MINING 117. The prospector.—In the Plateau States a traveler often sees a lonely miner climbing up some mountain path. The man is a prospector, one who hunts through the mountains looking for the precious gold, silver, or copper for which men will .pay so much money. These metals, mixed with earth or stone, often lie buried beneath the soil or rocks. We call this mixture ore. If a prospector finds good ore, he stakes out his claim and the government gives the piece of land to him. Most of the land in the mountains still belongs to the govern ment, because it is not good for farms.
We can often see in the rocky hillsides holes that have been dug by prospectors hunting for ore. Most of the holes con tained no ore and were worthless, but no one could know it without digging. It often takes long hunting to find the places where metals lie hidden. Some prospec tors hunt all their lives for good mines, and barely find enough ore to buy food.
118. The mining town.—Once in a while the prospector finds in the rocks a rich seam of metal which makes him wealthy. Other miners hear of the great find, and flock to the place to try their luck. Thus a town soon springs up, even though the location is a poor one for a city. Leadville, in Colorado, is such a mining town. It is so high up that it is too cold to grow much food. It is the highest city in the United States, nearly two miles above the sea (10,150 feet). Sometimes there is frost every month in the year there. When the miners have dug all the gold and silver and lead out of the mines, nearly everybody will move away from Leadville. Many mining towns have been abandoned entirely, and others have sprung up in new places within a few weeks after the metal was found. Gold was found a few years ago in the Nevada desert. Miners rushed there, railroads were quickly built, and soon the thriving towns of Tonopah' and Goldfield stood on land so dry that one could never hope to have a garden, or even a shade tree as high as his porch. But as long as gold comes
out of the mines and railroads carry freight, the people there can buy all kinds of things from distant places.
119. A copper center-At Butte, Mon tana, there is a great hill with many won derful seams or veins of copper in it, run ning down deep into the ground. Tunnels and passages are being dug through it in all directions, and every day carloads of copper ore are lifted to the surface by elec tricity. Thousands of men work there all the time, and under this one hill there are hundreds of miles of aban doned tunnels.
Butte produces almost nothing to sell except copper and silver, but these are of great value, and much money is received from their sale. The stores in Butte have as many things in them as those of any other town or small city, and the children have just as fine schools and desks and books as have the children of Chicago or New York. Can you tell some uses of copper? The mines of Butte made it possible for Montana to produce more copper than Michigan for a few years; but now the state of Arizona leads in producing copper. In Utah. and at Ely in eastern Nevada, copper ore has been found in deposits that can be worked with steam shovels. This method is much easier and safer than going underground. Mining is hard and often dangerous work. Sometimes when the men are hundreds of feet below the surface digging passages in the rocks and blasting them out with dynamite, great masses of rocks fall in on them, or imprison them far under ground.
120. The mines of you will look at the physical map of North America (Fig. 48), you will see that the western highlands reach northward from the United States into Canada and southward into Mexico. There are many rich silver, gold and copper mines in the highlands of Mexico. When the Spaniards first found this country, they were surprised to see how much gold and silver the people had. To this day, mining is the chief industry of the Mexican highlands.