Thursday, March 21, 2013

Things You Fnd in the Field: Holes in the Ground #1

While out wandering around here and there in Nevada, and other places throughout the west, you might run across mine dumps and associated various holes in the ground — adits, shafts, declines, and other irregular openings — put in, usually, by old-style prospectors and small or individual miners.
Small irregular opening with small mine dump.
Larger mine dump: Let's go see what's there!
It's a small shaft with old timber as shoring. The round-headed wire nails suggest that this is a relatively recent shaft: probably post-1910
Openings like this are, nowadays, often blocked off with chain-link fencing or other barricades, which is a fine thing for preventing random people from falling or driving in — often those who happen to be wandering around after dark, or who might be driving across the hills without a good idea of where they are (an old mining district), where they are going (cross country where there isn't a road), or what they are doing (possibly out for so-called fun after a couple beers) — but they make it difficult for people like me to figure out what the oldtimers were digging on, and why, and can prevent sampling the rock, vein, or structure to determine its geochemistry. Barricades can also prevent me from going into accessible adits for sampling and underground geologic mapping, and can prevent or at least hinder other geologists with the know-how and right equipment from going down shafts for sampling and geologic reconnaissance or mapping.

This particular hole was unbarricaded.

Beyond the timber and the rock overhang, the small shaft appears to end only a few feet below the surface, although my photo doesn't show whether an underground drift takes off from the area hidden by the rock at the opening. Enlarging the photo reveals several narrow, parallel white lines across the photo that make it clear that it was raining that day. Enlargement also suggests that a drift does take off from the far side of the shaft, as does the relatively large size of the associated mine dump (second photo).

You always have to ask this question: What were the oldtimers digging on? A few, narrow, high-angle fractures or structures can be seen above the first irregular opening or adit. Iron-staining and possible veining (silica? calcite?) can be seen in the rock at the shaft. Did they mine anything? Hard to say without doing a little more research into the area or more work in the field.

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