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The Lead Belt Of The Coeur d’Alenes

Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Idaho | No Comments

Lead was first discovered in the Coeur d’Alene mining district, in northern Idaho, on Canyon creek in the fall of 1884, the discovery at that time being the Tiger mine, situated at the town of Burke. During same year a few other locations were made on Canyon creek, a few at Mullan, and in the fall of 1885 the Bunker Hill & Sullivan mines were discovered at Wardner.

At the time these discoveries were made the country was inaccessible, with no railroads, wagon roads or trails, and the only way of getting in was by foot; ten to fifteen miles’ travel per day was about all the distance a prospector could cover, owing to the heavy underbrush and timber at that time. The prospector of that day who has not kept posted with the progress of the Coeur d’Alenes would hardly be able to recognize the country at this time. The camp at present may be divided into four districts, viz.: Canyon Creek, Wardner, Mullan and Nine Mile, and standing in the importance of output in the order named. The veins in the Canyon creek district are true fissure veins and as such are likely to go to great depth, some of them having already reached a depth of one thousand feet to one thousand two hundred feet, with no signs of any decrease in quality or quantity of ore. The ore shutes in all the mines on Canyon creek are well defined, regular in width and length and lying between two walls that require but very little prospecting outside the walls or ore-bearing bodies. The slues are much longer than usually found in other camps with like character of ore. The pay streaks vary from two to thirty feet in width and the ore is comparatively clean, requiring no sorting of waste, that is, everything between the walls being milled. This district lies between the Mullan and Nine Mile districts, and being in the center the ore bodies are larger and richer. In the Wardner district the veins are not so regular and defined. The ore bodies lie between the two walls, which are from 200 feet to 300 feet apart: between these walls the vein is filled with ledge matter, the ore bodies or pay ore being bunchy in character and somewhat irregular as to position, requiring a large amount of prospecting work and considerable sorting of the waste from the ore when found. It would be called more of a mineral zone than a fissure vein. The ore bodies when found are large, being anywhere from two to one hundred feet in width, but the shutes are usually short in length. The Mullan district more fully resembles the Canyon creek veins, but the ore bodies do not carry as high values in silver. The Nine Mile is also similar to Canyon creek with the exception that the shutes are not as regular or defined and the ore bodies not so long or wide.

Generally speaking, as to the formation of the camp, the country rock is slate with more or less quartzite and is said to resemble closely the formation of the Hartz mountains in Germany, in which district the lead mines have been worked for the last century to a depth of over three thousand feet. The general character of the ore is an argentiferous galena, and on an average it carries about one-half an ounce of silver to one per cent, of lead. The output of the camp for the last ten years has been steadily increasing, and in 1897 the Coeur d’Alene lead district produced nearly forty per cent, of the entire lead product of the United Slates. It is on this district that the smelters rely principally for their supply of lead ores.

From official figures I append the following lead statistics for the past four years; showing the United States production and consumption of lead, together with average prices for same:


1894 1895 1896 1897
Tons produced. Deslvd product U. S. ore 120,081 129,748 138,395 138,395
Missouri-Galena 38,113 38,189 44,616 43,820
Total U. S. production 158,194 167,937 183,011 196,295
Used from imported ores and bullion. 29,276 48,020 27,451 30,528
Imported foreign pig 8,572 22,947 2,414 1,740
Total supply 196,042 238,904 212,876 228,563
Re-exported manufactured  950 2,048 1,500 1,250
195,092 236,856 211,376 227,313
Decrease or increase in stocks 2,000 11,500 10,900 4,000
Total consumption 197,092 225,356 222,276 223,313
Stocks, Dec. 31st 2,000 13,500 2,600 6,600
Yearly average price of “Common” at N. Y. $3.12 $3.12 $2.83 $3.38
Tons of 2.000 lbs. throughout.

From the above statistics for the year 1897, the total United States production shows 196,295 tons, of which amount the Coeur d’Alene lead belt produced 69,600 tons of metallic lead, having shipped during the year 1897, 116,000 tons of concentrates which will average sixty per cent, lead and thirty ounces silver to the ton, this output for the year 1897 being made up from the three districts Canyon Creek, Wardner and Mullan, as follows: Canyon Creek. 54.565 tons; Wardner, 36.715 tons; Mullan, 23,660 tons; and furnished by the following mines:

