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Mercury stills used in gold mining
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 Posted: Fri Jan 2nd, 2009 11:09 pm
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MinerFortyNiner
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This is something unique for those of you interested in gold and silver mining.  This is a mercury still, used to separate gold or silver from other minerals:



The mercury/gold amalgam was placed in the retort (upper door), which has a firebox door borrowed from a Porter locomotive.  The furnace below was stoked to temperatures approaching 2,000 degrees Farenheit.  As the mercury vaporized in the extreme heat, a tube exiting the retort captured it where it condensed, and then dripped into a bucket next to the still.



Notice the steel rails embedded in the stone walls to support the retort.  The fumes produced from this process are extemely toxic, and the Environment Protection Agency would not have approved this job site!  Nonetheless, this process was used around the world virutally anywhere gold or silver mining was performed.




This is a new O scale kit produced by Sonora Scale Models, and sells for 24.95 including First Class shipping within the US and Canada.  I'm a friend of Bill Hay, who did the master work on this little gem.  You can see his site here if interested:

http://www.haybrosgarage.com/o_scale_products.htm  :cb:

Last edited on Sat Jan 3rd, 2009 04:27 am by MinerFortyNiner



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 Posted: Sat Jan 3rd, 2009 01:14 am
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W C Greene
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I hadn't thought about a mercury still, but will build one for my new smelter.  If I was still in 1;48, I would buy the kit but will have to scratchbuild it in my scale. Thanks for the photos of a fine model and the inspiration. A question-would that still be located elsewhere & the mercury shipped in bottles to the smelter or could such a thing be at the smelter itself? Inquiring minds want to know.    Woodie



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 Posted: Sat Jan 3rd, 2009 04:15 am
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MinerFortyNiner
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Thanks, Woodie.  Transporting amalgam (the mercury-gold composite) was difficult and prone to threat of theft.  To my knowledge, the stills were located a short distance from a mill, so the amalgam could be easily transported to the still.  In larger mining operations, the gold could be taken to an assay office nearby for assessment, and for processing into bars.

Because the vapors exiting the condensing pipe coming out the side of the still are very toxic, they would try to locate the still away from busy areas of the mill.  There is a mountain pass in north Phoenix where I live nicknamed 'Dreamy Draw'.  It got its name from the mercury mining and refining that was done in the area around the early 1900s.  The fumes from processing the ore gave the area its name, no doubt from the affect on the workers there.



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 Posted: Sat Jan 3rd, 2009 01:02 pm
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Bob H.
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Vern, thank you for the tidbit of education on gold & silver mining. A part I hadn't known about, I knew mercury was a by product of the industry but didn't know why.  The modeling on the smelter is superb!

I don't have any gold & silver mining on my layout but' I'm positive it could be used else where .

Thanks for the heads up.



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 Posted: Sat Jan 3rd, 2009 01:35 pm
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Sullivan
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Gentlemen,

This is something I can give you insight on as the mining of cinnabar is the only thing being done on my layout as it actually was in many places. The quicksilver (mercury) was extracted from the reddish ore in large retorts or furnaces purpose built for that.

In the large installations there might be several retorts and the mercury vapor would drip into large pans at the base to be collected into flasks. When filled these weighed in at 75 lbs. each. These flasks would be shipped off to where ever they were needed.

In the Big Bend area of Texas the Chisos Mining Company was the major producer, though there were several enterprises working the area. There were no railroads there for transport but rather they used wagons (similar to the 20 mule team configurations of Death Valley) to transport the valuable commodity to Alpine or Marathon to meet the trains there.

You might also be interested to know that gold and silver extraction was not the only purpose for quicksilver. It was also used in the war effort to produce ammunition. During WWI the price skyrocketed because of the need for the silver liquid. This was also the heyday for the Chisos Mining Company.

There are still the remains of some of these furnaces located in Big Bend and the ground is toxic with the metal to this day.

James

Last edited on Sat Jan 3rd, 2009 01:38 pm by Sullivan



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 Posted: Sun Jan 4th, 2009 03:31 am
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MinerFortyNiner
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Thanks, Bob, I appreciate your kind words.

James, Bill Hay and I have learned more about the use of mercury and these stills in the past day based on your input, Woodie's comments above, and info. shared on other sites as well.  It's a fascinating side hobby that is almost as fun as the trains! 

:cb:

 



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 Posted: Fri Apr 3rd, 2009 11:38 pm
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W C Greene
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Vern-I am gonna build one of those cool mercury stills for my smelter operation. Thanks for the inspiration. I think it may be "serviced" by the 15" gauge tram that runs into the smelter complex. The still will probably be a good ways away from everything and all vegetation will be killed off in the area. Again, thanks for the mercury(s).        Woodie



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 Posted: Sat Apr 4th, 2009 07:22 pm
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JerryB
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Now all we need is scale air pollution :)

 

Jerry



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 Posted: Sat Sep 7th, 2013 04:03 pm
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Si.
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An interesting feature for mining layouts indeed...
...don't see these often.

Cheers

Si.



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 Posted: Sat Sep 7th, 2013 06:58 pm
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W C Greene
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Here's a little mercury still at the Lone Star smelter, some ways from Mogollon. Note the lack of living vegetation or other life in the area. A quickly built model that adds to the operation.

Woodie



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 Posted: Sun Sep 8th, 2013 08:44 pm
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chasv
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:moose::moose::moose::moose:



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