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Johannesburg Mills & Mining Claims

The story of Mining is of necessity the story of Milling; the process by which gold, silver, tungsten and other valuable metals are separated from worthless rock.  ‘Hard Rock’, ‘Quartz’ Mills provided the needed crushing, pulverizing, wetting, treatment with mercury, cyanide, other chemicals in order to turn ore into bullion.

Ore Mills were expensive propositions, usually requiring investments beyond the means of impoverished prospectors, living on lizards & beans.  The beans were, typically, first paid for by hand crushing of high-grade ore in a mortar & pestle, ‘One Stamp Mill'; the night-music of the camps.

Their locations were dependent on the availability of water, needed at tens of gallons per ton of ore.  Gravity plaid an important part and favored hillsides, for the movement of ore through the stages of milling and the disposal of the tailings, all at minimum costs.

The fates of the mines nearby can often be estimated by the size of the tailings piles, fine cyanide treatment tailings left around the landscape, together with the concrete foundations of the equipment, sometimes rusted remnants & collapsed structures.

They provide a haunting memorial to the Excitement that fueled the pioneers & residents, still does.  The sound of the thousand pound hammers crushing rock 24 hours a day became a soothing water-music, the lifeblood of the local economy.  When a cast iron flywheel came apart at three in the morning, loudly shutting down the mill, all the residents were awakened by the silence.

The following articles are the result of a decades long research by historian and author Bart Parker, curator of the Rand Desert Museum.  In approximate chronologic order, they are transcribed from the primary sources, creative spelling and all.  They are often the only written references available to obscure characters, places & events of charter importance to a full understanding of the history of the Rand District.

Editing & Interpretive Commentary:  William J. Warren

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