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Friday, October 16, 2009

Gold Mining in South Dakota

The gold deposits of South Dakota are in the Black Hills, in the western part of the State. South Dakota ranks third among the States in total gold production and has been the leading gold producer in recent years. Its total gold production through 1965 was 31,207,892 ounces. The first documented discovery was made in 1874, during General George A. Custer's expedition to reconnoiter the Black Hills. The actual discovery is credited to two miners named Boss and McKay, who were attached to the expedition and found gold in gravel bars along French Creek. News of this discovery attracted many prospectors to the area, even though the country then belonged to the Sioux Indians who were not enthusiastic to have their domain overrun. Equally adamant in this respect was the United States Government which was bound by a treaty to keep white men out of the Black Hills. In 1875, another expedition under the direction of W. P. Jenney was sent to the Black Hills to officially report on the potential mineral wealth of the region. The French Creek discoveries were confirmed, and numerous additional occurrences of placer gold were reported. In 1876 the Black Hills were ceded to the United States, and prospectors flooded into the area and found gold in Deadwood Gulch, Nigger Hill, and Rockerville. By 1880 from 96 to $8 million worth of placer gold had been mined, about half of which came from Deadwood Gulch. The first lode claims were located in December 1875 in Precambrian rocks in the Lead district; these were later purchased to form the original holdings of the Homestake Mining Co. As the placers became depleted, the Homestake Co., through acquisition of other properties and intelligent development, became the leading operator in the Black Hills and the largest gold producer in the United States. Several smaller companies also developed gold lodes in the Deadwood, Two Bit, Garden, Bald Mountain, Squaw Creek, Hill City, and Keystone. In the early days of mining in the Black Hills substantial amounts of gold, silver, and lead were obtained from deposits in the Paleozoic rocks, but these were soon exhausted and the bulk of the gold has come from the Homestake replacement ore bodies. The main gold-producing area consists of about 100 square miles in the northern Black Hills. Seven districts have produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold; five are in Lawrence County and two, in Pennington County.
Lawrence County is in western South Dakota along the Wyoming State line. It includes much of the northern part of the Black Hills and most of the mineralized area, including the famous Homestake mine in the Lead district. Through 1959, Lawrence County produced a total of 26,386,000 ounces of gold, mostly from the Homestake mine in the Lead district. Other gold districts that have yielded more than 10,000 ounces are the Deadwood-Two Bit, Garden, Bald Mountain, and Squaw Creek.
BALD MOUNTAIN DISTRICT: The Bald Mountain district, which includes the Portland area, is 3 1/2 miles southwest of the Lead district. Claims were located in the Portland area in 1877, but early mining was handicapped by the highly refractory nature of the ore. By 1891 the milling and metallurgical difficulties were overcome by the chlorination process, and in 1892 cyanidation proved successful. The district entered a period of prosperous development that ended at the close of World War I owing to high costs. The increased price of gold in 1934 caused a pronounced reactivation which lasted until World War II. After the war, mining was resumed on a small scale, but increased operating costs again forced the owners to close in 1959. About $3 million worth of bullion, mostly in gold, was produced by the Mogul Mining Co. up to 1900. Other companies were also active during this early period. Total gold production of the district through 1959 was roughly 1,400,000 ounces.
DEADWOOD-TWO BIT DISTRICT: The Deadwood-Two Bit district is near the town of Deadwood in east-central Lawrence County. The district includes mining camps on Deadwood, Two Bit, Strawberry, and Elk Creeks. Both placers and lodes have been productive; however, most of the gold has come from placers in Deadwood Gulch. The total minimum gold output through 1959 was about 284,000 ounces. The Deadwood Gulch placers, discovered in 1875, yielded an estimated $4 million (193,500 ounces) in gold by 1880. Stimulated by the rich placer finds, prospectors combed the area and quickly found a variety of other gold-bearing deposits, including placerlike deposits in the basal conglomerate of the Cambrian Deadwood Formation The first quartz mill brought into the Black Hills reached Deadwood in September 1876 and was erected near Gayville in Deadwood Gulch. It treated conglomerate ore from the Hidden Treasure mine in Spring Gulch and before the close of the year had produced $20,000 in gold. Additional mills were built, and by the early part of 1878, milling of conglomerate ore was at its height with 20 mills and 500 stamps in operation. After 1878 the richer deposits gradually became exhausted, and by 1881 work upon them had practically ceased. The amount of gold recovered is not known. In 1878 gold ore was discovered in the Precambrian rocks in the Cloverleaf mine in the south- eastern part of the district near Roubaix on Elk Creek about 8 miles southeast of Deadwood. It was worked for only about 10 years, but during this period $400,000 in gold was extracted. Periodic operations continued in later years, but the mine was closed in 1937. Total prociuction of the mine was about 43,885 ounces of gold and about 300 ounces of silver. The earliest record of production from replacement deposits in the Deadwood Formation is in 1892, when the Mascot mine, about 3 1/2 miles east of Deadwood, began shipping ore. The discovery of veins in the Tertiary eruptive rocks in Strawberry Gulch, about 3 to 4 miles southeast of Deadwood, dates back at least to 1893 when the Oro Fine property of the Gilt Edge Mines, Inc., was worked. The history of the Deadwood-Two Bit district is characterized by sporadic activity, and there has been no major producer with sustained output. The district was virtually dormant from 1937 through 1959.
