The Business of Mining Part 4

Throughout all of the above and the following discussion of this chapter, the reader should bear in mind the point that the word "coal"

may be substituted for the word "ore" without altering the substance of the definitions or the conclusions.

Before a mine is opened up, the economist-manager will consider many items. In the first place, care must be exercised in the _examination of the title_ to the property. A mineral property may have passed through the most complicated kind of transfers of fractional interests in the title, just as is true with ordinary real estate. The abstract must be traced back clear to the issuance of patent from the Government, and then on back to the original location. With an undeveloped property (a prospect), this precaution is essential to estop any possible pretensions to ownership, by outside parties, in case the ground subsequently turns out to be exceptionally valuable. It has often been the case that no obstructions from any adverse claimants have been met until owners have, in good faith and at great expense, developed splendid mines. Then suits for possession or partial ownership have been instituted, sometimes with marked success for the plaintiffs. There are persons who make it a special line of business to examine titles to mining property, and it is economy for the average manager to employ such experienced men to attend to these matters.

_Topographical considerations_ will hold a place in the study preceding the opening of a new mine. The nature of the surface of the property and the surrounding country will largely influence in the selection of the proper site for the mine's mouth. Neglect upon this point has been a common cause of failure in mining operations.

A mine opening must be away from all dangers of snow-slides, rock-slides, cloud-bursts and deluges from overflowing streams or breaking dams. It may make a difference in the mine's ventilation as to which direction the prevailing winds blow and therefore upon which side of a hill the mouth be opened.

_Transportation_ facilities must be given due thought. If means are not already at hand, one must inquire into the feasibility of constructing some form of carrier; and here, again, will enter the question of the surface's contour. If a railroad is out of question, possibly an aerial tramway may be constructed. These modern conveyances stop at no obstacles of surface configuration and are dependent only upon the necessity of having the point of delivery lower in altitude than the point of loading at the mine. With some of the modern improvements in these installations, mine products are being transported up-hill as well as down-hill through the application of power. In mining regions, it is generally the case that the mines, themselves, are above the settlements in which are the railroads or treatment plants, so that the mine products will transport readily by the natural force of gravity.

_Climate_ holds an important place in the economics of mining. The working of very rich pieces of ground may prove a losing proposition in some portions of the world where the climatic conditions are such as to render operations possible during only a very small portion of the year.

Extremes of heat or cold, malaria or other pestilential obstacles, long rainy seasons with floods, and the hostility of native humans, beasts or insects have accounted for the abandonment of seemingly attractive mining projects.

The question of _labor_ must be given due thought. It is true that the best miners on earth are Americans. We do not deny that many of our miners are of foreign birth, but the fact remains that they perform better and more intelligent service than do their fellow countrymen who have not been adopted into our country. Our men are in demand in the mining development of foreign countries. An American mine manager will always experience dissatisfaction while endeavoring to get, from natives in foreign parts, the same efficiency that he is accustomed to receive from the miners "at home." He may be paying a good deal less per capita for such labor, but he finds he is actually paying more per ton of output.

Even within a single country, there are notable differences in the worth of labor. The natives of some of the Mexican states are far preferable to those of other states. Within the United States, there may be discerned material differences between the efficiencies of the citizens of various sections, when it comes to mining. One cannot procure as competent miners in some of the agricultural states as in the typical mining states. This is but to be expected. For instance, there are deposits of lead ore in the "moonshine" regions of Kentucky which have never been successfully worked, and the real cause of failure, in the writer's belief, lies in the inability of superintendents to obtain real miners either in that region or from the outside. The residents will never become miners; outsiders will not enter for work under existing sociological conditions.

The question of _unionism_ is sometimes held by managers as a deciding one when debating the opening of a mine. While there are those who will broadly denounce such organizations, there may be found other and just as successful mine operators who declare that the effects of union control over their miners are beneficial to their companies' interests.

Probably the greatest objection to unionism raised by operators is that they resent the dictation that accompanies the inauguration of union rules in their mines. The owners and managers prefer to run their own business to suit themselves. Some managers are so imbued with this conviction of their own rights that they will refuse to open up mines or, if they are operating, they will close down their mines before they will submit to the demands made upon them by the union officials.

On the other hand, there are mine managers who prefer the presence of some central, labor-controlling body; for they believe that the men who belong to such a large federation or organization will, and do, have less complaint to make and therefore work more freely than is the case with the independent laborers. The argument is that these union men are satisfied because they feel that their interests are being looked after with a sort of attention that they, individually, could not give.

This is not a place to discuss the crimes that have been laid at the doors of both the labor organizations and the mine owners' associations.

It is safe to assume that wrong has probably been done by both sides.

But it is furthermore right to believe that most of the crimes were not authorized, nor recognized, by the officers or the majority of members of either side. Individual members must not be taken as averages of the membership in any kind of civil, social or political organization.

