Page images
PDF
EPUB

when the yield was about $26,000,000 of silver, and $3,000,000 of gold. Although the war following the French invasion in 1863 does not appear to have interfered much with the English mining companies operating in Mexico, it donbtless acted prejudicially in other instances; and it may be supposed that the annual yield throughout the whole country was somewhat reduced. There can be little risk, however, in applying the average for the nine years preceding 1856 to the whole period of twenty years from 1848 to 1868. As the proportion of gold has witnessed a gradual increase for a number of years, it may safely be estimated at $2,500,000 annually, and the silver product at $21,000,000. This will amount to $420,000,000 of silver, and $50,000,000 of gold, for twenty years.

Adopting Humboldt's estimates for the period prior to 1804, the yield of the Mexican mines will stand thus : Periods.

Gold.

Silver.

Both metals. 1804 to 1848..... $62, 000 000 $692, 500 000 $734, 500 000 1848 to 1868:.

50, 000 000 420, 000 000 470, 000 000

[blocks in formation]

Making a total gold product of $191,000,000, and silver of $3,041,452,000, from the opening of the mines to the present day, and a total of both metals amounting to $3,232,000,000.

The present annual product may be estimated at silver $26,000,000, gold $3,000,000, both metals $29,000,000.

The remaining localities upon the North American continent where gold has been found are British Columbia, Canada, and Nova Scotia.

As early as 1856 the governor of Vancouver Island reported the discovery of: gold in British Columbia, but it was not until 1858 that miners in sufficient numbers to overpower the opposition of the aborigines entered the province and, commenced prospecting the valleys of Fraser's river and its tributaries.

Since 1858 gold washing has been continued, and the whole valley of the Fraser and some of its tributaries have been found to be more or less auriferous.

The amount of gold obtained since 1858 has been estimated at from $30,000,000 to $45,000,000, and the annual supply at the present time from $2,500,000 to $3,000,000. Nearly all thus far obtained has been the produce of washings or shallow placers.

Gold washings have been carried on in Lower Canada, on the Chaudiére, St. Francis, and Gilbert rivers since 1850. The auriferous region covers from 3,000 to 4,000 square miles, occupying a part of that portion of the province lying between the St. Lawrence and the United States boundary, and east of the Green Mountain range, prolonged into Canada. The product up to the present time has not been large, although sufficient to indicate that gold exists over a. considerable extent of territory.

The amount obtained last year was from $150,000 to $200,000, the whole amount extracted from the commencement of mining operations being estimated at $1,000,000. Recently several shafts have been sunk on quartz veins, and thirteen hundred-weight of ore worked in New York by mill process it is said yielded at the rate of $40 per ton, while some of the ore is reported to have assayed still more favorably. At last accounts measures were being taken to erect machinery for the purpose of conducting rock mining in the neighborhood of St. Francis. Under the most favorable circumstances this region will scarcely yield over a half million of dollars annually.

A third auriferous district in British North America is in Nova Scotia, in a zone of metamorphic rocks bordering on the Atlantic coast, from six to eight miles wide at its eastern extremity and from forty to fifty at its widest points, comprising six thousand square miles of surface. Gold has been found in quartz veins and in the sands on the beach, the first discoveries having been made in 1860 or 1861.

Mining is now carried on at Fauquier harbor, Wine harbor, Sherbrook, Owens, Waverly, Oldham, Stormont, Lawrencetown, Renfrew, Country barbor, Isaac's harbor, Montague, Uniacke, and other places. The gold of Nova Scotia is of remarkable purity, being on the average twenty-two carats fine, and the bars or ingots are said to be current in Halifax at $20 an ounce.

The annual product for the last few years has been 25,000 ounces troy, or $500,000, the whole amount taken from the mines since 1862 being estimated at two millions, or two millions two hundred thousand dollars.

In Central America there are numerous mines of gold and silver, formerly yielding a very considerable product, but which, on account of the many revolutions and distractions that have disturbed the peace of the country for the last forty or fifty years, have been in a great measure neglected.

The statistics of their produce, either previous to or since 1803, are exceedingly meagre, leaving it difficult to come to any satisfactory conclusion on the subject.

