The History of Gold Dredging

Richardson, Mortimer J.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1992
Dredging can be traced to early times where it may have been derived by the Phoenicians prior to the 4th century B.C. The first tangible design drawings of a bucket ladder (BL) dredge can be found in the collections of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), which he produced when he was attempting to create better methods of channel and port dredging. The perfection of the system did not commence until after the invention of the steam engine in the early 1800's; providing the impetus to progress from man-powered mud mills, horse drawn along polders or dikes in the Netherlands, England, France and Germany, to steam-driven. In the 1860's following the various gold rushes in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Siberia and South America, with placers in particular, efforts were begun to apply mechanization to achieve deeper digging. There is a recording of a dredge being installed to mine gold in Montana in the 1860's but did not include a processing system. Then in the 1880's in New Zealand, some practical engineers developed a system that is said to be the first bucket ladder mining (BL/M) dredge for mining gold placers. In studies of the New Zealand gold dredging experience, it is estimated that some 500 dredges were built to mine gold between the 1880's and 1942. A careful analysis of the data, however, shows that very few were profitable. The technology appeared to stagnate in the early part of the century. Two of the BL/M dredge design engineers left New
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