Some of us continue to look up at the sky, as the old movie advised.
Instead, geologists keep an eye on the ground.
The heart of excellent science is looking at what’s around us.
It’s also the most effective approach to begin a rock collection or hit it rich.
Stephen Jay Gould presented a story about visiting Olduvai Gorge, where the Leakey Institute excavates ancient human remains.
Institute employees were sensitive to the mammals whose fossil bones were found there, and they could distinguish a mouse tooth from a distance of several meters.
Gould was a snail expert, yet throughout his week there, he didn’t locate a single animal fossil. Instead, he discovered the world’s first fossil snail at Olduvai! You truly see what you see.
The Nevada Gold Rush and Horn Silver
The Nevada silver rush, which began in 1858, is considered to be the most authentic gold rush.
The Forty-Niners flooded into the region during the California gold rush, as they had done before and after, and panned the simple nuggets from the stream placers.
The geologists were then called in to finish the job. The deep veins and low-pay ores that the panners couldn’t reach were fertile ground for mining firms and hydraulic syndicates.
Grass Valley and other mining camps had the opportunity to develop into mining towns, then into stable villages with farms, merchants, and libraries.
In Nevada, no!
The silver formed only on the surface.
Silver sulfide minerals weathered off of their volcanic host rocks over millions of years in the desert, slowly turning to silver chloride under the action of precipitation.
Nevada’s environment favored supergene enrichment, which concentrated the silver ore.
Dust and wind often polished these thick gray crusts to the dull sheen of a cow horn—horn silver.
You didn’t need a Ph.D. to find it; you could just shovel it out of the ground.
And once everything was gone, the hard-rock miner was left with little or nothing beneath him.
In 1860s money, a large silver bed may be tens of meters wide and more than a kilometer long, and the crust on the ground could be worth up to $27,000 per ton.
Nevada’s territory, as well as the states surrounding it, was stripped bare in just a few decades.
The miners could have done it faster, but there were dozens of remote ranges to prospect on foot, and the climate was brutal.
Only the Comstock Lode allowed big combines to mine silver, and it was depleted by the 1890s.
It backed a federal mint in Carson City, Nevada’s capital, that produced silver coins with the “CC” mint mark.
Silver State Memorabilia
The “surface bonanzas” lasted for a few seasons in each location, long enough to build saloons and not much else.
The brutal, violent life depicted in so many Western films achieved its purest form in Nevada’s silver camps, which have left an indelible effect on the state’s economy and politics ever since.
They no longer dig silver from the dirt; instead, they sweep it from the tables of Las Vegas and Reno.
Nevada horn silver appears to be extinct. Nothing comes up when you search the internet for specimens. Silver chloride is known by the mineral names chlorargyrite and cerargyrite on the Internet, however the specimens aren’t horn silver, despite the fact that “cerargyrite” means “horn silver” in scientific Latin.
They’re small crystals from deep mines, and the merchants appear embarrassed by how uninteresting they are.
Consider the pleasure of stepping back into American history and picking up bits of silver from the ground like gravel… and making a fortune.
Dates and Events
- 1858: The Nevada silver rush, which began in 1858, is considered to be the most authentic gold rush.
- 1959: Hosea and Ethan Grosh, two brothers, discovered a spectacular vein of silver in 1859, and this was the beginning of the Comstock Lode.
The strike was so huge that it prompted a reverse migration from California, with eager prospectors flocking to Nevada’s Washoe Valley.
- The Comstock Lode, named after American miner Henry Comstock, is a silver ore lode located beneath the eastern slope of Mount Davidson, a mountain in the Virginia Range near Virginia City, Nevada (then western Utah Territory).
It was the first major discovery of silver ore in the United States.
- Nevada mined 9.5 million ounces of silver, 5.34 million ounces of gold (5.5 percent of global output), and 178 million pounds of copper in 2015.
- Peter O’Riley and Patrick McLaughlin, two miners from Virginia City, made the great silver discovery in Six-Mile Canyon in 1859.
“They discovered the massive silver lode that became known as the Comstock Lode,” Green recalled, “and we believe that is still the largest silver discovery in the United States.”
- The Rochester Mine is Nevada’s only active primary silver mine and the second-largest in the United States, behind the Greens Creek mine in Alaska.
From an open pit and heap leaching operation, it produced 4.6 million ounces of silver and 52,588 ounces of gold in 2015.
Coeur Mining is the owner.
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