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January 15, 1878. DEAR SIR: The collection of mining statistics is a subject which has occupied much of my time and thoughts during the past twenty-five years, and I cheerfully assent to your request for a statement of my views in regard to the mining department of the United States census, and the conditions which prevail in our own country in reference to the development of our mineral resources and the statistical setting forth of the nation's progress in this branch of industry.
Before commencing, allow me to make a brief statement of my own claims to be heard in reference to these questions, that I may not be thought to have a desire to intrude opinions not based on a considerable amount of investigation and personal acquaintance with the subject I propose to discuss.
In 1854 I published the “Metallic Wealth of the United States, Described and Compared with that of Other Countries," a work based on six years of investigation of the principal mining districts of the United States, a part of this time having been spent by me in a detailed exploration, under United States authority, of the copper and iron regions of Lake Superior, then the most important mining district in this country.
The volume to which I refer was intended to be especially statistical, and in it I gave, as the result of laborious compilation, the statistics of the metallic production of all the other countries in the world, from the earliest periods for which information could be obtained. The tabular statements thus prepared have been again and again copied into the leading mining publications of the world, and in various encyclopedias, and appear to have been accepted as the best which could be produced from accessible data. Since 1854 I have been almost constantly engaged in official State surveys in mining regious, and have extended my explorations over nearly the whole area of the United States, besides having made several visits to Europe, during which I have had the opportunity of becoming acquainted with mining schools, mining processes, and mining legislation on that side of the Atlantic. I have also collected a very complete library of works devoted to mining statistics. During the past three or four years I have given instruction on the subject of economical geology in Harvard College, so that I have had an opportunity of reviewing to some extent the material collected by me in this department since 1845. If, therefore, I seem to speak in this communication with some confidence in the truth and justice of my views, I trust that you will take into consideration the fact that this branch is one in which I consider myself a specialist, and that I am not discussing matters which I have not carefully studied.
I propose in this communication, having thus, as above, set forth my claims to be heard by you, to discuss the following topics:
First. The importance of an accurate knowledge of our mining resources, and of our progress in their development.
Second. What other countries have done and are doing in this department.
Third. What we have done in the way of a statistical setting forth of our own mining interests.
Fourth. What can be done to remedy defects and lead to improved results in the collection and dissemination of information in regard to the progress made by the nation in this branch of its industry.
1st. The importance of an accurate knowledge of our mineral resources, and of our progress in their derelopment.
It seems hardly necessary to delay on this point, for whatever reasons will apply to the collecting of the statistics of any branch of the national wealth and industry will certainly apply equally to our mineral resources. There are, however, special conditions comected with the business of mining which make it peculiarly desirable and pecuniarily important that a most careful watch should be kept over this department of our industry-more than over any other. This has been long recognized and acted on by most civilized governments, as will be seen farther on in this paper..
Mineral deposits of every kind stand on an entirely different basis from all other industrial resources. The products of the soil, if once destroyed, will again be replaced by the bounteous hand of nature. Forests, however recklessly cut down, will in time grow up again. The soil may be exhausted by the improvident farmer, but its fertility may be regained by skillful treatment. The mineral treasures of the earth, on the other hand, are there once for all; and if wasted in the removal or destroyed by reck
less or unskilled management they are gone forever. And the temptation to sacrifice the future to the present is in new countries often very great. Abundant instances might be given illustrating these statements if time permitted. Let it be sufficient, for the present, to say that in some important portions of our coal-mining districts more than 40 per cent. of the original stock of the precious material has already been lost by careless or reckless mining.