CC Tiger & Poorman Mining Co. (9 mos.) .….16,740
a r Mammoth Mining Co….. 4.360
n e Standard Mining Co….. 22,075
y e Helena & Frisco Mining Co. (5 mos.)….. 10,750
o k Milwaukee Mining Co….. 600
n Formosa Mining Co…..40
Wardner ( Bunker Hill & Sullivan Mining Co….29,600
Wardner Last Chance Mining Co….. 7,1 15
Mullan: Morning Mining Co….. 23,660
From sundry other smaller claims (estimated)….1,060

Total 116.000

Of this 116,000 of concentrates shipped, the lead contents will average for the district sixty per cent, lead, producing 69.600 tons desilverized lead, containing 3,480,000 ounces silver, being an average of thirty ounces to the ton of concentrates shipped. The aver-age price for lead for 1897 was three dollars and thirty-eight cents per one hundred pounds, and the average price of silver per ounce for 1897 was fifty-nine cents, showing a gross value of lead, $4,704,960 and a gross value of silver. $2,053,200 making a total of $6,758,160.

Statistics so far this year (1898) show a general falling off in the lead production of the United States of about twenty per cent., while British Columbia shows a reduction of about thirty per cent. This falling off of the production and the natural advance in all the products on account of the war have had the effect to advance the price of lead, and prices to-day are about one-half a cent higher than at the beginning of the year, with probabilities of a still further advance. Should the war continue long, Spanish production, which cuts quite a figure, must be considerably decreased; and this and the numerous sums of money to be spent on the navies of the world for the next few years must create a large demand for all materials. The construction of the larger guns for the navy requires more lead than is demanded for the use of the guns afterward, in actual warfare. the guns using iron and steel for the projectiles, while in the construction of the guns there is an average of from thirty to sixty tons of lead used per gun for counter-weights on the disappearing gun carriages. This shortage of production from other sources, the probable increase for the use of lead in gun construction and electrical machinery, would indicate higher prices for the material and better times for the Coeur d’Alenes.

That the Coeur d’Alene district is getting ready to take advantage of these prices is evidenced by the general activity throughout the entire district, new prospects being opened up and getting into the hands of capital able to work them, and all of the older mines preparing for a larger output. Nine Mile district will be a producer in a short time. The Black Cloud Company have recently erected a one-hundred-ton concentrator, which will be ready for operation August 1st. The Custer mine is also being worked again; considerable work has been done on the Tamarack & Chesapeake properties, also on the Cowan and Blue Grouse, as well as numerous other properties on Nine Mile, all of which make a good showing. There is every reason to expect that Nine Mile next year will show quite a tonnage. That the permanency of the camp is assured is fully evidenced by the workings of the older mines. The first mines discovered in the camp are all working today and turning out more ore than ever before in their history.

The Tiger & Poorman, the first location in the belt, has been a steady producer since 1887; the Tiger shaft is down to the one thousand four hundred level a perpendicular distance of one thousand two hundred feet. The lower workings of this property are better today than they were nearer the surface. The Helena & Frisco, in the same canyon, is down a depth of one thousand feet vertically, with same conditions. From these two properties, which are the deepest in the camp, it is safe to say that deep mining in the Coeur d’Alenes is only in its infancy and with a long future in store.

All the producing mines have concentrators of their own, which for extensive and close work cannot be excelled anywhere in the United States. All of them are equipped with both water and steam power, and for six months in the year are able to run by water power, effecting considerable saving in operating expenses. All are equipped with machine shops, enabling the mines to do most of their repair work about the mines and mills. Nowhere do you find the business of mining conducted on better business principles than in the Coeur d’Alenes. The ore is here, the veins are permanent, and while it requires considerable money to open up the properties as well as large outlays for machinery to handle the ore, after this is done it simply becomes a business proposition to get out the ore as cheaply as possible. Every advantage is used for the economical working of the ore with as little handling of same as possible, from the time the ore is taken from the mine until loaded on the cars in the shape of concentrates.

