Mining Terms Oregon/Washington BLM



Mining Terms

Alluvial Or Bench Deposits - An alluvial deposit is an ancient river-washed rock and gravel bar that may be thousands of feet from the nearest stream, creek, or river. Alluvial (or bench) deposits contain untapped potential for finding gold because such areas have never been worked before. The hydraulic giants generally worked alluvial deposits.

Bucket Line Dredge - Unlike the modern, small scale dredges; a bucket line dredge was very large. Instead of sucking up water and gravel through the use of water pressure, the bucket line dredges would scoop it up and run it through a long sluice box. Only 10 cents of gold was needed for each square yard of material to make a profit back when these dredges were common in the 1890s and on into the early 1900s.

Coyote - The process of digging in river-borne gravels by tunneling until bedrock is hit. The tunnel is dug in hopes of finding a rich bedrock deposit deep in the gravel bar.

Dredge - A common piece of mining equipment today, the dredge sucks up dirt and gravel from within the stream bed by the use of water pressure. The dredge is operated by the use of a water pump and a network of hoses. Dredge hose sizes can be anywhere from one inch in diameter to 20 inches or more.

Drift - In mining, a drift is defined as a horizontal passageway that is excavated along a rich vein of ore. Hard rock mines usually use drifts to obtain the rich ore, though, some hard rock mines are open pit.

Drywasher - A common desert mining tool. The drywasher is like a highbanker but lacks the need for water. A drywasher operates by the use of wind. The light junk material is blown off the top of the sluice in the drywasher and the gold stays on the bottom. The sluice riffles in a drywasher are backwards for better recovery.

Flour Gold/Gold Dust - Gold that is so fine that it looks and feels like flour or dust. "The bread and butter of prospecting." Nuggets are just a bonus.

Hard rock mines are one of the most effective yet dangerous ways to recover gold.
Early hard rock mines were hand dug, and the Chinese were often hired to dig them.

Flumes - Flumes are like sluice boxes, they do not have riffles though and are used solely to transport water in areas where a ditch would be impossible (cliffsides, rocky hillsides). Two flumes were built in the construction of the China Ditch.

Hard Rock Mine - A hard rock mine is a tunnel that is dug into solid rock for the sole purpose of finding valuable or precious rocks, minerals, or metals. Gold originates deep within the earth in places called Pockets. The pockets are filled with gold, heavy ore, and quartz.

Highbanker - A highbanker is a sluice box with mobility. Instead of being put right in the creek like a sluice, the highbanker uses a water pump to transport the water into higher and sometimes richer placer reserves. In addition to the ability to go just about anywhere, the highbanker also is able to run more material in less time than the sluice. These characteristics make the highbanker a common modern day mining tool.

Hydraulic "Giant" or Monitor - The firehose-type nozzles that sprayed huge amounts of water on hillsides to recover gold out of them.

Long Tom - Similiar to a sluice box, but longer and skinnier.

Pack train leaving Main Street, Canyonville for the Siskiyou Mountains
Pack train leaving Main Street, Canyonville for the Siskiyou Mountains

Mother Lode - Every miner hopes of finding their own "mother lode" or source of the gold that's laden in the rivers. A mother lode is where the gold is trapped inside veins of quartz on mountain sides. The erosion of land causes the gold to break away from this source and eventually wash down into the river. The larger the pieces of gold being found in the river, the closer one is to the mother lode. Mother lode also refers to the vast area in Central California where gold was found. It was called the mother lode, because the whole area was a source, not just a small target area.

Open Pit Mine - In search of rich veins of quartz, open pit mines are common today. Because of the danger associated with drifts, open pit mines are dug from the ground down and are never tunneled. They can be best described as, "A big hole."

Ore - Any natural combination of minerals. Especially one from which a metal or metals can be profitably extracted. Commonly a mixture of one or more of the following: quartz, gold, copper, silver, sulfer, iron, and nickel.

Pack train - Pack trains were used to transport the bare necessities to miners and loggers in the 19th century. They usually consisted of 5 or more horses or mules and a few men.

The China Ditch had numerous placer claims which had hydraulic giants working in them around the clock.
The China Ditch had numerous placer claims which had hydraulic giants working in them around the clock.

Placer Mines - Placer Mines are in the categories of mining through the use of water. It involves mining gold that has been washed away from it's motherlode (or source) and deposited in small cracks, holes, or sand bars in the mainstream of a river. Some Placer Mining involves working bench gravels. Hydraulic giants take advantage of the bench deposits and recover gold from these ancient river-borne gravels.

Pocket - In mining, a pocket is defined as a cavity filled with ore, or a rich deposit of precious metal.

Prospect - Can have many different definitions to a miner. A prospect could be a hope for or anticipation of making a profit in mining. It can also mean to search for gold. Another definition can state it as meaning a place where a mineral deposit is sought or found.

Rocker Box or Cradle - Like a sluice box the rocker box has riffles and a carpet in it to trap the gold. It was designed to be used in areas with less water than a sluice box. The process involves pouring water out of a small cup and then rocking the small sluice box like a cradle, thus the name rocker box or cradle.

Shaker Table - Shaker tables are like giant gold pans. An engine drives a belt that vibrates a huge bucket. Instead of the junk material being separated from the gold, the gold is seperated from the junk. The vibration of the bucket causes the gold to settle to the bottom, the junk goes into a small classifier and is dumped out into a tailing pile.

The Sluice Box is the most commonly used tool in mining aside from the shovel and pan.
The Sluice Box is the most commonly used tool in mining aside from the shovel and pan.

Sluice Box - A long, narrow, wood or metal artificial channel that water passes through when put in a creek or stream. Nineteenth century miners used and twentieth century miners still use sluice boxes to separate the dirt and junk material away from the gold. Gold, the most dense metal known to man, stays in the sluice box because of it's heavy weight.

Sourdough - A highly experienced miner who has prospected for many years.

Stope - A step-like excavation formed by the removal of ore from around a mine shaft.

Tailing Pile - Gravel, dirt, and rocks with no gold. Whatever is left behind from mining activity. Occasionally, a gold nugget can slip out of a mining classifier or piece of equipment and end up in the tailing pile, but in modern sluice boxes most of the gold never makes it to the tailing pile.