillsides through enormous sluices.
By the early 1860s, while hydraulic mining was at its height, small-scale placer mining had largely exhausted the rich surface placers, and the mining industry turned to hard rock (called quartz mining in California) or hydraulic mining, which required larger organizations and much more capital. By the mid-1880s, it is estimated that 11 million ounces of gold (worth approximately US$7.5 billion at mid-2006 prices) had been recovered by hydraulic mining in the California Gold Rush.
While generating millions of dollars in tax revenues for the state and supporting a large population of miners in the mountains, hydraulic mining had a devastating effect on riparian natural environment and agricultural systems in California. Millions of tons of earth and water were delivered to mountain streams that fed rivers flowing into the Sacramento Valley. Once the rivers reached the relatively flat valley, the water slowed, the rivers widened, and the sediment was deposited in the floodplains and river beds causing them to rise, shift to new channels, and overflow their banks, causing major flooding, especially during the spring melt.
Cities and towns in the Sacramento Valley experienced an increasing number of devastating floods, while the rising riverbeds made navigation on the rivers increasingly difficult. Perhaps no other city experienced the boon and the bane of gold mining as much as Marysville, California. Situated at the confluence of the Yuba and Feather rivers, Marysville was the final "jumping off" point for miners heading to the northern foothills to seek their fortune. Steamboats from San Francisco, carrying miners and supplies, navigated up the Sacramento River, then the Feather River to Marysville where they would unload their passengers and cargo. Marysville eventually constructed a complex levee system to protect the city from floods and sediment. Hydraulic mining greatly exacerbated the problem of flooding in Marysville and shoaled the waters of the Feather River so severely that few steamboats could navigate from Sacramento to the Marysville docks.
The spectacular eroded landscape left at the site of hydraulic mining can be viewed at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park in Nevada County, California. A similar landscape can be seen at Las Médulas in northern Spain, where Roman engineers ground sluiced the rich gold alluvial deposits of the river Sil. Pliny the Elder mentions in his Naturalis Historia that Spain had encroached on the sea and local lakes as a result of ground sluicing operations.
Vast areas of farmland in the Sacramento Valley were deeply buried by the mining sediment. Frequently devastated by flood waters, farmers demanded an end to hydraulic mining. In the most renowned legal fight of farmers against miners, the farmers sued the hydraulic mining operations and the landmark case of Edwards Woodruff v. North Bloomfield Mining and Gravel Company made its way to the United States District Court in San Francisco where Judge Lorenzo Sawyer decided in favor of the farmers in 1884, declaring that hydraulic mining was “a public and private nuisance” and enjoining its operation in areas tributary to navigable streams and rivers. Hydraulic mining was recommenced after 1893 when the United States Congress passed the Camminetti Act which allowed such mining if sediment detention structures were constructed. This led to a number of operations above brush dams and log crib dams. Most of the water-delivery infrastructure had been destroyed by an 1891 flood, so this later stage of mining was carried on at a much smaller scale in California.
Although often associated with California due to its adoption and widespread use there, the technology was exported widely, to Oregon (Jacksonville in 1856), Colorado (Clear Creek, Central City and Breckenridge in 1860), Montana (Bannack in 1865), Arizona (Lynx Creek in 1868), Idaho (Idaho City in 1863), South Dakota (Deadwood in 1876), Alaska, British Columbia (Canada), and overseas. It was used extensively in Dahlonega, Georgia and continues to be used in developing nations, often with devastating environmental consequences. The devastation caused by this method of mining caused Edwin Carter, the "Log Cabin Naturalist," to switch from mining to collecting wildlife specimens from 1875-1900 in Breckenridge, Colorado, USA.
Hydraulic mining was also used during the Australian gold rushes where it was called hydraulic sluicing. One notable location was at the Oriental Claims near Omeo in Victoria (Australia) where it was used between the 1850s and early 1900s, with abundant evidence of the damage still being visible today.
Starting in the 1870s, hydraulic mining became a mainstay of alluvial tin mining on the Malay Peninsula.
Hydraulicking was formerly used in Polk County, Florida to mine phosphate rock.
In addition to its use in true mining, hydraulic mining can be used as an excavation technique, principally to demolish hills. For example, the Denny Regrade in Seattle was largely accomplished by hydraulic mining.
Underground hydraulic miningEdit
In popular cultureEdit
The battle between the old method of pan mining and hydraulic mining is the central theme of the 1985 western film Pale Rider staring Clint Eastwood. In 1967, an episode of the TV show "Bonanza" entitled "The Greedy Ones" featured The Cartwrights' fight against mining on their land, and specifically how hydraulic mining destroyed a land's worth.
- ↑ Paul W. Thrush, A Dictionary of Mining, Mineral, and Related Terms, US Bureau of Mines, 1968, p.560.
- ↑ Paul W. Thrush, A Dictionary of Mining, Mineral, and Related Terms, US Bureau of Mines, 1968, p.515.
- ↑ Randall Rohe (1985) Hydraulic mining in the American West, Montana the Magazine of Western History, v.35, n.2, p.18-29.
- ↑ Isenberg, Andrew (2005). Mining California An Ecological History. Hill and Wang, 34. ISBN 9780809095353.
- ↑ "Malakoff Diggins SHP". State of California.
- ↑ "Oriental Claims Historic Area - Park Notes". Parks Victoria Official Site. Parks Victoria. Retrieved on 16 October 2010.
- ↑ Mark Cleary and Kim Chuan Goh, Environment and Development in the Straits of Malacca, London: Routledge, 2000, p.47.accessed 5 November 2009.
- ↑ George J. Young, Elements of Mining, 4th ed., New York: McGraw-Hill, 1946, p.436-438.
- ↑ Paul W. Thrush, A Dictionary of Mining, Mineral, and Related Terms, US Bureau of Mines, 1968, p.560.
- Hydraulic Mining in California: A Tarnished Legacy, by Powell Greenland, 2001
- Battling the Inland Sea: American Political Culture, Public Policy, and the Sacramento Valley: 1850-1986., U.Calif Press; 395pp.
- Gold vs. Grain: The Hydraulic Mining Controversy in California's Sacramento Valley, by Robert L. Kelley, 1959
- Lewis, P. R. and G. D. B. Jones, Roman gold-mining in north-west Spain, Journal of Roman Studies 60 (1970): 169-85
- Momber, A.W.: Hydrodemolition of Concrete Substrates and Reinforced Concrete Structures. Elsevier Applied Science, London, 2005
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