Survey Number:      Owner:      Date of Discovery:

MINING EXPRESSIONS (After Marcia Wynn, Desert Bonanza)

ARMSTRONG HOIST: A windlass, which requires considerable “muscle Work” when the miners turn the drum or shaft on which rope or cable is wound, to hoist up a bucket of ore.

BACON AND BEANS: Making one’s bacon and beans; making a living. Bacon and beans were the main stand-by of the miners, especially those living out in the hills.

BLUE-SKY STOCK: Stock or mining shares that went “sky-high” in price in a new bonanza district; stock in mining ventures frequently sold by companies, hastily formed, to take advantage of boom times, and that had little intention of performing extensive or serious mining, preferring to “mine” from the rooms of the stock exchange.

BONANZA: A rich strike; boom camp; prosperity.

BORRASCA: Barren rock; bad luck; adversity; rough going.

BREYFOGLING: Prospecting; looking for lost mines. Derived from the name of Jacob Breyfogle. Breyfogle discovered a rich gold lead while on a prospecting trip out Death Valley-ward in 1864, and though he went back with a party to search for it in 1866, he couldn’t find it, and thus was added another lost mine to the ever-growing list.

CHLORIDER: An old-time silver miner.

CLEAN-UP: This refers to the periodic collection or gathering up of gold from mill plates and cyanide plants, or from arastras, sluice boxes, dry-washers, etc. The gathering up of any mineral being mined.

COYOTING: Following a paystreak, removing only enough material to enable a man to work, much as a coyote would burrow. In certain sections of California’s mining regions many thousands of dollars in vein material and placer gold were recovered by this low-cost method of mining. Desultory mining.

DEEP ENOUGH: The point of diminishing returns at which one quits working; on the hole, enterprise or relationship. (See Frank Crampton’s book of the same title.)

DRY GULCHING: Dry mining in placer districts with the various types of dry-washers, jigs and concentrators. Such mining is frequently done in gulches because the gold deposits are concentrated there. Men engaged in this type of mining were called dry-gulchers.

EXPERTING THE GROUND: To go out and look over a newly discovered mining section; to judge the values of a mine.

FOOT WALL: The upper surface of the rock that lies under the lode or vein; the hanging wall is the wall or side over a lode or vein.

GRAVY: Profits in excess of costs or earnings; extra.

GRUBSTAKE: Money or “grub” supplies and mining necessities furnished prospectors and miners to carry them through a season of searching for mines, or for developing prospects. The grubstaker usually receives half of anything found or developed. Sometimes a miner speaks of saving up or making a grubstake for himself, when he works for someone else (often at other types of labor), to secure a stake that will carry him through a prospecting trip or while he is doing exploratory, or development work, on his own claims.

HIGH-GRADE: Rich ore; purloined ore. It was common practice for miners working in bonanza mines to high-grade some of the mine company’s ore and bring it to the surface in lunch pails, or secreted about their person. A certain type of assayers, or purported assayers, were glad to buy this high-grade for a price representing but a fraction of the ore’s real worth.

HORN (OR PAN) OUT: How any matter would turn out; how a claim would turn out.

HORNING: In early days of the West’s mining, when implements were scarce, or non-existent, the miners would cut an eight or ten-inch section from a cow’s horn, slice it through lengthwise, and thus form a trough-like horn-spoon. This was used for washing small amounts of pulverized ore, or placer samples, in much the same way the prospectors’ little frying pan is used today in panning. The term “horning” stayed with many an old timer long after this primitive device had disappeared from the camps.

JEWELRY ROCK: Very rich ore of a spectacular or beautiful nature. Frequently rich gold quartz, from which watch fobs, ring settings, pins, etc., could be cut and fashioned by a jeweler. (Those who made careers living on ‘Grubstakes’, such as the famous Death Valley Scotty, carried chunks of such ‘High Grade’ ore in their pockets with which to beguile their prospective ‘Investors’. – WJW)

LOUSY RICH: Term used to describe extremely rich ore.

MINE: “A hole in the ground owned by a liar.” – Mark Twain

PENCIL ASSESSMENT WORK: Instead of performing the yearly assessment work required by law to hold an unpatented claim, the locator merely makes a written statement to the effect he has performed such work, and sends it to the county recorder, when actually there is no development work at all, or he is claiming to have just finished work that was done in previous years.

POCKET MINE:  One whose wealth derived more from the pockets of investors than the ground.  (Also referred to as a “Wallet Mine”.)

