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The State of Nevada has last year taken the lead, for the first time, in the production of the precious metals, outstripping even California. This result is due partly to the increased productiveness of the Comstock mines, and partly to the great prosperity of the Eureka and Meadow Valley districts. The figures of Wells, Fargo & Co. probably cover the whole production, since in this State practically all the movements of bullion are made by express or are easily ascertainable by the express-agents.
Mr. John J. Valentine, general superintendent of the bullion department of Wells, Fargo & Co.'s Express, has furnished the following important statement of the bullion product in the State of Nevada:
This agrees well, on the whole, with the returns made to me from the different districts; but it is impossible to make comparison in details, since the above table contains many items referred to the point of shipment, rather than the place of production. In making up the general statement quoted in the introductory letter to this report, Mr. Valentine has added $300,000, (I presume for amounts carried by private hands,) making the whole product of the State $22,477,046. The yield for 1872 will be still greater, as the most recent developments on the Comstock have largely increased its productiveness.
THE COMSTOCK MINES.
The history of these mines during the year has been one of unexpected improvement and unexampled speculation. At the beginning of 1871 the Crown Point had opened a body of ore on the 1,100-foot level, six feet in width. It is said that the section of the mine where this discovery took place had never been prospected from the 300-foot level down. The 1,100-foot level in this mine is about 1,700 feet below the highest point of the Comstock outcrop at the Gould and Curry shaft. The stock of the company had been, during the autumn of 1870, as low as $3 per share; but it advanced in January to $41, in February to $55, in March to $160, in April to $195, in May to $310, and in June to $340. At the beginning of June Mr. A. Hayward, already the representative of 6,300 out of the 12,000 shares, bought 4,100 shares at $300. At this time the ore-body was known to be 80 feet wide, 200 feet long, and 100 feet deep, as far as followed. By October it was known that this body was 270 feet long within the Crown Point ground, and that on the 1,200
foot level it extended 70 feet farther north than in the level above. 1,300-foot level was also opened in it, and the incline was vigorously pushed ahead. The assays of the ore were very high, ranging up to $150 for large quantities. By the early part of this year the mine was able to keep six mills in operation, reducing daily 375 tons of ore. The gross product, as will be seen from the tables given below, rose from $125,574 in the first, to $719,121 in the second, $526,565 in the third, and $599,623 in the fourth quarter of 1871.
A late account (January 13, 1872) thus describes the appearance of the mine:
Cross-cut in the 1,200 level is in 82 feet, all the way in very fine ore; face of it shows ore that will mill $60 per ton. No sign of the east wall has yet made its appearance. The south drift, same level, is in from the cross-cut 60 feet; the entire distance in ore that will mill at least $80. It is yet 80 feet on the line of the vein from the face of this drift to the Belcher north line. The 1,100 level is yielding its usual quantity and quality of ore. There yet remain a little over two-fifths of the superficial area of the ore-body on this level to be worked. The breast on the 1,000 level shows marked improvement as the Belcher line is approached. The superintendent judges that the ore on this level would mill on an average $35 to $40 per ton. There has been but little work done above the track-floor on this level. On the 900 level no ore of value is found.