It is for reasons like these that in all civilized countries, almost without exception, the mineral deposits, as well as the operations of the miner and metallurgist, have always been under the strict control of the government. Thoroughly educated and honest officials watch every step of the processes, from the first selection of the ground up to the final preparation of the mineral or metal for the market. A large proportion of the element of uncertainty, always more or less present in mining operations, is thus eliminated, and the waste of what is really a part of the national treasure is as far as possible prevented. As a very essential part of this watchful care over the public interests, the collection of mining statistics has been long recognized by the principal governments of Europe as of the greatest importance. I will now, therefore, briefly set forth what is being done in this direction by some of those countries which we are accustomed to consider as being the most advanced in their intellectual development, and which are precisely those where the mining interests have been most carefully looked after.
2d. Collection of mining statistics by other countries than our own.
Of all the governments of Europe the Prussian seems to stand at the head in the perfection of its mining statistics, and the punctuality and promptness with which they are made public. The Prussian mining statistics are published in the “ Zeitschrift für das Berg-, Hütten-, und Salinen wesen im Preussischen Staate" (The Journal of the Mining, Metallurgical, and Saline Interests of the Prussian Government.) This journal is published under the direction of the ministry of commerce, mechanic art, and public works. (Ministerium für Handel, Gewerbe und öffentliche Arbeiten.) It is in quarto form, and six numbers appear each year, accompanied by a folio atlas of illustrative plates. Four of the numbers are usually occupied with details of official legislation and management (Verwaltung) of the mining interests, together with vari. ous articles written by the government mining officials or other skilled specialists, in which new mining or metallurgical processes are described and discussed, not only such as have been invented or introduced into Prussia, but also those which have been proposed in other countries. In fact, the range of these articles is wide, and embraces everything which bears on the progress of the mining art or the welfare of the miner himself. The remaining two numbers are devoted to statistics, and contain the most full and complete setting forth of everything which has been done during the previous year in the way of mining and metallurgical production throughout the country. The amount of detail with which this information is presented is indeed remarkable. Take the article coal, for instance. We have in the first place a statistical exhibition in figures of the following items, given separately for each chief mining district (Ober bergamts bezirk) and for each subdivision of the same: First, the number of establishments (Werke,) whether productive, non-productive, or producing coal in connection with other minerals; second, the weight and value of the coal produced in each each mining district and subdistrict; third, the amount and value of the coal thus raised which is consumed at the mine, in running the machinery, &c., and including that which is lost in handling; fourth, number, age, and sex of persons employed, whether above or under ground, and the number of persons included in their families or supported by them. So much in figures. Fifth, a discussion, with a statistical review for each district and subdistrict, of progress made, or the contrary, during the year, as compared with the preceding year or years, and an investigation of the causes which have led to increase or decrease of production. The same thing is done for each one of the metals, as well as for the economically valuable mineral substances not included under the head of coal or metals. The metallurgical treatment of the ores is also handled in the same elaborate manner, the quality of ore treated being given, as well as the weight and value of the metal obtained therefrom, with similar discussions as to causes of gain or loss in production for each district and subdistrict. Furthermore, the number of miners injured or killed in each district and subdistrict is given, with a statement in each case of the causes of such accidents, and, when necessary, a discussion of the facts with reference to possible improvements in machinery or management. Finally, a complete statistical account of the miners' benevolent and mitual protective associations, and of their financial condition, is given. The whole body of information thus given enables any one to see almost at a glance just what the condition of the development of the mining and metallurgical interests of Prussia was during the preceding year, and how it compared with the general average of progress or with the figures given for any previous period. This fullness of detail goes back for about twenty-five years, the publication of the official “ Zeitschrift" having been begun in 1852.
The systematic government inspection and management of the mining interests in France date back to the year 1781, which was the year of the institution of the Corpus
des Mines. An official record of the doings of the Corps des Mines has been published regularly, in two volumes a year, ever since 1794, first under the name of the Journal des Mines, and since 1816 as the Annales des Mines. These volumes contain all the official legislation in regard to the mining and metallurgical interests of France, together with a great mass of valuable information relating to the working of mines and the geological mode of occurrence of minerals and ores in every part of the world, information collected by the official mining engineers for the use of the government. The series of the Annales des Mines form the most important contribution to mining and metallurgical science which exists. The statistics of French mining industry are not given in the Annales des Mines, but in a separate series of volumes, which are not published annually, but at intervals of a few years. In these, however, the statistics are worked up for each year and for each mining district with much fullness of detail, although not equal to the Prussian in this respect.