T'he investigations of Humboldt were not extended to this part of the SpanishAmerican colonies, although there can be little doubt that the quantities of the precious metals obtained, in what then constituted the captain-generalship of Guatemala, were by no means insignificant; but in reference to the mines, as to many other matters pertaining to the early history of this part of America, there is much yet to be collected by future explorers.

Of the five states constituting the political divisions of Central America, Honduras appears to be the most abundantly supplied with mineral wealth, and Mount Merendon has long been celebrated for its mines of silver and gold. Silver is found in combination with lead, iron, copper, and antimony, and the ores are said to be very rich. The gold obtained is mostly washed from the sands of the rivers in the departments of Yoro, Olancho, and Santa Barbara.

In 1860 and for some years previous the ballion export of Honduras amounted in value to about $400,000 annually, and the mines, although in native hands and carried on without much enterprise, probably return a product not varying mnch from that amount, consisting mostly of gold collected by the Indian population from shallow washings.

In the republic of Guatemala there is a mining district in the Alotepec mountains, which, three-quarters of a century ago, yielded large quantities of silver. It is found combined with lead and copper, and also as a sulphide of silver. Building stone, wood, and water, and other conveniences for carrying on mining operations, are at hand. The Central American Mining Company, operating in this locality, between 1858 and 1865 sold ore and bar silver amounting to 621,000 ounces, worth over $700,000.

The river sands of the department of Chiquimula are auriferous, and are washed by the Indians; but there are no means of estimating the amount obtained.

The districts of Segovia, Matagalpa, and Chontales, in Nicaragua, border upon the great metalliferous mountain region of Honduras, and are rich in mineral deposits. Under Spanish dominion these gold and silver mines were very productive, but at present they appear to be carried on without much energy or skill, and very little is known as to the quantities of the precious metals obtained.

The Chontales gold and silver mines had been worked for many years by the natives, who had no means of erecting proper machinery, and were obliged to carry the ore to mill by hand; yet in this way they obtained, in the month of January, 1865, from some of these mines, 230 ounces of gold, worth about $4,000. This was mined in the rock, and yielded 112 ounces of gold to 60

1.

1

1

tons of ore, and in other cases the ore of some of these mines yielded as high as from 40 to 300 ounces per ton,

These mines have lately passed into the hands of an English company, and it is believed, with proper machinery, they will make a very profitable return.

An authority before us estimates the product of Nicaragua in 1860 at about $250,000, but it is rather a matter of conjecture than of estimate.

In the republic of San Salvador, the silver mines of Tabanco, in the department of San Miguel, have been celebrated for many years. The ores are properly lead ores, easily worked, and yield from 47 to 2,537 ounces of silver to the ton. These mines have been irregularly worked for many years, but of late without proper machinery, or sufficient capital fully to develop their hidden treasures.

Costa Rica, though less productive in mineral wealth than the other States of Central America, has gold mines in the Aguacate mountains, and some of its alluvions are profitably washed by the Indian population, but the produce is mostly smuggled out of the country, and the amount obtained is a matter of conjecture.

The range of mountains included within Central America is about 1,200 miles in length, and from all the information existing upon the subject there is reason to believe that when peace and order shall take the place of turbulence and war and a thriftless inactivity shall give way to an enlightened industry among the population, this part of the Cordilleras will be found to be no less amply supplied with gold and silver than other portions of the system traversing the South American continent at one extremity, or Mexico, California, and British Columbia at the other.

If the mines were properly opened and developed, silver would form the leading product; but at present, owing to the fact that shallow washings require less capital and skill, and are therefore better adapted to the means of the native population of the country, more gold is probably obtained than silver.

The gold fields of the Atlantic States, from 1804 to 1848, produced an amount of gold equal in value, according to the mint returns, to some twelve or fifteen millions of dollars, but in reality equal to twice that amount.

