Gold Mining Terms Glossary

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  • adit – a horizontal or nearly horizontal underground passage coming to the surface at one end of a mine.
  • alluvial – of or pertaining to alluvium; alluvial soil.
  • alluvium – a deposit of sand, mud, etc., formed by flowing water.
  • assay – to analyze (an ore, alloy, etc.) in order to determine the proportion of gold, silver, or other metal in it.
  • claim – something that is claimed, esp. a piece of public land for which formal request is made for mining or other purposes.
  • claim-jumper – a person who seizes another’s claim of land, esp. for mineral rights.
  • coyote hole – a shallow excavation dug in the ground for mineral exploration or extraction.
  • drift – an approximately horizontal passageway in underground mining.
  • excavation – an area where rock or alluvium has been removed.
  • fools gold – FeS2 – iron pyrite, sometimes mistaken for gold.
  • gold – a precious yellow metallic element, highly malleable and ductile, and not subject to oxidation or corrosion. Symbol: Au; atomic.
    weight:96.967; atomic number: 79
  • headframe – a structure supporting the hoisting sheaves at the top of a mineshaft. Also called gallows frame.
  • lode – a deposit of gold or other minerals.
  • malleable – malleability, property of a metal describing the ease with which it can be hammered, forged, pressed, or rolled into thin sheets. Metals vary in this respect; pure gold is the most malleable.
  • mercury – a liquid metal used by the miners to concentrate gold Symbol: Hg; atomic. weight: 200.59; atomic number: 80.
  • miner – a person who works in a mine.
  • mine – to dig in the earth for the purpose of extracting ores or other valuable minerals.
  • Mother Lode – a belt of very rich gold-bearing quartz veins.
  • nugget – an random shaped piece of gold of medium to large size.
  • ore – a mineral-bearing rock, which may be rich enough to be mined at a profit.
  • placer – alluvial deposit containing particles or larger pieces of gold or other minerals.
  • portal – an entrance to a tunnel, drift or adit in a mine.
  • prospect – an excavation undertaken in a search for ore.
  • prospecting – the search for mineral deposits suitable for mining.
  • quartz – one of the most common of all rock-forming minerals and one of the most important constituents of the earth’s crust. Quartz may be
    transparent, translucent, or opaque; it may be colorless to colored.
  • raise – a shaft excavated upward for connecting adjacent levels. The terms “raise” and “winze” are used interchangeably to describe a completed  opening.
  • rake – a timber placed at an angle.
  • shaft – a vertical or sloping opening, giving access to the various levels of a mine.
  • stalactites – a deposit, usually of calcium carbonate, shaped like an icicle, hanging from the roof of a cave or the like, and formed by the dripping of calcareous (containing calcium) water.
  • stamp mill – a mill or machine in which ore is crushed to powder by means of heavy stamps or pestles.
  • stope – any upward excavation made in a mine, esp. from a steeply inclined vein, to remove the ore that has been rendered accessible by the
    shafts and drifts.
  • tailings – refuse material resulting from the washing, concentration, or treatment of ore.
  • tunnel – an approximately horizontal underground passage open at both ends.
  • vein – a deposit of non-sedimentary origin, which may or may not contain valuable minerals; lode.
  • winze – a vertical or inclined shaft, driven downward from a drift into an ore body to another level. (see raise)Resources

Foothill Counties Mining Handbook, Special Publication 86, State of Calif., Dept. of Conservation, October 1985
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Rich Dvoracek, Mining Historian