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Post  Guest on Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:40 am



In these days when, owing to the depression of silver, so
much attention is being turned towards gold and gold mines,
too much care cannot be taken by those investing or acting as
examiners or experts in gold mines, that there are
no tricks played upon them by the astute miner; for "for
ways that are dark and tricks that are vain " the western
miner is at times " peculiar." One of these tricks is what is
known as " salting " mines or ledges ; that is, by various
means and ways introducing into the mine or into the samples
taken from it, certain rich minerals which do not rightly
belong by nature in the mine or property, in order to raise
the value of the mine in the eyes of the investor or expert.
When samples are taken from such a tampered-with mine
the values and results must be accepted cum grano sali's,
with a very large grain of salt indeed. Whether this classical
allusion be the origin of the word " salting " we do not
know. " Take care you ain't salted "
is the advice to the inexperienced
investor or novice expert. So clever are the miners,
that cases are on record where even a most experienced
expert has been taken in, and comparatively, or wholly
valueless properties sold for large sums, the purchase followed
later by woeful dismay and surprise, when dividends
were called for and did not appear.
Gold mines of all others, are the most easy to salt, hence
the precaution in these days is timely.
Whilst a mining engineer or expert can hardly prevent
salting, with care he can, and ought to be able to avoid being
taken in ; to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
On entering a mining camp in the far West, especially
in the more remote outlandish districts, an investor or an expert,
may consider that the whole village, from the ho el
bell-boy to the mayor, (who, by the way may be the principal
saloon keeper) is in league against him. Directly he arrives,
everybody in town wants to know his business ; on this he
should keep as mum as possible, and, if he can, throw impertinent
inquirers off the scent. The idea is, " Here is a
capitalist to fleece and an expert to delude." Every one,
too, has a " hole in the ground " of his own to present.
Should they get wind of the particular property in view,
there are confederates and middlemen anxious to share the
spoils. Moreover, it is considered to the general credit of
the camp to sell a mine, be it whose it may, good or bad, and
if you mention any property, you will invariably hear it
"cracked up." The eastern "tenderfoot" is somewhat of a "
sheep among wolves " in such a camp. The expert, too,
is at a certain disadvantage on entering into a strange mining
camp, not being familiar with the local conditions. Ores
for instance in one section or region are not always of the
same value as similar ores in another, the rocks may look new
and strange to him, and there are a hundred local conditions
known only to the resident miner. It would be well,
when possible, for an expert, before passing a decided
opinion on an important property, to stay around in the
vicinity for a while till he knows the " hang of things."
On his way to the mine there will be plenty to fill his ears
with the untold value of the property he is about to examine,
this friendly duty is not unfrequently performed by an
officious middleman. To favour and " soften up " the expert's
mind and heart and make him " feel good " toward
the property, attentions of all kinds are showered on him.
He is driven about town like a nabob, and if he shows a
weakness for a " wee drappie," champagne and whiskey are
at his service ad lib., as judicious preparation for the coming
examination. It may be observed here, that attempts are
made sometimes to " salt " the expert as well as the mine,
not merely by befuddling his brain with intoxicants, but by
offering bribes, and as an expert is often not too well off,
the latter is a great temptation. We will now suppose,
after this ordeal, he goes to the mine with the superintendent
or miner. All may be, and we may say generally is, honest and
square, or it may not. The expert looks over the exterior and surface
signs of the property, studies the outcrop of the vein on the surface, its
probable surface continuity, the advantages and disadvantages
of the situation of the mine, its proximity to railroads,
smelting works, markets, etc., and then enters the mine in
company with the miner. As a rule the latter will naturally
point out to him the richest portions and ignore the
poorer; sometimes he excuses himself from taking him
down into the latter because it is dangerous or full of water.
If full of water the expert if possible should have it pumped
out. He may suggest here and there, that such and such a
spot would be a good one for the expert to take his samples
and so forth. The expert of course assents to all he is told,
but with one eye open, and does not stop to take any
samples for assaying until he has seen the whole of the
mine, then he requests his companion to go out on the
dump and smoke his pipe there, as he insists upon having
no one with him in the tunnel when he is taking his
samples for assay. He will be inclined to rather avoid
those particularly favourable spots suggested to him by the
miner, as probably giving too rich an average for the general