The position of this body led at once to the expectation of its southerly continuance into the Belcher mine, the stock of which began to advance in consequence. On the 26th of March, the water in the shaft was about 26 feet above the 850-foot level, and they commenced hoisting water. In July they were at work on that level, in promising quartz, supposed to be the extension of the Crown Point body. This body was soon completely developed and recognized, and in August 680 tons from it were worked, yielding $77 per ton. It was found" in force" on the 1,100-foot level, and followed on that level for more than 100 feet before the middle of September. The stock of the company had risen meanwhile from $8 in January to $285 September 15. Before the end of that month it had reached $405. The Crown Point and Belcher body, as explored up to the first of October, was 533 feet in length, 50 to 70 feet in width, and known to be 300 feet in depth; that is, beginning at the 900-foot level. The ore from the Belcher proved singularly rich in gold, the bars running from 88 to 96 thousandths of gold, while those of the Yellow Jacket were but .028 to .032 fine. A sample taken about November 1 from the south end of the drift (1,000-foot level) in this mine assayed, gold, $186.05; silver, $49.13. Assays of selected ore gave, gold, $9,266.52; silver, $1,394.33. The last advices from the mine during 1871 were as follows:
December 2: The shaft is retimbered within 290 feet of the surface. The incline is down 95 feet below the 850 level. The east drift, from 900 level is in 46 feet, the face showing low-grade ore, but improving as they go east. The sill-floor on 1,100 level is 135 feet in length; the face is 60 feet in width and in very fair ore, assaying $70 to $100. The south drift is in 250 feet and still in good ore; the cross-cut from this point is in 10 feet, the face of it hard porphyry. The pay streak at this point is 15 feet in width, and will assay $80 on an average. The east cross-cut from south winze, 30 feet down, is in 32 feet; the face shows good ore, showing thus far 13 feet of ore, which assays $106. The north winze is down 34 feet, and in good ore. The raise is up 44 feet. Have made cross-cut to the west from top of raise 36 feet, the face of it in good ore. During November 5,664 tons of ore were shipped to mills.
December 16: The main shaft is now retimbered to within 267 feet of the surface. The incline is down 114 feet below the 850-foot level; the ground still remains hard The incline is timbered up 119 feet above the 850 level, leaving 31 feet to be timbered to connect with the main shaft at 700 level. The cross-cut from south drift on 900 level is in 61 feet; the face shows good milling-ore, assaying from $60 to $100. On the 1,110 level the south drift is in 275 feet from north line; the face still in good ore, which assays $100 to $150. Have commenced to sink a winze in south drift, 243 feet south of north line, or 95 feet ahead of stope. Since last report have continued east
cross-cut No. 2 from south drift. Drove through four feet of hard, barren material and got into good ore again this morning, which bids fair to be extensive. This cross-cut is 250 feet south of north line. The sill-floor is 158 feet in length, and we are working 50 feet in width and good ore still east of us. The breast looks splendid. The north winze is down 62 feet and looking well. Average assays $75.
The product of the mine for the four quarters of the year 1871 was: First quarter, $1,034.50; second quarter, no returns; third quarter, $212,038.56; fourth quarter, $985,848.31. There is no doubt that the value of this and the Crown Point mine will go still higher. The Virginia City Enterprise, of January 11, thus speaks of the mine, and it is not surprising that, in view of such developments, the stock should at that time have stood at $500, against $8 in January of the previous year:
This splendid mine has never looked better than at present. Throughout a length of 320 feet, every stope, cross-cut and opening of any kind on the great pay-deposit, shows magnificent ore. The north winze, now being sunk on the 1,100-foot level, is now down 135 feet. It descends at an angle of 40 degrees, and is all the way in ore of exceeding richness-ore, the average assays of which are from $150 to $200. On the ninth level of the old mine, where the ore-body has been cut through, the pay-ground is found to be 30 feet in width and very rich. Thus the deposit is seen to have width and depth as well as length. As yet we are unable to give the yield for the past month in exact figures, but it will vary but little either way from $325,000. Of this amount $200,000 may be set down as net profit. Taking into consideration stoppage of the mills and consequent falling off in the quantity of ores reduced, the showing for the month ought to be satisfactory to the stockholders. The future of the mine cannot be otherwise than brilliant. The company now have on hand over $700,000 in coin and supplies of all kinds in immense quantities. Besides the stores at the mine, they now have (paid for) in Carson City, timbers and lumber to the value of $17,000. Add to this the fact that all the ore-breasts throughout the mine are looking splendid, and that an immense body of ore has been explored and is now in sight ready to be raised, and we can see that all that has yet been done is as nothing when compared with what can now be accomplished. A very considerable increase in the working force employed in the extraction of ore will be made to-day, and should the weather prove favorable for the transportation and reduction of ores for the remainder of the month, we may look for a big yield for January.