This region is neither as extensive nor as productive as the metalliferous districts of Central America, and under similar circumstances would produce but a small proportion of the amount yielded by them. An estimate of the product of Central America, therefore, at a value about equal to that of the Alleghany mines, as shown by the mint records, would appear sufficiently moderate, in the light of all the information we have been able to obtain. We compute for the States of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, San Salvador, and Costa Rica, collectively, for the period from 1804 to 1848, $300,000 annually ; $200,000 representing the gold product and $100,000 that of silver, amounting, in the forty-four years, to-gold, $8,800,000; silver, $4,400,000, or $13,200,000 for both metals. During the last twenty years the supply has certainly been increasing somewhat, as several companies of sufficient capital have been operating upon a more extensive scale than had hitherto obtained, and we compute it at $250,000 for gold and $150,000 for silver yearly, producing in the twenty years $5,000,000 of the first and $3,000,000 of the other, or $8,000,000 of both metals; yielding a product during the sixty-four years of-gold, $13,800,000; silver, $7,400,000, or $21,200,000 of both metals.

PRODUCE OF CENTRAL AMERICA.

Gold.

Silver. Both metals. 1804 to 1848..

$8,800,000 $4,400,000 $13,200,000 1848 to 1868.

5,000,000 3,000,000 8,000,000

1804 to 1868..

13,800,000

7,400,000

21,200,000

The present yearly supply may be stated at $300,000 gold and $200,000-silver or half a million annually.

From the discovery of the continent to the end of 1803, the product of South America in the precious metals, according to Humboldt's estimates, amounted to $3,878,748,000, of which $2,409,204,000 represented the supply of silver and $1,268,500,000 that of gold ; $2,951,748,000 being ascertained from the official records, and $727,000,000 estimated as a contraband product, not passing under the eyes of the authorities.

Mr. Danson, upon a revision of Humboldt's figures, makes a correction in the product of the South American mines, amounting to $138,506,000, and reduces, the total to $3,540,242,000.

These corrections consist, first, in changing the produce of the mines of Gualgayoc, Guamachuco de Couchucos, from $185,339,900 to $18,533,990, a mistake which had evidently occurred from inadvertently misplacing the separating point, and a deduction of $166,806,000 on this account appears to be proper. Secondly, he assumes that the $200,000,000 estimated by Humboldt as a contraband product of the mines of Pasco, Gualgayoc, and the rest of Peru, exclusive of the mnines of Potosi, was intended to be one-fourth of the registered metal, as in the case of Potosi, and hence deducts another $40,000,000 on account of the aforesaid error. At the time of Humboldt's visit, in 1802, the South American colonies were divided into the vice-royalties of Peru, New Granada, and Buenos Ayres, the captain-generalships of Chili and Venezuela, and the Portuguese colonies of Brazil

. Bolivia then formed a part of Buenos Ayres, but previous to 1778 was included within the vice-royalty of Peru. Each of these divisions now constitutes an independent republic; New Granada and Brazil furnish the principal supplies of gold, and Peru, Bolivia, and Chili, those of silver. Mines of the precious metals exist in the Argentine republic, in the mountains separating the provinces of Tucuman and Catamarca, in the Famatina range, in the province of La Rioja and in the Sierra de Cordova. Uruguay formerly produced small quantities of gold and silver, and both metals are found in the republic of Paraguay, and perhaps in some of the other divisions bordering on the Rio de la Plata, but the amount of treasure obtained from these states is believed to be small, and never in fact considerable. At the commencement of the century all these divisions were included in the vice-royalty of Buenos Ayres. At that time the South American continent produced about 33,500 pounds of gold and 691,625 pounds of silver, equal in value to about $18,600,000.

In 1848 the gold product had declined to about 24,000 pounds, and that of silver to 685,400, worth together about $16,400,000.

At the present time the yield of each metal has slightly improved. Both metals are obtained in Peru, its most celebrated mines being those of Pasco, discovered in 1630, and which had, in 1803, produced an amount of silver worth $375,000,000. These are situated in the Peruvian Andes, at an elevation of 13,673 feet above the level of the sea, about 1,500 feet below the line of perpetual snow. The town of Cerro de Pasco, in this mining district, stands at the same elevation, and when the mines were prosperous contained a population of 18,000.

The mines of Hualgayoc were discovered in 1771, and up to the year 1803 had produced an annual supply of silver worth nearly a million of dollars. The metal was so near the surface that wherever the turf was removed, filaments of native silver adhered to the roots of the grasses.

These mines surround and underlie the town of Micuipampa, near 12,000 feet above the sea, where water freezes nearly every night throughout the year.

The other more important silver mines of Peru are those of Hualanca, Lucanas, and Huantajaya. Gold is found in most of the mountain passes, and many of the rivers from the Andes wash down auriferous sands. It is very difficult to obtain any exact knowledge of the amount annually obtained. The

business of washing the sands, and, indeed, of mining for both metals, is pursued to a great extent by the Indians, frequently with much secrecy, without capital or machinery, and the product smuggled out of the country, to avoid the payment of the government duties levied at the mints, which some years ago amounted to 74 per cent. on the value of all silver returned.

The wide distribution of the precious metals throughout the sierras of Peru, the deposits of silver oftentimes lying very near the surface, together with the wild and sparsely settled character of the country, and the want of a wholesome administration of the laws, facilitate an irregular system of mining and a contraband traffic in the proceeds. Perhaps not one-half of the gold obtained, and not more than two-thirds of the silver, are returned to the mint. The actual proceeds of the mines are to some extent, therefore, a matter of conjecture, the value of any estimate depending very much upon a familiar knowledge of the country and of the character and habits of its population.

In the five years from 1797 to 1801 the coinage of the mint at Lima amounted to $26,032,653, of which $2,322,667 were gold and $23,709,986 silver, being about $5,300,000 per annum.

In the five preceding years it had amounted to an annual average of $6,000,000. In 1800 the mint coined $378,596 in gold and $4,399,409 in silver ; or $4,778,005 in both metals. The total product for that year, including contraband, has generally been estimated at 400,000 pounds of silver and 2,400 pounds of gold, worth, at $16 a pound for silver and $225 for gold, $6,940,000.

Between the commencement and the middle of the century the coinage of the mint varied considerably, the smallest returns being from 1820 to 1830, since which last-named date an improvement has been manifest, which, with occasional interruptions, has been continued, it is believed, to the present time. In estimating the produce of the mines for the forty-four years commencing with 1804 and ending with 1847, the average adopted by Humboldt at the beginning of the century, of $6,240,000 per annum, would appear to be too high. The British consul at Lima, Mr. Belford Wilson, reported to his government that the quantity of silver smelted under official inspection for the thirty-six years from 1804 to 1839 amounted to the value of $119,853,494, or an annual average of $3,329,264. As this represents the quantity of the metal passing under official notice, and upon which the government duty was paid, the necessity of adding a proportionate amount for contraband, in order to obtain the actual product, is as obvious as in the case of the coinage returns, and the ratio of Duport in reference to the silver product of Mexico would seem to be equally proper in the case of Peru. Adding one-fourth to the amount returned would make the yearly product $4,161,580 for the districts included in the reports of the British consul. For the districts not so included, he estimated an annual yield of 100,000 marcs. We will, however, for greater safety, assume a product of 60,000 marcs at nine dollars per marc, and call the annual yield of silver throughout the whole of Peru, from 1804 to 1839, $1,700,000. In 1845 Chevalier estimated the product of Peru in silver at 300,000 pounds, troy, worth at $9 40 per marc, of Castile, about $4,600,000, or $100,000 less, it will be seen, than the above average for the thirty-six years. As mining operations in that country have for a long time been subject to continual fluctuations, but upon the whole varying but little in long periods of fifteen or twenty years, we will adopt the estimate of $4,700,000 as the average silver product for the whole period of sixty-four years from 1804 to the end of 1867.

The product then, for the 44 years ending with 1847, would be $206,800,000, and for the 20 subsequent years $94,000,000, and for the 64 years $300,000,000. The average here assumed is about $1,000,000 less than the estimated silver product at the time of Humboldt's visit, in 1802, but since that period many of the old Spanish families, by whose enterprise and capital mining operations had been mainly conducted, have left the country. Many of the most productive

« PreviousContinue »