It seems entirely wrong that _politics_ should enter into the considerations of a mine manager whose operations are apparently so apart from affairs of state; but the fact remains that there are places where mining operations cannot be carried on without the good will of certain officials of the state or national governments. It is not advisable to enter into any compromising terms to gain privileges for carrying on any legitimate business for there are other, better ways, generally, of attaining the justice that is deserved.

One must not omit to investigate the _sources of supply_ for all the needs of a mine and its camp. There are many kinds of materials needed to keep a mine going. Fuel, machinery, timber, water, food for men and beasts, lumber, and all household furnishings and necessities must come from some markets or natural sources. It behooves the cautious manager to see that all these things may be had in ample amount and at figures which will not prove annihilating to his business.

In Utah, there are mines which have all their timbers framed in and shipped from the forests of Oregon, the sawing and framing being done before shipment to save on freight. The fir of Oregon is shipped to distant Australia for mining purposes. The arid camps of Nevada get their supplies of timber from the sister state, California. The Michigan mines are fortunate in being in a lumber region. Colorado's metal mines are more favored in the matter of timbers than are the coal mines of the same state. Most of the coal mines are upon the barren plains, while the metal mines are chiefly in the wooded mountains.


Water may be too scarce for the needs of a mine or its community. There may not be sufficient to supply boilers or a mill, or for the domestic purposes of the workers. On the other hand, water may be so abundant in the mine workings as to prove a deterrent factor in profitable operation. With shaft mines, having deep workings and low grades of ore, if water must be delivered mechanically, the costs for such drainage are frequently prohibitive of mining. Some mines, in arid regions, have been fortunate in striking such flows of underground water that it has been possible to operate mills right at the mines. In this way, the cost of water hoisting has been more than compensated in the milling benefits which, in turn, have decreased freights and treatment charges.

_Machinery_ is usually purchased at centres of mining supplies and manufactures. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Denver and Chicago are the principal _rendezvous_ in the West for mining men in need of machinery. Mexico City is, similarly, the outfitting point for the mines of southern Mexico. The United States holds the supremacy of the world in the matter of equipping mines and mills, large orders of American-made mining machinery being shipped to even the antipodes.

The nearer a property is to a depot of supplies, the less is bound to be the cost of getting goods onto the ground. It is this last item--the delivery of goods--that must be recognized as a very pertinent, and sometimes a critical, factor upon the cost side of mining accounts.

Mines that are remote or in rugged countries are frequently dependent upon animal transportation. In some cases, machinery going to the mines must be so built that it may be taken apart into small portions suitable for loading upon the backs of horses or burros, or even, in the Andes, upon the frail llamas.

Operations, if planned to be conducted for a long term of years and therefore warranting the installation of large and expensive plants, should be based upon the holding of extensive ore-bearing ground. Here enters the notion of the _shape and size of a mining property_.

With some kinds of mining ground, the best form for the holdings would probably be a compact, approximately equilateral tract, covering a reasonably large acreage. This would be the case with ores that occur in sedimentary beds, for instance, where it is advisable to have the mining plant centrally located so as to work expeditiously the entire area.

This would apply to a region like the Cripple Creek District, which contains innumerable veins running in all directions but displaying no outcrops.

In other instances, the most desirable shape might be long, narrow strips so laid off as to contain the strikes of persistent lodes or veins, as those of the wonderful Comstock Lode region. It is not acreage that counts here so much as lineal extent.

In the Transvaal, land is held in rectangular blocks. The first owners of the ground took it up for agricultural purposes. This same statement is also true of the mining properties in the Joplin District of Missouri and Kansas.

In the case of the South African properties, every company has definite boundaries to which operations may be planned. Hence it is possible for the management to so plant any mine as to operate it at a given rate for a predetermined life of the enterprise. The work is planned to maintain a certain output that will exhaust the ore bodies in just so many years, and all the equipment may thus be purchased with the forecast that it will serve its purpose and perform its economic share within the prescribed time.

This notion will be more readily understood when we consider the various types of ore bodies. With properties wherein there is no possible way of predicting the number, size, and worth of discoverable ore bodies, the life is wholly problematical and it is therefore difficult for a manager to decide how much he should expend in the initial equipment.



In every new mining project, there is much to be considered concerning the expediency of opening up through shafts, inclines or adits. More attention has lately been given to this subject than formerly. There are very good reasons for the selection of any one of these kinds of mine openings.

The words shaft, incline, and tunnel have been handled with careless meanings by mining men. It is time that some definitions be accepted so that everybody will use these terms with the same meanings.

A shaft has loosely been any steep opening sunk through the ground. An incline--sometimes spoken of also as an incline shaft--has been taken to mean an opening resembling a shaft, but not very steep and not approaching verticality. Right here, there has been too much latitude of speech and it has entailed the necessity of many awkward explanations.