GARDEN DISTRICT: The Garden (Maitland) district is 1 to 3 miles northwest of Lead, in Blacktail and Sheeptail Gulches and False Bottom Creek. The dates of mineral discovery and earliest mining in this district have not been ascertained, but it is probable that some properties were being worked in the 1880's. In 1902 the Maitland mine, which became the principal mine in the district, was put into operation. Activity continued until 1942, when the Maitland was closed. From 1943 through 1959, no production was reported from the district. The total gold output of the district through 1959 was at least 176,000 ounces; the Maitland mine is credited with 137,000 ounces. The district is in the northeast part of the Precambrian core of the Black Hills dome.
LEAD DISTRICT: The Lead district, which includes Yellow Creek, is in central Lawrence County in the central part of the mineralized area of the Black Hills. The district contains the famous Homestake mine, the leading gold producer in the United States and the only major operation in the district. Through 1959, the Homestake Mining Co. produced a total of about 24,450,000 ounces of gold and 5,830,000 ounces of silver. Of this amount, about 1,552,665 ounces of gold and 305,600 ounces of silver were mined before 1904 by companies that were later consolidated with the Homestake. The Homestake Mining Co., which was incorporated in 1877, originally held only two fractional claims covering about 14 acres. These claims were purchased from prospectors who had located them in 1876 and had taken out about $5,000 in gold. Other companies--the Father de Smet, Highland, and Deadwood-Terra--were organized and in operation in 1878, but they were gradually assimilated by Homestake. By 1931 the Homestake Co. controlled 654 mining claims covering 5,639 acres. The expanding operations are best reflected by production data. From 1881 through 1894, annual gold output ranged from 45,960 ounces to 66,280 ounces. In 1900, about 172,000 ounces was produced, and in 1910, about 225,000 ounces. Production exceeded 500,000 ounces in 1935 and, except for the period 1942-52, it remained above 500,000 ounces per year through 1959.
SQUAW CREEK DISTRICT: The Squaw Creek district, which includes the Ragged Top, Elk Mountain, and Carbonate areas, is in western Lawrence County west of the Bald Mountain and Garden districts. The recorded gold production of the district through 1959 was about 76,000 ounces, of which about 75,800 oixnces came from the Ragged Top Mountain area. Lead and silver ores were discovered in the Carbonate area in the early 1880's and peak production was from 1885 to 1891. Only small amounts of gold were recovered as a byproduct from this ore. In 1896 considerable excitement was caused by the discovery of boulders of silicified limestone containing gold in the Ragged Top Mountain area. Shortly thereafter gold lodes were found west and south of Ragged Top Mountain and in the Squaw Creek and Annie Creek areas. The deposits north of Ragged Top Mountain yielded about $316,000 in gold (15,285 ounces) from 1896 to 1899. The mines west of Ragged Top Mountain were most active from 1899 to 1906.After 1914 the district declined, and only a few ounces of gold from scattered placer activities was reported from 1915 through 1959. The Squaw Creek district is a plateau 2 1/2 miles wide and 5 miles long on the northwest side of the Black Hills dome.
Pennington County lies just south of Lawrence County and includes part of what is known as the southern Black Hills. From available production records, which are very fragmentary and incom- plete, it is estimated that Pennington County had a minimum production through 1959 of about 128,000 ounces of gold; most of it was from lode deposits and small amounts were from placers. Gold was found in 1875 in the gravels of Spring Creek, Palmer Gulch, Castle Creek, and Rapid Creek. Most of the placers were of low grade, and the discouraged prospectors turned northward to the more promising diggings in the Deadwood area and left the southern part of the Black Hills virtually deserted. The new arrivals found that most of the favorable ground around Deadwood had been claimed; accordingly, some of them, prospecting enroute, returned to the southern Black Hills. In 1876 the Columbia lode in the Keystone district was located; the nearby Bullion lode was found in 1877. In the Hill City area, the Gold Metal deposit was explored as early as 1878. Gold mining in the early years was apparently conducted in a desultory fashion, and production probably was small. In May 1883, tin ore was discovered in what is now known as the Etta spodumene mine, and other discoveries of tin ore in the Harney Park area followed. The tin boom lasted until about 1894, after which gold prospecting was resumed and several significant discoveries were made. Among these were the Keystone and the Holy Terror lodes which were located in 1892 and in 1894 respectively. In 1898 the Keystone was sold to the Holy Terror Co.; the combined properties have been the largest producers in the southern Black Hills. After 1903 the most active period was in the early 1940's, when the Keystone mine was reopened briefly Most of the mines in Pennington County were idle during 1906-27. In 1928 and 1929 some mines were revived in the Keystone district; in 1935 some lode mines and placers in the Hill City district were worked. Gold mining in Pennington County practically ceased from 1943 through 1959. In the county, only the Keystone and Hill City districts have produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold.
HILL CITY DISTRICT: The Hill City district is an area of widely scattered gold deposits in western Pennington County in the vicinity of Hill City, near the headwaters of Spring Creek and around Rochford to the northwest of Hill City. Although production figures are incomplete for the early years, it is estimated that the Hill City district had a minimum total output through 1959 of roughly 35,400 ounces of gold, mostly from lodes. The district was dormant from 1939 through 1959.
KEYSTONE DISTRICT: The Keystone district is in western Pennington County and extends from about 3 1/2 miles northwest of the town of Keystone to 11/2 miles southeast. From available records, it is estimated that the Keystone district had a minimum output through 1959 of about 85,000 ounces of lode gold, of which about 76,000 ounces came from the Keystone-Holy Terror mine. No figures are available on the amount of placer production, which apparently was small.
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