Gold mining involves the science, technology, and business of the discovery of gold, in addition to its removal and sale in the marketplace. Gold may be found in many places, most commonly rock but even sea water; in very small quantities. More often it is found in greater quantities in veins associated with igneous rocks, rocks created by heat such as quartzite.
Since the costs can be high in the exploration and removal of gold from the hard rock mines, large companies are created in order to raise the money necessary for the development of the mines, rather than the solitary individual or small group associated with placer mining.
Mining for gold is only worthwhile financially where there is a significant concentration of it found in ore. The fixed price of gold in 1934 increased from $20.67 U.S. to $35 U.S. per troy ounce. This price remained fixed until 1968 which discouraged hard rock mining for gold because increased inflation (which raised the cost of mining production) prevented the mining companies from making a profit.
Before hard rock mining operations have even begun, companies explore areas where gold may be found and scientifically analyse the rock. The actual gold originates deep within the earth in places called pockets. These pockets are filled with gold, heavy ore, and quartz. If enough gold is discovered in the ore, the technological process of hard rock mining begins.
First, miners dig a tunnel into the solid rock. During the 1930s, miners working for the companies dug these tunnels by hand, a very labour-intensive undertaking. Miners often risked their health, digging with picks and shovels during long shifts in these dark, damp tunnels, building the shafts and carting out the ore.
Most injuries underground involved falling rock, slips, and explosions, but the workers also had to inhale dust into their lungs in this era before safety regulations, safety equipment, and improved ventilation. The miners were willing to take the risks in order to provide for their families.
Midlake Tunnel, wpH269
The intersection Midlake Tunnel and raise in the Island Mountain Mine 1936 wpH269
The gold milling process may be broken down into three basic procedures:
(1) Sorting the ore by size
(2) Crushing the rock
(3) Extracting the gold