Quartz reef mining

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Primary gold typically occurs in quartz veins. The extraction of gold ore from these hard quartz veins was historically referred to as quartz reef mining.

A Prussian engineer, Jacob Brache was the first to think that quartz reefs might have even more gold than alluvial fields.

The new mining companies had to sink very deep mine shafts to get quartz from the reefs deep underground. Horizontal tunnels called drifts were dug out from the shaft at different levels to find the gold-bearing rock.

All rock dug out had to be hoisted to the surface. So did lots of water and even the workers at the end of the day. Big hoisting engines were installed to hoist lifts and buckets up the shafts.

On the surface above the shaft stands a building known as the headframe. This contained a wheel called a gin wheel which lifted buckets of rock up to a raised platform called a Brace. Wheeled buckets then carried the rock along elevated tracks to waste dumps or processing works. The steel cable that hoisted the bucket passed over the gin wheel.

The gold was brought to the surface as small particles embedded in lumps of quartz. The quartz was then crushed into a fine dust by stamping batteries in a stamp mill. A stamp battery contained a row of stamps. On the bottom of each stamp was a heavy piece of iron steel. Each battery was driven by a cam shaft which was turned by a water wheel. The steel shoes went up and down between wooden guides and pounded the quartz which had been fed into steel boxes underneath the stampers. Ideally the stamping batteries would work 24 hours a day.

After crushing, the quartz dust was mixed with water to make sloppy mud which then ran down sloping tables, called concentrating tables. On top of these tables were copper sheets coated with mercury, which attracts gold. The gold particles stuck to the mercury, and could be collected from there.[1]

Quartz mines[edit]

  • Victoria Quartz mine, Bendigo: In Australia, the deepest shaft used to mine a quartz reef was almost a kilometre and a half deep.
  • Central Deborah gold mine, Bendigo: The mine still stands today. It started mining in 1851 and was mined continuously for 157 years. It was a deep reef quartz goldmine. During the working life of the mine 60,000 tonnes of quartz was brought to the surface but only 1 tonne of gold extracted.
  • Gold Hill (Nevada County, California), USA: Site of one of the first discoveries of quartz gold in California,[2] and now California Historical Landmark No. 297: "...this discovery created the great excitement that started the development of quartz mining into a great industry."[3]


  1. ^ Mining Technology: Overview
  2. ^ Hittell, John Shertzer (1861). Mining in the Pacific States of North America. San Francisco: J. Wiley. p. 124. ISBN 0665167377. 
  3. ^ "NO. 297 SITE OF ONE OF THE FIRST DISCOVERIES OF QUARTZ GOLD IN CALIFORNIA". ohp.parks.ca.gov. Retrieved 2008-08-20.