SALTING A MINE: To add gold or high-grade ore to samples being taken for panning or assay, in order to give the impression to a prospective purchaser the mine is richer than it actually is.

SWEETEN THE RUN: This refers to adding rich ore to a mill run, to increase the value per ton. Sometimes sizeable piles of specimens will accumulate about a mine, and if added to a small mill run of low-grade ore it amounts to a considerable increase when clean-up time arrives.

TAMP ‘ER LIGHT:  A parting salutation, such as ‘Take Care’ between old timers.  The advice is a reminder that carelessly packing blasting powder or other explosive into drill holes could result in accidental detonation.  (Frank Crampton, Deep Enough.)

TRUE SPELTER: The real thing; very rich specimens, which the miner speaks of as being “the true spelter.”

VELVET: Profits or riches in excess of that which had been anticipated, or over and above all expenses and costs; unexpected or easily come-by profits.


Adit – A level, horizontal drift or passage from the surface into a mine.

Borehole – A vertical or inclined hole, used for ventilation from one level to another, or to carry waterlines or electrical wires. May be large enough for a man to climb through, but much smaller than a raise.

Cage – The compartment the men ride in, inside the shaft.

Cager – The operator of the cage who signals, or “bells” the hoistman to raise or lower the cage.

Chippy – The hoist used for men and materials, rather than ore.

Collar – The point at which a shaft intersects the surface or underground haulage level.

Crosscut – A level tunnel driven across the mineral vein.

Deck – The platform that makes up the floor of the chippy. Many chippies have multiple decks.

Diggers – The clothes a miner wears underground.

Double-jack – 12 lb. sledge hammer.

Drift – A horizontal tunnel driven along the mineral vein.

Dry – The shower house for miners. Dry clothes are left there and diggers put on.

Face – The end of the drift, crosscut, or tunnel, generally where the miners work.

Fault – A displacement or break in the rock so that it is not continuous.

Gangue – The host rock for the ore.

Grizzly – Separator for ore and rock created by setting heavy iron beams at intervals across the hole covering the ore bin. Large rocks won’t go through, and must be broken up.

Gypo – A contract hardrock miner. Paid “days pay” plus a bonus for production.

Hardrock – Ore that can only be mined by blasting, not by the use of handtools.

Headframe – The structure sitting over the shaft that holds the cables, pulleys, and sheaves used to raise and lower the skip in the shaft.

Helmet – Apparatus used by Mine Rescue Personnel to provide oxygen and protect the user from toxic materials.

Hoist – The equipment that lowers and raises everything up and down the shaft.

Hoistman – The operator of the hoist, usually working on the surface.

Jackleg – The air-powered drill used by miners to drill holes for explosives or bolts.

Lagging – Rough timbers, usually 2×10 or 2×12’s that are used inside the raise or shaft as supports. Also used in building timber supports.

Level – The elevation of the workings below the shaft, ie. 3700 Level is 3700’ below the collar.

Motor – The locomotive, usually battery or electrically powered, used to transport ore via steel track in the mine.

Muck – Ore or waste rock that has been broken up by blasting.

Mucking – The process of removing the muck from the face.

Nipper – A miner’s helper, usually a trainee. Brings supplies, puts bolts together, assists.

Ore – A mix of rock and valuable minerals that can be mined at an economic profit.

Portal – The entrance to the mine at the surface.

Raise – A vertical or inclined passageway driven between levels. Used as manways, ventilation passages, for support lines such as pipes and electrical lines, and as ore dumps for transporting ore to lower levels. Can be anywhere up to 300 feet in length.

Round – The rock or ore removed in one blast.

Shaft – A vertical or inclined opening that starts on the surface and goes into the mine. The primary access to the various levels. May be up to 10,000 feet deep.

Shifter – The Shift Boss assigned to a certain area of the mine or to a certain task.

Single Jack – A __ pound hammer used by a lone miner, holding (and rotating) the drill steel in one hand while striking with the other.

Skip – The cage or compartment the miners ride in.

Slusher – An airpowered scraper used to pull muck from the face back to the ore chute where it can fall down the raise into the ore bin.

Station – The area where the skip unloads at each level of the mine. Usually includes storage areas for supplies and equipment. The miners gather here at the end of the shift to wait for a ride to the surface.

Stope – The area between two levels of the mine where mining occurs. Accessed through a raise.

Tailings or Tails – The waste rock that has been through the mill and had the valuable mineral removed.

Vein – The mineralized zone that is clearly separated from the host rock.

Winze – A shaft that begins underground and goes down from there. Does not go to the surface.

Comments Off

Comments are closed.