Most other states of Europe furnish in printed form, at regular intervals, statistical statements of mineral development. It will not be necessary to give detail in regard to their publications. Something may, however, be said in regard to the English publications in this line, since England is a country which, from the mining point of view, resembles our own in some respects, and especially in that the surveillance of such enterprises is much less minute than it usually is on the continent. Great Britain stands at the head of all the countries in the world in respect to quality and value of its mineral and mining productions. In both coal and iron, the two great articles of mining production, she not only surpasses all other countries taken singly, but even almost equals them all unitedly. The annual produce of iron for the whole world is about 14,000,000 tons, of which Great Britain produces a little less than half. Of coal, the produce of the world is about 275,000,000 tons; that of Great Britain, about 135,000,000.
In Great Britain, the relations of the government to themining interest are much less direct than on the continent, and are in the main limited to police regulations, having for their object the safety of the men employed and the limitation of the hours of labor for women and children. Until within comparatively a recent period, the collection of mining statistics had been decidedly neglected and the mining business rather left to take care of itself. The great exhibition of 1851 in London revealed to the English some of their deficiencies as compared with their continental neighbors, and we have as a result a much more decided fostering on the part of the government of the mining interests than previously existed, as has been shown by the establishment of a museum of practical geology and of a mining school, and by the systematic collection of mining statistics, commenced in an incomplete way in 1848, but greatly expanded and systematized in 1855. In this last-named year the first attempt at a complete record of mining statistics for the United Kingdom was made, and every year since that time a volume of Mining Records has been published, giving the full returns of mining and smelting operations for the previous year. These returns, while not as complete or systematic as those of Prussia, owing to the different systems of inspection in the two countries, are yet very full, and especially in the details of the commercial aspects of the mining interests. The quantities and value of mineral and metallic substances imported and exported, with their origin and destination, are carefully recorded.
Outside of Europe there is no country where the progress of the mining interests and mining statistics are so fully reported as in Victoria, Australia. Full returns of all mining operations are published there for each district at the close of each quarter, and at the end of the year a complete summary of the year's operations is presented, giving every kind of statistical detail which could be asked for with the greatest minuteness. This is in addition to a yearly publication on the geology of the mining districts, in which the scientific aspects of the mineral deposits are discussed. The whole of the work is done under the direction of the Minister of Mines; and these publications are in every respect most creditable, and fully abreast of what is doing in the best-regulated countries in Europe.
The above will, I conceive, be sufficient to enable those interested to form an idea of the care and anxious attention to details with which the development of the mineral interests of European states is watched over by their respective governments. We have now to inquire what has been done in this country in this same direction.
3d. What has been done by the Gorernment of the United States in the way of a statistical setting forth of the progress of the derelopment of our metallic and mineral resources ?
What has been done in this line in our own country may be set forth under two heads: First, the work of the Census Bureau ; second, that of the Commissioner of Mining Statistics.
Up to within a quite recent time there has been no other source of statistical information of an official character than the United States decennial census. Nor is there any other at the present time. The office of Commissioner of Mining Statistics may still exist, but no appropriation has been made for two years for its support, as will be noticed further on. Hence it may be said that we are now, or we mostly have been
reduced to a statement made once in ten years for our knowledge of the progress of our mining interests. The census statements are also given in simple figures, without explanatory note or discussion. On the very face of it, our deficiencies are very great in this department, for that we should have only once in ten years, and then not until several years after the decade has elapsed, a summary of our mining statistics, is, as every one must admit, entirely an inadequate provision to meet our wants. But our condition is much worse than this, for it may be unhesitatingly asserted that our census statistics relating to mining and metallurgy are so deficient and so misleading that they are much worse than nothing. They not only give no trustworthy information on any point, but they actually misrepresent often in the most extraordinary degree, and in such a way that the erroneous nature of the statements can only be discovered by experts, or by those who are personally familiar with the details of the mining industry of the particular locality specified.
