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Gold Mining in South Dakota | Largest Gold Mine in North America | Documentary | 1940

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Documentary film on underground hard rock gold mining and the life of gold miners in South Dakota, as seen through the eyes of the Homestake Mining Company.

The Homestake Mine was a deep underground gold mine located in Lead, South Dakota. Until it closed in 2002 it was the largest and deepest gold mine in North America. The mine produced more than 40 million troy ounces (approximately 1.25 million kilograms) of gold during its lifetime.

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History of the Homestake Mine:
The Homestake deposit was discovered by Fred and Moses Manuel, Alex Engh and Hank Harney in April 1876, during the Black Hills Gold Rush. A trio of mining entrepreneurs, George Hearst, Lloyd Tevis, and James Ben Ali Haggin, bought it from them for $70,000 the following year. George Hearst arrived at the mine in October 1877, and took active control of the property. Hearst had to haul in all the mining equipment by wagons from the nearest railhead in Sidney, Nebraska. Arthur De Wint Foote worked as an engineer. Despite the remote location, an 80-stamp mill began crushing Homestake ore in July 1878.

The partners sold shares in the Homestake Mining Company, and listed it on the New York Stock Exchange in 1879. The Homestake would become one of the longest-listed stocks in the history of the NYSE (Con Edison's original name was New York Gas Light and was listed in 1824).

Hearst consolidated and enlarged the Homestake property by fair and foul means. He bought out some adjacent claims, and secured others in the courts.

By the time Hearst left the Black Hills in March 1879, he had added the claims of Giant, Golden Star, Netty, May Booth, Golden Star No. 2, Crown Point, Sunrise, and General Ellison to the original two claims of the Manuel Brothers, Golden Terra and Old Abe, totaling 30 acres. The ten-stamp mill had become 200, and 500 employees worked in the mine, mills, offices and shops. He owned the Boulder Ditch and water rights to Whitewood Creek, monopolizing the region. His railroad, Black Hills & Fort Pierre Railroad, gave him access to eastern Dakota territory. By 1900, the Homestake owned 300 claims, on 2000 acres, and was worked by more than 2000 employees.

In 1901, the mine started using compressed air locomotives, replacing the mules and horses by the 1920s. Charles Washington Merrill introduced cyanidization to augment mercury-amalgamation for gold recovery. "Cyanide Charlie" finally achieved 94 per cent recovery. The gold was shipped to the Denver Mint.

By 1906, the Ellison Shaft reached 1,550 feet, the B&M 1,250 feet, the Golden Star 1,100 feet, and the Golden Prospect 900 feet, producing 1,500,000 tons of ore. A disastrous fire struck on 25 March 1907, which took forty days to extinguish after the mine was flooded. Another disastrous fire struck in 1919.

In 1927, company geologist Donald H. McLaughlin used a winze from the 2,000 level to demonstrate ore reached the 3,500 foot level. The Ross shaft was started in 1934, a second winze from the 3,500 foot level reached 4,100 feet, and a third winze from 4,100 feet was started in 1937. The Yates shaft was started in 1938. Production ceased from 1943 until 1945, due to Limitation Order L-208 from the Government. By 1975, mining operations has reached the 6,800 foot level, and two winzes were planned to 8,000 feet.

Gold Mining in South Dakota | Largest Gold Mine in North America | Documentary | 1940

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