Early Gold Mining Discoveries of Deposits – Herodotus (484-425 BC) refers to several great gold-mining centers in Asia Minor, and Strabo (63 BC) mentions gold mining in many different places. Pliny (23-79 AD) gives many details of ancient placer mining, which was extensive. The Romans had little of the metal in their own regions, but their military expeditions brought them major amounts in the form of booty.
They also exploited the mineral wealth of the countries they had conquered, especially Spain, where up to 40,000 slaves were employed in mining. The state’s accumulation of gold bars and coins was immense, but during the barbarian invasions and the collapse of the empire this gold was scattered, and gold mining languished in the Middle Ages.
Following the discovery of America at the end of the fifteenth century, the Spaniards transferred considerable amounts of gold from the New World to Europe. Although the conquistadors found a highly developed mining industry in Central America, their efforts to increase gold production were largely unsuccessful because most of the finds consisted of silver.
Colombia’s Muisca Indians, who dwelt in the highlands near present-day Bogota, installed their kings by dusting their naked bodies with gold and then washing them in nearby Lake. To the conquistadores, this wealthy chieftain became known as El Dorado d a Spanish word meaning “the Gilded Man”.
It was not until the discovery of deposits in Brazil, in 1691, that there was a noticeable increase in world gold production. Since about 1750, gold has been mined on a major scale on the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains.
In 1840, alluvial gold was discovered in Siberia and then at Coloma, California, in January 1848, a few days before the signing of a treaty between Mexico and the United States to end their hostilities.
California was thus ceded by Mexico after a discovery that was apparently not known to either government. Coloma is about 50 km southeast of Sacramento on the slopes of the
Sierra Nevada. The discovery of gold in British Columbia was an epoch-making event.
In the late 1850s, alluvial gold was found along the Thompson River, and in 1858 the famous Fraser River rush took place. Extraordinarily rich deposits were discovered in 1860 on Williams and Lightning creeks.
For many years, British Columbia was the leading gold producer among the Canadian provinces and territories, but with the discovery of the Kirkland lake deposits in 1911, and the opening up of the Porcupine district in 1912, Ontario held first place ever since.
Gold deposits were also found in Eastern Australia (1851), Nevada (1859), Colorado (1875), Alaska (1886), New Zealand and Western Australia (1892), and Western Canada (1896).
However, these deposits soon lost much of their importance. The strongest impetus was given to gold production through the discovery of the goldfields of the Witwatersrand in South Africa in 1885.
South African gold soon occupied a commanding position in the world market. Production grew continuously except for a short interruption by the Boer War (1899-1902). Gold mining in Ghana (Gold Coast) began to play a modest role in the twentieth century, although the deposits were known in the Middle Age.