The increase of the proportion of gold in the ore from the deepest levels of the Belcher and Crown Point is attended by a return in the appearance of the ore to the type made familiar in earlier years by the rich black sulphuret bodies of upper levels in the Gould and Curry, Ophir, and Mexican mines. This tends to remove the apprehension expressed in my former reports that the character of ore might change in depth, assuming a predominance of refractory base-metal_minerals. Baron Richthofen's expectation of more widely disseminated lowgrade ore in depth is likewise partially contradicted by this discovery; though it may hereafter be found that such low-grade ores do exist at these deep levels. In fact, the study of the ore-bodies on the Comstock hitherto has been mainly a study of excavations; and the portions of the vein which were not extracted are not usually laid down on the maps as ore-bearing at all. This naturally leads us to overlook connections between different ore-bodies which may nevertheless exist.
South of the Belcher, the principal activity has been in the Overman and Caledonia mines. In the former, a new vertical shaft, on the east side of the vein, necessitated by increasing depth of workings, has been in progress. It was down 500 feet February 14, 1872.
The Caledonia is claimed to be the farthest south of the mines on the Comstock. Whether it is actually on that vein or not, it has been worked with considerable activity during the year, producing 18,836 tons of low-grade ore, of the gross value of $244,890. This was formerly ealled the American Mining Company.
The Succor is a mine in Gold Cañon, about one and a half miles from Crown Point. It is supposed by some to be upon a vein east of the
Comstock, and by others to occupy a branch, or even the main continuation of the Comstock, which, they claim, has been warped in that direction. It is reported as producing, during the first three quarters of 1871, 8,400 tons of ore, of the gross value of $105,940. The San Francisco Stock Report says of this mine, (March 10, 1871 :)
We learn that the main tunnel is in 1,250 feet, and was in ore that paid a profit over expenses for the whole distance; an upper tunnel is in 570 feet, and was also in ore all the way. The lower tunnel is connected with this by an upraise. From the upper tunnel a raise has been made to the surface, thus connecting the lower tunnel with the surface. These raises have demonstrated the fact that ore exists the whole distance, from the surface to the lower tunnel, which is over 500 feet. An incline has been sunk from the surface (1,000 feet from the mouth of the tunnel) to a depth of 140 feet, and was in ore all the way. This incline will intersect the tunnel 1,000 feet from its mouth. Still further to the east of the incline are good croppings that extend to the eastern boundary of the mine. On the opposite (or west side) of Gold Cañon, a shaft has been sunk 180 feet, and a drift is being run which will cut the Succor ledge at a depth of 140 feet below the lower tunnel on the east side of the cañon. The ore that is being extracted from the mine mills about $15 per ton, while the cost of mining it is only $1 and milling $6 per ton, thus leaving a profit of $8. The first ore crushed in Nevada came from this mine, and was milled at the Pioneer mill in 1859. From the proceeds of this mine they have been enabled to build a mill of the capacity of crushing 35 tons daily, 4 Stevenson's pans, and pay for all prospecting, improvements, and mining that have been done. The past sixteen months' workings have returned $226,000. The dip of White ledge is east and runs northerly and southerly, being the same course as that of the Comstock, and is in a direct line with the new shafts of the Hale and Norcross, Savage, Chollar-Potosi, and others, and many mining experts have set forth the assertions, based upon thorough knowledge of the dip and course of the Comstock lode, that this White ledge is on the lode.
The Kentuck mine, north of Crown Point, has at last been able to extract ore from the section of the mine burned out by the fire of April, 1869. The rock in May, 1871, was still so hot in many places as to burn the naked hand. The timbers were found to be converted into charcoal. The Yellow Jacket developed a body of ore in the north drifts of the 1,000 and 1,100-foot levels during the spring and summer of 1871, and maintained a steady production of ore. The price of the stock was comparatively free from fluctuations during the year. The main incline of this mine has reached the level of the proposed Sutro Tunnel.
The Chollar-Potosi produced during the year 59,535 tons of ore, of the gross value of $2,067,827. The year ending July 1, 1871, was the most profitable in the history of the mine; but the great falling off in product during the remainder of 1871 indicates the rapid exhaustion of reserves. The product for each quarter was as follows: First quarter, $820,295; second quarter, $770,347; third quarter, $287,175; fourth quarter, $189,909.