By a tunnel has been intended any (approximately) horizontal passageway driven from the natural surface. Objection to this use of the word rests in the strict definition of a tunnel, which states that it must have both ends open to the natural surface of the earth, as for example, an irrigation or a railroad tunnel. A level passageway which has but one end open to daylight is not properly spoken of as a tunnel. In mining practice, practically every horizontal opening of this nature is open at only one end, and it is an adit rather than a tunnel. If the precaution of speaking of it as a "mining tunnel" is observed, very well, for this may be taken to be an expression synonymous with adit. The latter term is, however, shorter and more correct.

For the sake of a uniform usage, the following definitions are proposed.

Their use will conform with the usages of those well-informed persons who adhere to correct speech.

A _shaft_ is a truly vertical mine passage which may, or may not, be sunk in or along an ore or a coal body.

An _incline_ is any mine passage which occupies a sloping position and which may, or may not, maintain a uniform inclination throughout its length. It may be sunk along, or in, a pitching vein or seam and it may thus conform to the irregularities of the dip of such body. It is neither horizontal nor vertical. Such an inclined passage following a seam of coal is known as a _slope_.

It sometimes happens, especially in coal mining, that a sloping passageway is driven through barren rock either to get at known bodies by the shortest means or to establish uniform grades for tracks. In a strict sense, these are not inclines or slopes, for they do not even approximately follow, nor parallel, bodies of value. The miner's term for such an opening is _rock slope_.

An _adit_ or _mining tunnel_ is a horizontal opening driven from the surface. If it be driven along an ore body, as a vein, it is properly called a _vein adit_; if it is driven _across_ barren country to intercept presumed or known bodies, it is spoken of as a _crosscut adit_. All adits must be given a small amount of grade for drainage necessities.

Before getting underground we should consider what is required in the way of opening our mine; what is positively known about our body of coal or ore; and what conditions are liable to confront us later on. We must consider the type of ore body; character of material to be extracted; average thickness and hardness of the body; desired tonnage; power facilities; probable surface and underground drainage to be maintained; and dozens of other things which only the experienced man will think of and appreciate. The right kind of a manager will know that he cannot afford to overlook such points.

Every case involves different contingencies, and therefore extreme forethought must be given to the subject before deciding upon any particular kind of an opening into the ground for mining purposes. This remark does not apply to such openings as prospect drill-holes, openings which are not for mining purposes, but for exploitation.

Assuming that sufficient data are known concerning the property to warrant the expenditures incident to the making of a mine, the question remains as to the best way of proceeding.

It is a well-established fact that it is much cheaper to drive an adit than to sink a shaft of equal transporting capacity. It is also cheaper to drive an adit than to sink an incline. If the topography is such that an adit can be driven into or beneath an ore body and thus expose it from a low elevation, the temptation is strong and along lines of good practice to do so. If the country is quite flat or nearly so, or, if the surface is such that, while rough, an adit of reasonable length cannot be driven to tap the valuable mineral and handle it economically, then it is good practice to decide upon a shaft mine.

An adit will not only be cheaper, foot for foot, than a shaft or incline, but, if given the proper, slight grade, it will afford a natural drainage outlet for all subsequent workings above its level.

The cost of pumping, as already suggested, may be a considerable item and it may be a deciding factor in favor of an adit when this form of opening is possible.

Furthermore, an adit will obviate the installation and use of hoisting machinery, and thus there may be maintained a greater efficiency in the operating expense of the mine than would be possible with a shaft.

Again, it is a simpler and cheaper matter to maintain a mining tunnel in working shape than it is a shaft, particularly in bad ground. By the settling or "working" of the ground, a shaft may be thrown perhaps but slightly out of alignment and annoying interferences will be experienced in hoisting, especially when rapid and uninterrupted hoisting is necessary to maintain the desired output. While the same amount of disturbance does take place in an adit, it is an easy matter to readjust track grades while continuing regular haulage operations.

The timbers, in the case of either a shaft or an adit, will require occasional renewal, but the expense of such repairs is less in adits than in shafts or inclines, while the delay to other operations of mining, in the case of the adit, will be inappreciable.

Topography has been referred to above, but it must be again briefly mentioned. There are some places in which ore bodies extend to, or exist at, such depths that adits could not be projected to get beneath enough of the ore to warrant their construction. An adit mine is not a practicable thing in a flat country like Nevada or the Rand, but in the rough country of the San Juan it is the customary kind of a mine. In the very early days of Comstock Lode mining, shafts were sunk by each of the hundreds of companies. Before a great while, the advantages that would accrue from having a deep "tunnel" became evident, and the famous Sutro Tunnel, with its historic, checkered career, was driven. Although it loomed up like a gigantic undertaking for that period, the immense prospective or future value of it could not be denied.

Chapter end

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