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Patagonia Bookshelf



In a former report I stated that all down the east side of the Cordilleras, south of the province of Mendoza to the extremity of Patagonia, the Sierras are known to be rich in gold, silver, and copper minerals, but that the Indians took good care that their hunting grounds should not be invaded or violated by white men. Not long since I had a conversation with an old California [Australian? (see below), Ed.] miner who had just returned from the lower part of Patagonia. He confirmed the statement and said that he had made various discoveries of rich veins of gold, but that it would be impossible to work them without machinery.

On the same subject Mr. F. B. Shanklin [Frederick Lawrence Bird Shanklin (1833-1900), British vice-consul at Punta Arenas, Ed.], who was for twelve years a gold miner in Australia, has just published the following rather interesting account of two years' prospecting in Patagonia.

" The auriferous deposits of Patagonia appear to be of very great extent, and in almost every place where gold has been looked for, it has been found, not in rich deposits as in the Sierras of California or the valleys of Australia, but much more general, appearing to be very evenly distributed through all the immense beds of stratified and unstratified drift gravel which cap the Tertiary formation, extending from the lower slopes of the Cordillera to the shore of the Atlantic, and from the river Santa Cruz to Tierra del Fuego. To the north of the river Santa Cruz it has never been looked for, but Captain Musters in his work "At Home with the Patagonians" speaks of observing indications of its existence among the foot-hills of the Cordillera.

" With the exception of the stream Las Minas, emptying itself close to Sandy Point, no coarse gold has been found, but I think this is owing to the small amount of work which has been done in those streams; they being situated at a considerable distance from Sandy Point, it is inconvenient to obtain supplies.

" In November 1876, a party of Englishmen made an excursion in a small yawl into Otway and Skyring Waters. In several places in King William's Land, and up some of the streams to the northwest of Skyring Water, whenever they tried for gold, they obtained from one to three and four fine particles to each pan. Two of the party proceeded up one of the rivers emptying themselves to the northwest of Skyring Water, for some distance, and observed large beds of gravel and glacial clay, one of the beds of gravel, extending along the banks for some six miles, having apparently been cut in two by the stream, and was of considerable depth; in this gravel bed they obtained prospects of fine gold.

" About four years back a party of Englishmen were over to Admiralty Sound in Tierra del Fuego to look for seals; they examined two rivers which empty themselves into this bay, and in all gravel, both in the beds and on the banks of those streams, obtained prospects of fine gold.

" In April, 1876, a small schooner owned by D. C. Ramirez [Cruz Daniel Ramírez, Ed.], of Sandy Point, was driven on shore during a gale, in the vicinity of Cape Virgin, at the eastern entrance to the Straits. The crew was saved, and one of them while digging a hole for water, under a gravel cliff close to the shore, observed gold in the gravel. They had nothing but a tin dinner-plate; with this they proceeded to work, and in about two hours obtained six grains of the metal, value 25 cents. This I obtained from the captain of the vessel and forwarded it to Mr. Henry Sewell of Valparaiso.

" Several of the men I have had working for me in my experiments at Las Mantillas [location unidentified, Ed.] have informed me that at the Gallegos River, and still further north, when out trading with the Indians, they have, while at their encampments, obtained by the same rude means of a dinner-plate from one to three colours to each plate; and one party, named Greenwood, has obtained very good prospects in the same region. Gold has also been found in the vicinity of the river Santa Cruz.

" The rivulet Las Minas takes its rise in the continuation of the Brecknock Hills [Brunswick, Ed.]. Gold was found in this stream in 1869; in 1870 it was worked considerably, but only by the old process of pan, pick, and shovel. In this year (1870) about 100 men found constant employment in extracting the metal from the bed of the stream, and Don Oscar Viel, governor of the colony, purchased gold to the value of $25,000, obtained by the above rude process, besides that which passed through the hands of other small traders. From the mouth of the stream to the summit of the range, which at this part is 1,200 feet by the barometer, the distance is about sixteen miles. "

Source: "US Congressional Serial Set Documents, 1879", unidentified volume, page 87
Previously published in the "Anglo-Chilian Times (Valparaíso) and "The Standard" (Buenos Aires)
A partial Spanish translation is found in "Argentina: Memoria del Departamento General de Inmigración, 1879"
A brief mention appears in "Brasil and River Plate Mail" (London), reprinted in "Capital and Labour", Vol. 5, 1878
Original author: Unidentified
Clipped: 12-X-2014
Updated: 20-X-2014
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