run of the mine, or as not impossibly being " fixed " for him.
If he suspects the latter, he will take a sample or two to see
if the mine has been tampered with, taking a little of this
out on the dump crushing it and washing it in an iron
spoon. If a very astonishing amount of gold colours show
up, his suspicions are aroused. The judicious miner does
not generally want to salt too heavily, for fear of the
enormous results exciting suspicion, but despite his care he
nearly always salts a little higher than he intended. In a
mine where the rock is hard, a miner may salt by drilling
holes and inserting mineral or ore and disguising the hole.
In loose ground or one full of cracks, a shot-gun loaded
with a moderate discharge of gold-dust will do the work.
The skill of the miner in this case lies in his choice of a spot
where he thinks it probable the expert will take samples, or
in coaxing the expert to take samples from such ground.
In hard ground the expert may avoid such salting by having
the work blasted out in his presence till a purely fresh,
virgin face is shown and then taking his sample. These
precautions are not necessary under all circumstances, but
only in such cases where the expert has a suspicion that
there is an attempt to " put up a job " on him.
After getting his samples, and as many as possible, he
will sack and seal them then and there in the mine, and
never lose sight of them till he has expressed them to his
own home.
Sometimes a mine is so timbered up, that sampling is
difficult. Now as they go down the shaft, it may be the
expert remarks " I should like to take a sample in this shaft,
but it is so timbered up that I don't see how we can do it
without ripping out some of these boards." " Why of
course, so you oughtter " says the miner, " and see here, I
think this board is loose." Now beware lest that board was
purposely loosened and behind it the ground is salted.
By taking a great number of samples at comparatively close
intervals, provided afterwards the samples are not tampered
with, the expert is less liable to be deceived by salting, than
if he took very few. A mine cannot be salted all over from
end to end if it is a large one, only at judicious intervals,
and it will be hard if the expert does not escape some of
those intervals and get some true samples.
Besides taking his regular assay samples by cutting all
around the walls, roof and floor of the tunnels at intervals
of five, ten, or twenty feet, according to circumstances,
crushing, and quartering the debris, and finally sacking and
sealing his sample bags, he should occasionally take a "grab
sample," or a bit of rock at random, or a small sackful
from the great mass of his sample, and put them in his coat
pocket, and keep them on his person, to act as a reference
in case of any possible tampering or accident to his samples
whilst in the vicinity or in transit. He should also take
bulk samples, good sized chunks of uncrushed rock which
should agree with the assay results of his quartered samples.
A disadvantage an expert is under in a strange camp, if
he cannot take his own assistant with him, is, that he is
very much at the mercy of the miner, if any hard work has
to be done, such as blasting or hard digging. Whilst
engaged in such work the miner, if he pleases, has many
chances of scattering around a little gold-dust on the rock
of the vein or the loose dirt of a placer.
Whilst gold-dust is the favourite medium for salting a gold
mine, chloride of gold is sometimes used. The latter, however,
is rather a dangerous and barefaced trick to try on
a competent expert, as its quality can readily be detected
by the chemist, it being soluble in water. In a case of this
kind that came to our knowledge, an experienced expert
had examined a certain mine and condemned it. Later, the
owner who was an honourable man, asked him if, as a special
favour, he would re-examine it, as in his absence the assay
values from the mine had of late shown much better results.
The expert reluctantly consented to do this, though contrary
to his general rule. In going along the workings he
noticed here and there on the walls, certain patches and
streaks of clay or mud, he had not observed on his first
visit. Guessing what they were, he casually observed to the
miners, "Seems to have been raining in the mine since I
was here." However to the great delight doubtless of the
miners he took several samples of these, and forwarded
them to a reliable chemist. The latter pronounced them
chloride of gold. This of course gave the salting scheme
away as chloride of gold does not occur free in nature, much
less in a mine. The owner of the mine was exceedingly
angry when he learned what the miners had done without
his knowledge or connivance. The men themselves being
commonly more or less interested in the sale of a mine, are
apt to try and salt it without any connivance of the owner
or superintendent. We heard of a case in the San Juan
district where a mine that was fairly good was about to be
examined. This mine carried occasionally specimens of the
very rich ore, called ruby silver. Not satisfied with the fair,
natural richness of the mine, the miners must needs import
into the hole, quantities of ruby collected from other mines
in the district, whose men were of course in sympathy with
the scheme and probable sale. This was acting without the
knowledge of the owners.