The operations of the Hale and Norcross are described at length in the extract from the superintendent's report, given below.
In the Savage, a new body of ore was discovered, about the beginning of the year, in the 335-foot level. It is said that this body, which contained a large amount of low-grade ($23) ore, was strangely overlooked in former workings. Mr. Bonner, when superintendent of this mine, "drifted square up to it and struck the clay inclosing it, then 'raised' for a few feet along the clay, and stopped work without ever cutting through." The old Potosi chimney was also worked to some extent; but the operations of the mine were not specially profitable, as will be seen by the report of the superintendent, who declared in July that, so far as could then be seen, the mine was exhausted of paying ore. But the discovery of rich ore in the 1,400-foot level, on the 2d of February, 1872, has put a new face on affairs. Full particulars of this discovery are not at hand, but its significance is certainly very great.
I quote the following remarks upon it from the San Francisco Stock Report:
That the strike should occur in this mine is of far greater importance and value to base the belief upon that other mines will strike it eventually, than if the discovery should have been made in some mine more contiguous to the Crown Point. Adjacent to it on the north is the Gould and Curry, and on the south the Hale and Norcross. Further south is the Chollar-Potosi, and most of the other mines that are speculated in, and called Washoe stocks. The development of ore in the Belcher, and its discovery in the Savage, is the finding of a paying vein almost at what has been considered the two extremities of the lode. Between these two mines are located the most of the mines that have ever paid dividends, and the importance of the development aids to substantiate the belief that this lode is more likely to be a continuous than an irregular, broken body. The Crown Point's rich body was met at a depth of about 1,200 feet, although ore of a low grade was discovered 900 feet down, and that of the Savage is met at 1,400. The declivity of the hill is so great that the Savage mine, or where their new shaft is located, is about 200 feet higher than the Crown Point, and it would be adduced from this fact, that if the country where these mines are located was a level plain, instead of a hilly formation, these two mines would have struck ore at about the same depth. The continuity of this body may continue up to the Sierra Nevada mine, as lately in this claim a vein of metalliferous quartz has been discovered, similar to that found in the mines located on the Comstock lode proper-the walls composed of porphyry and clay. This new deposit goes as high as $29 in silver, and considerable free gold is perceptible in the rock. This claim is situated about one mile above the Ophir, and is at the extreme end of where any mining operations have ever been carried on. It has been a question of doubt, ever since silver has been discovered in that country, as to where this silver lode begins and ends. For several years back its terminus has been placed at about the Ophir mine; but these calculations are now apt to be upset by this recent discovery. Between the Ophir and Sierra Nevada mines there is a very large section of country that has never been worked at any great depth. An impetus will now be given to prospect this virgin ground, and who can foretell what the result will be?
The operations in the Gould and Curry comprised the retimbering of between 400 and 500 feet of the shaft in which the timbers were more or less decayed, and the continuation of explorations, which resulted, up to the close of 1871, in no discoveries of importance. The product of the mine was 1,713 tons in the first quarter, gross value, $34,946, and 345 tons in the third quarter, gross value, $12,074. This product is from bodies of ore in upper levels.
From the foregoing brief outline of some of the more important operations, it will be seen that the prospects of the Comstock mines for the immediate future are most brilliant. According to the Alta California the ore-bodies in Crown Point and Belcher contain at least $90,000,000; and this enormous value, together with the circumstance of their discov ery at the greatest depth attained, will undoubtedly lead to more extensive prospecting, as well as largely increased production.
In view of the large amounts of low-grade ore which remain, and other bodies of low grades which are continually discovered in the mines, the question of the price of labor becomes important, though the richer discoveries, by restoring to some of the companies the prosperity which has heretofore rendered them careless of this question, may postpone its reasonable solution. The president of the Hale and Norcross, in his annual report, gives the following statement, showing the reduction of all expenses, except that of labor, within the four years preceding 1871: