Saturday, July 12, 2008

Gold in the West: Utah



Extensive Gold Mining History

Like most western states, Utah has a fairly extensive gold mining history that includes both lode and placer gold discoveries. So if you are a would-be placer miner living in Utah, this post may point the way for you.

Although gold was first discovered in the State of Utah in 1858, Native Americans defending their turf prevented miners from exploiting this discovery near Clifton until 1869. Also known as the Gold Hill District, discoveries in and around Clifton were not very extensive but moderate amounts of lode and placer gold were produced there.

They May Have Become Rich

The largest and most extensive placer gold discovery in Utah's history occurred in 1863 when extensive deposits of the noble metal were located in Bingham Canyon in the Oquirrh Mountains of Salt Lake County. The Bingham Canyon placers produced over $1.5 million in placer gold at a time when gold was selling for around $20.00 per ounce. (Although I have no idea of its current status, the Bingham Canyon area sounds like a likely starting place for prospective gold miners in Utah).

In 1870 the Mercur placer gold district in Tooele County was established. But many miners staking claims at the site there were disheartened by the low returns in their pans and the scarcity of water for mining, and extensive placer mining operations were soon abandoned in favor of other districts. The irony here is that some 20 years later the Mercur District would produce nearly half a million ounces of gold, most of it from lode mining. Had some of the original miners held onto their claims they may have become rich men. So it goes in the world of gold mining...

"Rich Diggings"
A frenzied stampede of placer miners "rushed" the San Juan River area (and its feeder streams) in the winter of 1892-1893 on unsubstantiated rumors of "rich diggings" in the area. After nearly 2,000 would-be miners endured great hardships and even bloodshed, the San Juan placer rush was declared a "humbug" because the gold in the region was mostly very fine or "flour" gold, something miners of the day mostly scoffed at unless they could pan it by the pound.
Placer mining in Utah continued right into the 20th Century, with new finds and new districts springing up in places like Tushar, Henry, La Sal, the Abajo Mountains, and along the Colorado and Green Rivers and their tributaries.
So there you have it, a condensed history of placer gold mining in Utah.

Now get out there and find some of that yellow metal.

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2008

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