Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook 1949
Year 1949 (1951)
Merrill, Charles White; Meyer, Helena M.
Gold and silver, pp. 553-587
Gold and Silver By Charles White Merrill and Helena M. Meyer + GENERAL SUMMARY UNITED States mine production of gold in 1949 decreased 1 percent compared with 1948, continuing the downtrend from the postwar high established in 1947. The 1949 output was twice the wartime low reached in 1945 but was smaller than in any prewar year since 1895. Silver production also decreased, the 1949 output being 9 percent below that for 1948. The gold-mining industry had returned to unrestricted operations when War Production Board Order L—208 was rescinded, effective July 1, 1945; but many mines producing in prewar years did not resume work or did so on a restricted scale only. Higher prices for equipment and supplies and higher wages made former operators reluctant to reopen mines with narrow prewar profit margins. Continued inflation, with little evidence that inflationary forces soon would be arrested, discouraged those who might otherwise have promoted new gold-producing enterprises. Moreover, in many instances the years of idleness had resulted in deterioration of plants and mine workings, which required very large capital outlays for rehabilitation. The reversal in 1949 of the postwar uptrend in silver production is explained largely by the recession in copper, lead, and zinc prices accompanied by. curtailed output at mines producing these metals and byproduct silver. The higher Treasury buying price for silver domestically mined after July 1, 1946, continued to encourage silver mining. California, which had been the leading gold producer since 1946 was forced into second place in 1949 by South Dakota, where output expanded 23 percent compared with 1948. These two States, plus Utah and Alaska in third and fourth places, respectively, supplied 72 percent of the United States total output. South Dakota output came almost entirely from gold ore produced at the Homestake mine, California production came principally from straight gold mines (both placer and lode), Utah production was mainly a byproduct from the treatment of copper ore mined in the West Mountain (Bingham) district, and Alaska gold was almost entirely from placers and was mostly recovered by bucket-line dredges. Idaho continued to be the leading silver producer, followed in importance by Utah and Montana, an order unchanged since 1943. These three States supplied 67 per- -cent of the 1949 domestic output. About half of the Idaho production was recovered from dry ores, but most of the rest from the three States was a byproduct of ores treated principally for base metals. Gold produced in 1949 was divided fairly evenly among that recovered at amalgamation-cyanidation mills, that recovered by the smelting of crude ores and concentrates (only a very small part of which was recovered by direct smelting of ore), and that saved by placer methods. Almost 87 percent of the domestic silver output was ~43T85—51—3~ 553
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