In proof of this assertion, I will confine myself to statements relating only to the last two censuses, viz, those of 1860 and 1870. The older ones are confessedly so imperfect and inadequate that they need not be noticed, and I will refer for the census of 1860 to a paper of my own, published in the third volume of the “Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences" (1863,) entitled “On the Inaccuracy of the Eighth Census, so far as it relates to the Metallic and Mineral Statistics of the United States." A copy of this paper is appended to this communication, so that any further reference to the census of 1860 is unnecessary. It need only be repeated that the statements in the publications of this census in regard to our mining interests are often utterly incorrect; that they are in every respect deficient, entirely omitting some of the most important metals, and that the discussion of the data obtained exhibits such an ignorance of the matters treated as to be positively ludicrous.
It seems hardly polite or proper to be finding fault with the census of 1870 in a communication addressed to the Superintendent of that census. Yet, under the circumstances, and in view of the fact that in the published volumes of that work attention is called to the very defects which I here have to deplore, I trust that my remarks on the subject will appear justified, since I feel sure that they are not actuated by any other motive than a sincere desire that there may be some improvement in this department of the government statistical work.
I have repeatedly examined the census of 1870 with a view to obtaining information in regard to our advance in mining and metallurgy, and each time I have been forced to admit that it is a perfectly worthless and misleading work. In the first place, the system itself of reporting the facts obtained is utterly wrong. The idea that any accurate information can be obtained from columns of values is a fallacious one, and doubly so under the system prevailing in 1870, and still not abandoned, of a fluctuating paper currency. I can nowhere discover in the Census Report whether the values given are to be taken in depreciated paper money or whether they are reduced to a gold basis. Furthermore, no clew is given as to whether the values stated are those current at the locality specified, or at the nearest market, or at a central market like London or New York; nor is the day nor even the month stated when such valuation was made; and yet the fluctuations in the metals are great and often extremely rapid. It is not necessary to illustrate this by figures, for every one familiar with the subject is perfectly aware of the truth of these statements.
But, furthermore, the value of the products of a mine-that is, of the ore taken from the ground-is not usually known to the miner until such ore has been smelted or in some way reduced to the metallic form. Hence the valuation of the ore as taken from the mine is a matter quite obscured by various uncertainties, and there is only one safe ground on which to stand in mining and metallurgy-that is, the quantity of the metal actually produced. Without this element we are completely afloat; and, in my opinion, it is not too much to say that statistics which do not give this fundamental element are worthless.
The only metal for which statistics in quantity are given in the census of 1870 is iron. In the case of gold and silver, values would be nearly equivalent to quantities, for these metals are themselves standards of value ; but in the census returns these two metals are associated together as bullion ; so that, at once, all idea of precise knowledge in regard to them must be abandoned. Indeed, the facts in regard to the production of gold, reported in the census of 1870, are to me, who was at that time, and had been for ten years previously, working in the gold region, almost unintelligible. The general result as to quantity of bullion-i. e., gold and silver-produced is evidently very much too low. As this fact has not escaped the attention of the Superintendent (see volume of Industry and Wealth, Census of 1870) it is not necessary to speak further in regard to it. It need only be stated, that to obtain the value of the bullion product by any estimate made by adding the “value added by milling” to the value of the ore as estimated is an entire impossibility. Any result obtained in that way is not so raluable as a guess made by an expert.
Apart from errors and defects of the kind which have been already pointed out, there are others for which I find it difficult to account. For instance, North Carolina is pnt down as the principal zinc-producing State of the Union, the valne of the product of the metal for that State being given, in the census of 1870, at $435,000, while that of New Jersey, a State rich in zinc mines, is put at $100,000 only. Not having been aware that North Carolina was a zinc-producing State, I wrote to the State geologist, asking him about the matter. He replied as follows: “There are no zinc-works in North Carolina."
