Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/523

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THE DECREASE OF GOLD.

Bohemia, and the rivers in Sweden. More than twenty thousand pounds came formerly from Spain, but these mines are exhausted. It came next from the Spanish Indies, first from San Domingo, then from other parts, but that also has stopped. It comes at present from Peru, formerly three millions annually, at present five, six, and eight millions, but it will not be long until these mines also will be exhausted and abandoned." The prophecy of the old book has been fulfilled.

Humboldt entertained great hopes of New Granada and Colombia, where precious metals are found, but, in spite of English capital and highly-improved machinery, the mines do not produce beyond two millions annually.

The Indians of Chili, Peru, and the entire western coast of South America, formerly dug much gold from the alluvium; they obtained plenty of silver afterward, but little gold, while at the present time they produce ten or twelve times less than at the time of Humboldt's visit. The total production of South America, except Brazil, from 1500 to 1875, was about thirteen hundred million dollars. We can nowhere follow the history of mining better than in Brazil. Toward the end of the sixteenth century the inhabitants of São Paulo were struck with the gold trinkets worn by the savages, and they began washing. In the year 1697 Bartholomeo Bueno found rich gold deposits in the province of Minas Geraes, in consequence of which many adventurers went there, and a war broke out between the Paulists and the Portuguese. The governor finally succeeded in restoring peace, and gold-washing was prosecuted according to a fixed system, whereby the mines became very productive. Towns were built—for instance, Villa Rica—and people flocked from all regions. The province of Matto Grosso, after the year 1720, ceased to produce gold, and in the eighteenth century Brazil occupied the place of California in the nineteenth. Minas Geraes alone, in the middle of the eighteenth century, produced seven, and Brazil ten, million dollars per year, but the deposits were soon exhausted, and toward 1820 the entire production of Brazil had dwindled to five hundred thousand dollars. The leads were next commenced to be worked, but without success, in spite of the vast sums expended upon them by large capitalists. Brazil, which a hundred years ago excelled any other country in the production of gold, has in this respect become fully impoverished within the last fifty years. Its total production, from the end of the sixteenth century up to to-day, amounts to one hundred and sixty million dollars.

In ancient times, and in the beginning of the middle ages, Africa was known as the gold country. Herodotus speaks of the Carthaginians, who gathered gold on the other side of the Pillars of Hercules; the Arabian geographer El Edrisi (1154) speaks of gold in Wangara, the source of the Niger, and the same mention is made by the Moor, Leo Africanus, who was baptized by Pope Leo X; he had explored