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Articles from the Historical Society in Josephine County Oregon
Platinum in Josephine County, Oregon
June 4, 1903 R.R. Courier
Edited by Michael Oaks
The Mining World
The extraction of Platinum from black sand deposits of Southern Oregonís old channel mineral zones bids fair to become an industry of some importance in that district. A number of hydraulic miners are already mining platinum in connection with the gold getting and are realizing a considerable additional profit by so doing.
For 40 years past or practically since the first discovery of gold in Oregon, it has been known there was another mineral in the placer beds of Southern Oregon old channels beside gold. A very few miners knew this other metal was platinum but the great majority did not. None knew how to save it, so all threw it from their sluices.
The platinum occurs with the black sands of the gravel beds and is found in great quantities in these channels, which have bedrock of Serpentine. The black sand and the platinum being almost identical and seemingly inseparable, presented a problem the pioneers could not solve. In their greed for gold they had little inclination to solve it, as a matter of fact.
But in the late years platinum has become a rare and necessarily a very valuable mineral. Eastern manufacturing companies, whose line of business has demanded platinum, have been aroused to the realization that the demand comes near being greater than the supply. They realize something must be done to stimulate an interest among mining men for mining platinum, in those districts at least where the metal is to be found.
The Southern Oregon placer fields are one of these. A Philadelphia mining company that uses much platinum may truthfully be credited with being the first to enlist an enthusiasm for platinum mining in Southern Oregon. This company sent men into the district with apparatus. They worked quietly in one of the Waldo placer mines for several months and at last announced they had found a method where the platinum of the Southern Oregon placer could save deposits.
They furnished plans without cost to all mines that desired and would take them, for the installation of platinum sluices. The method of extraction is one that can be followed without interfering with the mining of the gold. It consists simply in a system of under current sluices connected with the sluice boxes and which draw off the black sand and spread it over a wide and broad riffle table. Here it settles and is scooped up.
The system can be understood when it is known that the black sand will keep afloat, just like coffee grounds in a cup, if the water is kept stirred. The water carrying it is kept stirred until the broad riffle table at the end of the sluice boxes is reached. Here it gives an opportunity to settle and can be scooped up later and shipped to the company who look after the refining themselves. This black sand has much the appearance of course gun powder.
To the layman it is worthless looking stuff. Placed under a glass it shows up better. It is then that its metallic luster can be recognized. A few nuggets the size of birdís eggs has been found here, though they are rare for platinum nuggets are scarce in the district.