Air drills are used almost altogether for the breaking of the ore in the mines, all the mines being equipped with the best compressing plants that money can buy, and some of the plants having capacities of forty to sixty drills, and very few less than twenty drill plants. Heavy mining machinery of all kinds is used, there being two 20×60 direct-acting hoists now working in the camp, situated on the Tiger & Poor-man and Helena & Frisco properties. These hoists are built to go to a depth of two thousand five hundred feet and handle from six hundred to seven hundred tons of ore per day besides handling the waste and necessary mining supplies, and requiring from five hundred to six hundred horse power to operate them. Pumps of a capacity of one thousand gallons per minute, hoisting one thousand feet in one lift, are to be found in these mines. Some idea of the size of these pumps and the amount of power required to operate same, may be formed when it is considered that few cities of twenty thousand population have larger water-works for supplying the city than these same pumps, which are used only for keeping some of the mines dry. From one thousand to one thousand five hundred horse power is not uncommon for the amount of power required to operate the machinery of some of the mines of the district: and to furnish this power, water, electricity and steam are generally used. Water power costs nothing outside the development of the power, which first cost of installation does not generally exceed that of first cost of steam plant for same amount of power; but expenses of operation are only nominal after flumes and water wheels are in place. With steam, the cost of furnishing power is quite an item, with some companies requiring an expenditure of from thirty-five to fifty thousand dollars per year. This will be remedied within a few years by the installation of large electrical plants which will be operated by water power and which will distribute the power for the different mines interested, from five hundred to one thousand horse power each. Such an enterprise will be a paying investment and can not long be delayed, there being several sufficient water powers within forty to fifty miles of the camp. When this is installed it will materially add to the life of the mines and the permanency of the district, cheapening the cost of power and allowing low-grade properties to be worked at a profit.

The shipping facilities of the camp cannot be excelled in any mining camp in the west. There are two transcontinental railroads running to the mill doors of nearly all the producing mines of the camp. The ore is delivered direct from the mill to the cars with-out any team-hauling and the only improvement in this line would be a reduction in railroad freights, which the camp is entitled to, not only on account of the magnitude of the tonnage furnished, but more especially on account of excessive freight charges in comparison with rates given other camps. Present freight rates, which will average twelve dollars per ton to Denver and Colorado points, should be reduced at least one-third. Smelter rates should also be reduced. Without the lead ores of the Coeur d’Alenes, more than one-half the smelters now in operation would be compelled to close down, and without our lead ores the dry ores of Colorado and Utah could not be worked.

The present condition of the Coeur d’Alenes is one of prosperity. We are furnishing steady employment to fully two thousand men in the working of the mines and mills at the best wages in the west. Fully three thousand more men derive their living indirectly from the mines and mills, and depend upon their prosperity. This, with the women and children, will give a population of eight to ten thousand living immediately in the vicinity of the camp and all more or less interested in the working of the mines in this district. The pay roll of the camp for wages paid out each month will amount to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, or three million dollars per annum. The railroad companies are paid for outgoing and incoming freights not less than one million five hundred thousand dollars per annum, and the smelters, for the treatment of the ore, nearly a million more annually.

Where can you find a more prosperous condition of affairs? Were it not for the few agitators who infest the camp, and who not only commit lawless acts themselves (which are a disgrace to the community and an outrage upon the liberties of law-abiding citizens) but draw others into them who are opposed to such things, but dare not assert their opinions concerning same, for fear of incurring the enmity of organized labor, we would have one of the best and most prosperous camps in the west.

The Miners’ Union and the Knights of Labor practically control the work of the camp outside of the Wardner district, which is a non-union camp, the other camps being union camps and paying the union scale of wages which is three dollars and fifty cents per day for underground men and three dollars per day for all men above ground. These two organizations are a power in the district and could do and do accomplish a great deal of good in relieving the suffering of their fellow workmen in case of sickness and accidents, by paying them weekly allowances and looking after their sick, and in case of death by giving them a decent burial and paying all funeral expenses. For their efforts in this direction, as well as to secure a good rate of wages, no reasonable person can object to their union; and were it not for the agitator who makes himself conspicuous under the guise of working for the cause of labor, but in reality working against the laboring man’s interest by stirring up strife and discord between laborer and employer, the country would be better off and more prosperous. By the co-operation of the better class of members of the Miners’ Union and the Knights of Labor, which element is largely in the majority in both orders, with the law-abiding element of the business community, working together m harmony, the restoration of law and order could easily be brought about and a stop put to the many outrages that have been a disgrace to this section of the country and that have prevented outside capital from seeking investment in the Coeur d’Alenes, forcing capital to British Columbia and other points where the opportunities for profitable investments are not half so good or sure as in the lead belt of the Coeur d’Alenes. The unions for their own interests, as well as in the interest of organized labor at large, should lend their assistance to put a stop to some of the occurrences which have taken place in the camp and for which the unions as a body have been blamed, while as organizations they have had nothing to do with the same, but have allowed a few of their members to commit these acts and to cover them under the plea that it had been done for the cause of labor, thereby using the unions as a cloak to cover their acts. That the better element in both organizations of the camp do not approve and countenance these outrages, the writer is satisfied from a personal acquaintance with a large number of its members.

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