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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/661

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INCREASE IN PRODUCTION OF GOLD.

increase during the next five years in anything like the ratio of the past five years, it may be that a new economic problem, the very antithesis of that alluded to in the commencement of this paper, may present itself for solution. At all events, the cry of the Populists and others that increasing scarcity of gold is the cause of much of the poverty and of other ills of mankind, must surely be drowned in the golden stream now flowing from all quarters of the globe, almost threatening to become a rushing torrent, dangerous to the stable foundations of the world's commerce. That this, however, fortunately is an imaginary danger will appear from the following arguments:

Modern gold-getting by scientific methods compels the permanent investment of an enormous amount of capital, and a moderate return only in dividend is looked for as a rule; thus the balance between acquisition and disbursement is likely to be maintained in the future.

One of the chief causes of the extraordinary increase of production in very recent years is to be found in the application of the "cyanide process" to the recovery of gold from "tailings." This process is also largely applied to obtaining gold from very low-grade ores, that, in some cases, contain an average of less than one quarter of an ounce of gold distributed throughout a ton of ore! At the present time there are about twenty-five cyanide plants in this country, and over forty in the Transvaal, where the process has received its greatest development.

Although the fact that cyanide of potassium would dissolve gold quite readily was known long ago, having been employed by Faraday in his experiments with thin films of transparent gold, and used very extensively in the making of solutions of gold for electroplating baths during fifty years past, the practical application of the solvent to obtaining gold from low-grade ores is less than ten years old.

In Utah there is a dry bed of an ancient lake, the floor of which may be said to be carpeted with gold; according to a recent report this bed of limestone, eight miles by ten, varying from twenty to forty feet in thickness, and containing gold in proportion running from six to twenty dollars per ton, is an "ideal ore" for treatment by the cyanide process. A number of cyanide mills are now working the deposit, all paying dividends, and it is said that the only limit to output is the capacity of the mills. It is estimated that there are "5,000,000,000 tons of ore in the district, containing $50,000,000,000 worth of gold!" Although this statement is startling, the estimate is not a wild guess, for the blanket of ore has been cut in many places; hundreds of samples have been taken from different depths, and in all cases the finely distributed gold has been found, apparently having been deposited from solution in a mineral water which formed the lake in prehistoric times.