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By Christopher F. Foss

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At the same time about 250,000 cords of wood are consumed. (174) DeQuille also testified to the great quantities of mercury lost in the process of separating gold and silver from the crushed ore. Untold amounts flowed through the mills and into the Carson River despite dedicated efforts to retrieve it for reuse. He guessed that as much as 7,344,000 pounds had been lost in ten years of the bonanza era. More recent studies have assumed twice that amount had washed into the adjacent sands and fields.

The open-pit method ripped massive gouges in the mountain with gigantic mechanized shovels, then trucked the overburden to the surface to spread it across adjacent hillsides. S. Highway 50 for several miles west of Ely. The deeper the pits became, the more costly the operation and the greater the overburden to be hauled away and dumped in nearby canyons and hillsides. The original town of Ruth, established in 1904, had to be relocated several times to accommodate the digging. 20 nevada’s environmental legacy Near the mill and smelter twenty miles east of the gaping pits at Ruth, environmental damage was more serious.

These early gold hunters took the wealth from the earth by gentle, careful washing of the sand. They were among the rugged 15 individualists of the West. We older Nevadans once admired them as much as we did the cowboys and sheepherders. Using only a pick, shovel, mortar, and pestle to extract the granules of ore that had tumbled down the slopes, the early miners broke, washed, and cradled their treasures a pan full at a time. Little wonder that a statue to the industrious miner stands in the capitol plaza in Carson City, a pick in his upraised arms, ready to force wealth from the earth by his manual labor.

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