History of Gold Mining

History of Gold Mining

For more than 7000 years, people have had the driving urge to mine for gold.  No one knows for sure when this action began, but many gold artifacts that date back to 4700-4200 BC have been found.  This gives us a pretty good indication of when gold mining began, and sets the foundation for the history of gold mining.

Because it is not mixed with other elements, gold was one of the first metals to be extracted from the earth.  It is a beautiful and sturdy metal that can be used to make other gorgeous items.  Gold has been utilized by many different ancient cultures as a way to decorate tombs and temples in an abundant manner.  The history of gold mining indicates that gold was mined more than 5,000 years ago because of the gold Egyptian artifacts that have been discovered from that time.

aquaductIt is known that ancient Romans utilized hydraulics to mine gold. The hydraulic method is one of the most well known ways to mine gold.  It was used by ancient Roman civilizations based upon the abundant amount of gold items that have been discovered all over Europe, especially in Spain and Ireland.  These two countries were ruled by the Romans. The government of the Roman Empire had the most control over the gold mining process, considering that gold was the main way that people paid for goods and services at that time.   But there has been speculation that the gold mining process was eventually turned over to many different contractors of the Roman Empire.  During the reign of Emperor Claudius, the gold mining process was one of the main reasons for the invasion of Britain.

Dolaucothi Gold MinesThe research of gold mining shows that a gold mine existed at Dolaucoth in West Wales.  There is also evidence that gold mining was prevalent during the first and second century AD in India’s Karnataka state.  The mining was performed at India’s Kolar Gold Fields.  The gold was extracted when workers would dig little pits.  About 1000 tons of gold has been mined from this part of the world.

 tu tutThe artists that created gold artifacts in Mesopotamia and Palestine most likely found their gold in Arabia or Egypt.  The latest research shows that the Cradle of Gold mine that is located in Saudi Arabia had copper, gold and silver back during the time of 961-922 B.C.

Based upon the history of gold mining, it is speculated that ancient cultures got their gold from various places throughout the Middle East.  The gold mines that were located in the Nubian Desert, the Upper Nile River and the Red Sea are where the Egyptian pharaohs got their gold resources.  When these particular gold mines were exhausted, it is believed that gold was then extracted from mines in Southern Africa and Yemen.

History also shows that the gold treasures that were discovered in Peru and Mexico were probably extracted from mines that were located in Columbia.  But there are those who believed that these treasures came from other places as well.

The history of gold mining in the United States goes as far back as the early 1700’s. Gold was mined in the Appalachian area as far back as 1792.  It was mined in southern California as far back as 1775.

The 19th century saw a lot of gold rushes because people were excited about the possibility of getting rich. A gold rush occurs when there is speculation that there is gold located in a certain area and everyone rushes there with the hope that they will find it and get rich. These gold rushes were very prevalent in the United States during that time period.  At the first of the 19th century, gold was also found in Nevada’s Goldfield and Tonopah regions.  The Alaskan placer gold mines were also found during this time.

 Sutter's MillGold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in California, and this was what caused the gold rush of 1849.  There were hundreds of gold mine camps in this area.  Gold discoveries were greatly on the rise during this period of history in the United States. During the 1860’s, there were plenty of gold nuggets found in Nevada region of Comstock Lode.  There were also nuggets discovered during this time in the Grass Valley and Mother Lode regions of California. In 1892, there were gold nuggets found in Colorado’s Cripple Creek region.   At this time in history, the United States had gold levels that were more than 4 million troy ounces yearly.  This level continued to be the same until the year 1917.

The time of the first World War saw a reduction in the United State’s gold levels.  Only about 2 million ounces were produced yearly.  In 1934 the price of gold was increased from $20.67 to $35 an ounce. This meant that the level of production went back up and went higher than the levels that were seen during 1937.  Once World War II began, the War Production Board closed the gold mines.  They were not opened again until the war was over in 1945.

From 1945 to 1983, the United States has not produced more than 2 million ounces of gold each year.  The yearly rate of production has gone from 1 to 1.5 million since 1985.  At the end of 1989, the cumulative level in the US from 1792 went up to 363 million ounces of gold. Colorado to date produces the most gold in the United States.

Mining Gold

Gold can be found in different locations around the world, and there are many ways to extract it.

sluicing boxSluicing is a popular method that is utilized. A sluice box is utilized. A sluice box is a long tray that has a couple of riffles set up to catch gold.  When the box is placed into a river or creek, the water runs over the slots and separates the gold nuggets from the rocks and dirt.


panningPanning is the most well known method of extracting gold.  It is also one of the most effective ways to look for gold nuggets. The user puts a pan into water and then sifts through the water and settled sediment in order to search out gold nuggets. There are many different places such as theme parks that have sections to pan for gold.  It is a favorite tourist attraction.


dredgingDredging for gold, even though it is considered to be somewhat outdated,  is a type of hydraulic gold mining.  A sluice box is also needed to dredge for gold, but the box is not put into the water.  Instead, the sediment and water are put into the sluice box.


miningHard rock mining is another way to extract gold.  However, this method actually takes out the gold and gold ore that is embedded deep within rocks.  In order to reach gold deposits, tunnels and shafts are dug below the ground so that the gold can be brought to the surface.  Many of these gold mines are tremendously deep. Based upon the history of gold mining, a mine in South Africa has been recorded as the deepest at a depth of 12,800 ft.

hydraulic methodWhen the hydraulic method of gold mining is deployed, the gold does not have to be removed from rocks.  But on the other hand, it is a little bit more difficult to take the ore from the same rocks.  That process is a lot more complicated.  The best way to get ore from rocks is to use cyanide.  This is a complicated process that requires using a mixture of sodium cyanide and finely grounded gold ore.

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