Although a gold placer usually covers a very large area
of ground, it is possible to salt it. Usually a miner shows
up his placer by opening up pits at convenient intervals, so
as to cover the property. Nothing is easier than to salt
these pits with gold-dust. Consequently whilst an expert
will examine these holes and pan the dirt, he should be on
his guard, and insist, where possible, on holes being freshly
dug in his presence. Even then he is not safe. Generally
in a placer, by the cutting of a stream, sections are shown
sometimes from grass roots to bed rock. From such he
should take and pan samples at different levels in the
exposure, this too, privately and without too much supervision
of the interested miner.


This may be done in several ways. If the expert is imprudent
enough to allow a miner to accompany and assist
him in breaking down or crushing samples or panning them,
then the infusion of a little gold-dust is easy. Again, after
the expert has made up, sacked and duly sealed his samples
with wax, should he leave them anywhere within reach of
the miners, they are not wholly safe, for the miner may insert
the point of a fine syringe containing gold-dust into the
bag, or he may make a bread mould of the wax seal, open
the sacks, and either change the ore for richer, or infuse
some gold-dust. Changing of samples for others is not an
uncommon trick. The expert cannot watch his samples too
closely. He should sack and seal them on the ground, sleep
with them under his pillow if need be at night, yet even then
cases have been known when the wary miner has succeeded
in extracting and changing them for bags, to all appearance
exactly similar. The samples are never safe till boxed up
and expressed and on the way to the city address. He
should never fail, as we have said, to have partial duplicates
of these about his person.
If the expert wishes to assay the ore at a friendly assayer
office near the mine, whilst he is grinding down his sample
to dust, an innocent looking miner may loaf in, and whilst
watching the operation, accidentally upset the ashes in his
pipe over the sample. Probably these ashes contain golddust,
and we might here observe that a single grain of gold
smaller than a pin's head may materially alter the results of
an assay.
Some years ago an individual who had succeeded in
booming a certain placer district and getting up an excitement
and a rush, constituted himself as a referee, and professor ;
and when miners brought samples for his inspection, the
were always found to be very rich in gold. But simular
samples from the same spot if uninspected were somehow
invariably barren. The wizard's mere look seemed to change
the sand into gold, until it was found that he concealed in
his finger nails "which were taper" not wax, but fine particles
of gold. Hence Midas-like whatever he touched he
turned into gold. Whilst the salter may lay traps for the
expert, the expert may sometimes lay traps for the salter.
An expert, who had reasons to suspect a certain mine he
was examining had been tampered with and guessing there
was a likelihood of an attempt on his samples, after securing
himself with duplicates, left his samples exposed on the
floor of his room at the hotel, then went out and hired a
reliable Mexican boy to watch his room and report to him
immediately if he saw any one enter it. He had not long to
wait. At dinner the boy tapped him on the shoulder, and
he went to his room and caught the miner in the act of
tampering with his samples.
Sometimes miners, if wealthy enough, will go to great
expense to salt a property. Some miners took a couple of
well-to-do eastern capitalists to a certain placer, panned the
gravel before their eyes, and showed up wondrous colours.
The investors having been warned of miners' ways, refused
to entirely swallow the bait, but told the boys to go ahead
and develop the property, and if at their next visit, it showed
up as well as the pans did on this occasion, they would
buy it. When the easterners were gone, at a cost, of several
thousand dollars they built a flume, put in a hydraulic
plant, and gathered a pile of loose dirt to wash down the
flume, where the gold is gathered upon quicksilver. The
" sharks "
raised $50,000 for a gold-dust fund. This dust was
run evenly over the quicksilver so that when the capitalists
returned, there was everything to show an enormously
rich placer-ground. The capitalists insisted upon a clean-up
after the first fortnight's run, which added so much more
joy to the sharks. This time the bait was swallowed whole,
string and all. The capitalists paid down promptly $250,000
for the ground. The sharks left the country. In a few
weeks nothing could be found but the amalgam of the
An ingenious trick once baffled some experienced experts
and came very near selling a mine. The mine was a
well developed one and had done great things in its day.
It was claimed that at the face of the tunnel, or where the
workings left off, there was still a fine showing of ore in
place to go on with. The experts found it as stated ; on the
face or end of the tunnel there was a fine showing of ore,
and the probable amount in place and for the future was
duly measured up and estimated. It leaked out later that
this block of ore was only a thin screen purposely left, all
back of, and behind it, having been carefully worked out
and the opening for the miners ingress and egress skilfully
concealed. The mine was re-examined, the cheat discovered
and the reputation of the experts saved as well as many
thousands of dollars from the pockets of guileless investors.
This brief sketch of some of the ways of some miners, for
some regions and properties, would give an unfair idea of
some mines and miners as a whole, if it were supposed that
all miners are given to salting, and all properties for sale are
beset by a network of dishonest devices. On the contrary
many, very many, miners are as straight as a string and
hundreds of properties are to be examined without fear of
tampering. But it often happens that a miner, who in every
other relation of life, is as honest as the day, draws a line,
when it comes to the selling of a mine, which he considers
" fair game."
But, as elsewhere the world through, honesty pure and
simple is the right policy, and in the end would be found
the best paying one. For the notorious dishonesty connected
with mines (much more common in the past than in
the present) scares away capitalists from investing, whilst
if truth and honesty were maintained, money would roll in
One lesson at least may be learned from what we have
said, and that is, that if in some cases a professional expert
is ever taken in, what chances has a capitalist, ignorant of
mines, to buy a mine on his own examination? What man
ignorant of horseflesh would venture to buy a steed from a
professional horse-jockey, without taking with him a friend
who is knowing about horses ?
How much more so in such a difficult and delicate problem
as that of purchasing a -mine, is it the duty of an investor
never to purchase or induce his friends to purchase a mine,
until he has employed the services of a competent expert to
previously examine it. If the expert's fee should amount to
a few hundreds, and after all he should decide on condemning
the property, it is far better for the company to entail
this expense, and perhaps lose this small sum, than to
involve themselves in the loss of thousands of their own as
well as other people's money in a bogus, worthless, or wildcat

Taken from the Book



Late Professor of Geology at the State School of Mines,


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