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The Homestake Gold Mine

With all the gold rush's throughout history, there is one gold rush that doesn't get as much notice as the others. The Black Hills Gold Rush was in later part of the 1870's in South Dakota. Rumors about gold in the Black Hills go back to the early 19th century. In the 1860's, a priest by the name of Father De Smet is said to have seen local Sioux Indians carrying gold which was said to come from the Black Hills.

With this and other information and word of mouth, prospectors started to move into this area looking for gold. Then in 1876 Fred and Moses Manuel, Hank Harney and Alex Engh made a gold discovery in the area around Deadwood Creek. They called their claims Homestake. The following year a group of three cashed up miners offered the four men more than $70,000 for the claims on Deadwood Creek. Of course the four sold out and soon the three new miners were hard at work. One of the three new owners was George Hearst. George was a veteran miner having made his fortunes in the Comstock mines and also in Grass Valley California mining area. George took control of this new mine and by July 1878 there was an 80-stamp mill in place and crushing Homestake ore.

George then set out to get more claims to add to the Homestake Mine. Over time he aquired a large area of land totalling over 2000 acres. He bought out the water canals for the mines use and even had a railroad built to replace the old wagon roads that he originally had to use when he first started. By 1900 there was 2000 men working the mine and the mill.

The following year, the mine started using locomotives instead of horses and mules. The Homestake mine was one of the first mines to use cynanide to help mercury amalagamation. This technique allowed the mine to reach an above average grade of 94% pure gold. This gold was then shipped off to the mint for further refining.

By 1906 the mine had four different shafts ranging from 900 feet to 1550 feet. These four shafts produced over 1.5 million tons of ore. Later a new technique called a winze was used. A winze is a short connection between different levels in an underground mine. This allowed the mine to put in more shafts underground. Using this method then allowed them to get ore at deeper depths from existing tunnels. Another shaft was built in 1934 using a second winze from the 3,500 foot level and it reached the 4,100 foot level followed by a third winze from 4,100 foot level. In 1975 mining had reached the 6,800 foot level, and two winzes were planned to reach the 8,000 foot level.

The Homestake Mine closed for good in 2002. At the time it was the largest, deepest and second largest gold producer in the United States, after the Carlin district in Nevada. The mine produced more than 40 million troy ounces of gold during its life time and 9 million ounces of silver.