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585RE: An Introduction, and a Question

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  • Loren Miller
    Apr 16, 2008
      Yes I worked underground for 2 companies. I was hired as a welder, but in this business in this area for small companies, everybody learns everything. I learned a bit about the geology, drilling blasting and what to do with the aftermath. The Original 16 to One mine in Allegheny, Ca, which is to date the oldest continuously working gold mine in the U.S. was what we call a pocket mine. This is because the gold occurred in pockets. We would mine tons of beautiful white quartz and find nothing in it. This as well as whatever rock we blew up was called waste rock, and would be either backfilled into the stopes we mined out, or removed to the surface and screened, and then sold as road rock. When the quartz is exposed to the air, it turns brown. Since the gold only occurs in the quartz, it only makes sense to mine that. Mining is expensive and we would only want to mine what potentially has gold in it, however, sometimes we would have to drift through bedrock, which in our case was basalt to get to suspected quartz veins. In the case of the Empire Mine in Grass Valley, a couple of years ago, men from our crew tunneled a drift some 800 feet to the main shaft so tourists could walk a level path into the deeper part of the main winze. (A winze is a shaft that is not vertical, a drift is a tunnel that is horizontal.) That project was all waste rock, and a lot of dirt. In any case, most mines around here were similar in that the tailings that were suspected to have no potential for gold would be tossed over the easiest hill from the portal as the least amount of money would be spent on it's disposal. If you look around you can find mine portals and estimate the size based upon the mountain of tailings that cascade down from the portal. Most of these will be that dark gray color, which you will find also to be the color of the ballast. Quartz does not usually have the structural integrity to be ballast because it crumbles easy. Basalt is very tough stuff and consumes drill bits, and much explosives to break it, as well, it holds up to the rigors of supporting railroad ties, doesn't break easily under the weight of heavy rolling stock and stays put due to it's sharp edges. It is likely to be the ballast of choice for any railroad in this area because it is already broken, crushed, and FREE. The closest mine to the railroad with a huge pile of tailings would be a welcome resource to the railroad company. The mine of course would love to have the problem of getting rid of the tailings handled so this would have been a marriage "set in stone" Excuse the pun. Anyway, if you have the google earth program, you can search the area and find much of what you are looking for. Also, you will probably find similar rock used for ballast at any California rail roadbed. Try the SP lines in your area. On another note, for history's sake, and the history of the SP, my great grandfather used to engineer the cab forward ACs from Colfax to Reno. We have the last one of them in the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento when you are in the area. Quite an impressive museum. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=668 Also, look up the 16 to one mine, as they have by far, the best underground gold mine tour in the U.S. http://www.origsix.com/ and then there is this site if you haven't seen it yet: http://www.ncngrrmuseum.org/index.html?0.2172240024588714
      To: NCNGRR@yahoogroups.com
      From: dennisivison@...
      Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2008 05:01:17 +0000
      Subject: Re: <NevadaCoNG> An Introduction, and a Question


      Thank you for the input. Did you work underground? I've been a

      firefighter for 23 years and have been in some very dark, tight

      places, but when I looked down that mine shaft and thought of being a

      mile underground I have to admit that it made my legs wobble!

      I looked around for some tailings at some of the mine sites that we

      visited and couldn't tell if any of the rocks were tailings. We saw

      all of the colors that you mentioned, as well as some very dark brown

      quartz. I took some pictures of each, you know just in case. I

      thought of taking some samples, but don't like to "borrow" from

      historical sites. We have a hard enough time preserving what little

      history we have left already. When I modeled the Espee in Arizona a

      large part of the layout was devoted to copper mining & smelting. I

      have a retired friend (we were partners for 10+ years) that lives

      down there, and one time after a phone conversation, I had a package

      show-up via USPS. It was about 10 lbs of copper mine tailings; he had

      sifted it down to fine grains and everything! The note told me where

      he got them, and I suspect that they were probably a mix of tailings

      and slag...great stuff, I hope he didn't use his wife's flour sifter.

      For awhile I was reluctant to use them, or even touch them! I still

      have a bunch of that stuff left. I'm not suggesting that anyone send

      me another bag of dirt, just knowing the color would be great. If all

      else fails I'll go with the basalt, it makes the most sense. But, you

      all know what'll happen´┐Ż..as soon as the last section of ballast

      dries someone will post a picture´┐Żand I'll have guessed wrong.

      Thanks again,


      In NCNGRR@yahoogroups.com, Loren Miller <rioting@...> wrote:



      > Interesting. I live here and have actually worked in the gold mines

      of the area. Most of the hard rock mines are a quartz vein in basalt

      and/or serpentine. The basalt is dark gray, the serpentine a mottled

      green but has no structural integrity. I have not seen the actual

      ballast from the ncngrr, nor the tailings from the mine you

      mentioned. Perhaps somebody can tell you better, but I have seen

      nothing but gray to dark gray ballast on any tracks here in Northern

      California, and the basalt is quite hard, has sharp edges and stays

      put as it locks into place. It is also used on many dirt roads here

      for the same reasons ans in the quarry industry that sells it for

      that purpose, it is called "mine rock" for obvious reasons. I hope

      that helps some. Other people here may have better info and more

      accurate having done much closer research to the actual ncngrr

      tracks, pictures, etc.

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