Whenever I have been able to test the mining statistics of the census of 1870, I have found them wrong. For instance, the manufacture of salt in the State of New York is carefully controlled and registered, it being for the pecuniary interest of both the manufacturers and the State that the produce of this article should be accurately known. The census of 1870 gives 4,977,720 bushels as the product of salt for New York in that year; the published statistics of the official inspector give 8,748,115 bushels as the correct figures. The figures of the make of iron for the year 1870 are also greatly at variance with those given by the secretary of the “American Iron and Steel Association" as the result of laborious and systematic investigation and correspondence with all the manufacturing establishments in the country. No one would hesitate for a moment which of the two statements to prefer.
The above seems to me all that is necessary to be said in regard to the mining statistics of the census of 1870. I will now give some account of the work of the L'nited States Commissioner of Mining Statistics.
The first attempt made by authority of the United States toward the collection of information in regard to our mines, aside from the Census Reports and certain geological surveys of special districts, of which none have been ordered since 1847, was in the year 1866, when, under a provision of the appropriation act, the Secretary of the Treasury was authorized to employ commissioners or agents “to collect reliable statistical information concerning the gold and silver mines of the Western States and Territories." Under this authority two commissioners were appointed, one for the States east of the Rocky Mountains, the other for those west of the same. Neither of the gentlemen thus appointed had any previous professional or scientific acquiaintance with inining matters; they, however, made two reports, each of which was published in two volumes, dated 1867 and 1868. The position of United States Commissioner of Mining Statistics seems to have, after that time, been given to one person, Mr. R. W. Raymond, who made seven annual reports on matters connected with mines and mining in the States and Territories west of the Rocky Mountains, the collection of the statistics of mines east of the Cordilleras seeming to have been abandoned after Mr. Rayinond's appointment, the reasons for such abandonment never having been stated, so far as I know
The work of the Commissioner of Mining Statistics seems to have ended with the year 1874, at or about which tiine the appropriation for such purposes ceased to be made, the position being, as it appears, no longer desired by Mr. Raymond. This course of action on the part of Congress is quite in conformity with the usual method of both State and United States legislative bodies in this country-of having scientific work done, not because it is desirable for the country on general principles that such work should be done, but because somebody “wants a job,” to 118e a common but thoroughly characteristic form of expression, and because that somebody has the skill and patience to secure the passage of an act of Congress authorizing him in particular to do the work he wishes to have done and to receive the appropriated payment therefor.
The volumes published by Mr. Raymond are a mixture of some things which are good with much which is indifferent and portions which are positively bad. Their chief contents are notices of the work done in various mining districts, sometimes written expressly for the United States Commissioner, and often cut from the newspapers or reprinted from pamphlets or volumes already in circulation. Some portions of this material, however, bear evident marks of having been furnished by persons pecuniarily interested in making as good a show as possible for the mines they are describing; other parts have plainly enough come from the hands of those who were entirely untit by nature or education to accomplish what they have undertaken. So far as statistics are concerned these. volumes are almost worthless. They do not profess to furnish any except for gold and silver, and the figures given for these metals are based on those reported by Wells, Fargo & Co.'s Express. Where they differ from the published statements of the express, I have not been able to discover any sufficient reasons for such differences. I prefer myself to take the figures of the Express Company rather than those of the United States Commissioner. In short, the voluines in question are very far inferior in every respect to those published in this department by every other civilized country. They furnish no means for correlating the advance or decline of the mining interests of different regions and districts from year to year; there is neither oriler, method, nor accuracy of statement, and as statistical contributions to mining indnstry they are entirely valueless. In partial excuse for these deficiencies, the smallness of the appropriation may be alleged; and it is probably true that any attempt to limit the expenditure in any one year to a certain district of moderate area,