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A gold rush is a new discovery of gold —sometimes accompanied by other precious metals and rare earth minerals —that brings an onrush of miners seeking their fortune. Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, South Africa and the United States, while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.
The wealth that resulted was distributed widely because of reduced migration costs and low barriers to entry. While gold mining itself was unprofitable for most diggers and mine owners, some people made large fortunes, and the merchants and transportation facilities made large profits. The resulting increase in the world's gold supply stimulated global trade and investment. Historians have written extensively about the migration, trade, colonization and environmental history associated with gold rushes.
Gold rushes were typically marked by a general buoyant feeling of a "free for all" in income mobility, in which any single individual might become abundantly wealthy almost instantly, as expressed in the California Dream. Gold rushes helped spur a huge immigration that often led to permanent settlement of new regions. Activities propelled by gold rushes define significant aspects of the culture of the Australian and North American frontiers.
At a time when the world's money supply was based on gold , the newly mined gold provided economic stimulus far beyond the gold fields. Gold rushes extend as far back to the Roman Empire , whose gold mining was described by Diodorus Siculus and Pliny the Elder , and probably further back to Ancient Egypt.
Within each mining rush there is typically a transition through progressively higher capital expenditures, larger organizations, and more specialized knowledge. They may also progress from high-unit value to lower unit value minerals from gold to silver to base metals.
A rush typically begins with the discovery of placer gold made by an individual. At first the gold may be washed from the sand and gravel by individual miners with little training, using a gold pan or similar simple instrument.
Once it is clear that the volume of gold-bearing sediment is larger than a few cubic metres, the placer miners will build rockers or sluice boxes, with which a small group can wash gold from the sediment many times faster than using gold pans. Winning the gold in this manner requires almost no capital investment, only a simple pan or equipment that may be built on the spot, and only simple organisation.
The low investment, the high value per unit weight of gold, and the ability of gold dust and gold nuggets to serve as a medium of exchange, allow placer gold rushes to occur even in remote locations. After the sluice-box stage, placer mining may become increasingly large scale, requiring larger organisations and higher capital expenditures.
Small claims owned and mined by individuals may need to be merged into larger tracts. Difficult-to-reach placer deposits may be mined by tunnels. Water may be diverted by dams and canals to placer mine active river beds or to deliver water needed to wash dry placers. The more advanced techniques of ground sluicing , hydraulic mining and dredging may be used.
Typically the heyday of a placer gold rush would last only a few years. The free gold supply in stream beds would become depleted somewhat quickly, and the initial phase would be followed by prospecting for veins of lode gold that were the original source of the placer gold. Hard rock mining, like placer mining, may evolve from low capital investment and simple technology to progressively higher capital and technology. The surface outcrop of a gold-bearing vein may be oxidized, so that the gold occurs as native gold, and the ore needs only to be crushed and washed free milling ore.
The first miners may at first build a simple arrastra to crush their ore; later, they may build stamp mills to crush ore more quickly. As the miners dig down, they may find that the deeper part of vein contains gold locked in sulfide or telluride minerals , which will require smelting.
If the ore is still sufficiently rich, it may be worth shipping to a distant smelter direct shipping ore. Lower-grade ore may require on-site treatment to either recover the gold or to produce a concentrate sufficiently rich for transport to the smelter. As the district turns to lower-grade ore, the mining may change from underground mining to large open-pit mining. Many silver rushes followed upon gold rushes. As transportation and infrastructure improve, the focus may change progressively from gold to silver to base metals.
In this way, Leadville, Colorado started as a placer gold discovery, achieved fame as a silver-mining district, then relied on lead and zinc in its later days. Various gold rushes occurred in Australia over the second half of the 19th century. The most significant of these, although not the only ones, were the New South Wales gold rush and Victorian gold rush in ,  and the Western Australian gold rushes of the s.
They were highly significant to their respective colonies' political and economic development as they brought a large number of immigrants, and promoted massive government spending on infrastructure to support the new arrivals who came looking for gold.
While some found their fortune, those who did not often remained in the colonies and took advantage of extremely liberal land laws to take up farming. It was followed by the California Gold Rush of —55 in the Sierra Nevada , which captured the popular imagination. The California gold rush led directly to the settlement of California by Americans and the rapid entry of that state into the union in The gold rush in stimulated worldwide interest in prospecting for gold, and led to new rushes in Australia, South Africa, Wales and Scotland.
Successive gold rushes occurred in western North America: Resurrection Creek , near Hope, Alaska was the site of Alaska's first gold rush in the mid—s. Robert William Service depicted with talent in his poetries the dramatic event of the Gold Rush, especially in the book The Trail of ' In South Africa, the Witwatersrand Gold Rush in the Transvaal was important to that country's history, leading to the founding of Johannesburg and tensions between the Boers and British settlers.
At the time of the South African rush, gold production benefited from the newly discovered techniques by Scottish chemists, the MacArthur-Forrest process , of using potassium cyanide to extract gold from low-grade ore. Between and Tierra del Fuego experienced a gold rush attracting a large number of Chileans, Argentines and Europeans to the archipelago.
The gold rush begun in following discovery of gold during the rescue of the French steamship Arctique near Cape Virgenes. Approximately million people are directly or indirectly dependent on small-scale mining. For example, there are , to 1. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Gold rush disambiguation. This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.
February Learn how and when to remove this template message. Gold mining in the United States. Brazilian Gold Rush and Tierra del Fuego gold rush. Australian Economic History Review. Events That Shaped Australia.
Tar Heel Junior Historian 45, no. Prospecting and Mining Journal. Retrieved 28 November Gold Inflation this time". FX Micheloud Monetary History. Archived from the original on Editorial Francisco de Aguirre S.
University of Washington Press. Retrieved 19 December History of gold exploration and mining in the CIS". The early s were marked by the decision of the Communist Party Politburo to reinstate the institution of prospectors who had been banned as antisocialist elements in the second half of the s.
Littlepage described in his book that by all plans to put prospectors back to work in the field had been worked out and implemented as rapidly as possible.
Regulations to govern relations between prospectors and Gold Thrust were drawn up, setting in motion a Soviet gold rush. The New York Times. A visit to the core of a frenzy in the middle of nowhere". Brazilians Flock to Seek their Fortunes in the Amazon". Gold rushes of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
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