|Frozen Gold Transcript:
>>In 1949, Fairbanks was the center of gold mining in the state.
>>It was gold that made Fairbanks grow into a town, and it was gold that would make a city out of it.
>>From1925, this company was gold mining in Fairbanks in a big way.
>>Placer mining uses water poured over gold-bearing gravel to separate gravel and sand from the gold.
>>For this large an operation it took a great deal of water.
>>The company used a complex of ditches to bring it in.
>>Hydraulic hoses forced warm water into the frozen muck, or overburden layer, above the gold-bearing gravel.
>>Sometimes the layer was 200 feet deep. It took two hours just to clear two inches.
>>Forty-eight hoses were needed to clear an area for one dredge.
>>The hoses also exposed ice-age fossils which were given to the museum.
>>The next layer to remove was the gravel that didn’t contain gold.
>>The drag line, the largest in Alaska at the time, scraped up 40,000 pounds to a load.
>>The base slid on pontoons so it could move continuously.
>>Excess gravel became the bed for the highway to Anchorage.
>>Finally, the gold-bearing gravel had to be thawed before the dredge could go to work.
>>Men hammered points into the ground either by hand or by machine.
>>The points were hollow to jet warm water into the frozen gravel.
>>While the machine was no faster than the men, it took much less effort.
>>The interior’s frozen ground made mining exceptional.
>>It too seven years from survey to gold bar, mostly in preparation for the dredges.
>>Buckets of gravel went into the dredges and water and tailings went out.
>>The dredging continued around the clock all the way down to bedrock.
>>The machine could pivot on its shaft to maneuver to more rock.
>>Nine months a year dredging never stopped.
>>Crews housed on the site worked in three shifts.
>>The winter freeze stopped dredging, but workers returned in early spring, removing fifteen thousand tons of ice from the dredging ponds.
>>Cleanup every couple of weeks was actually removing gold from the riffles.
>>Gold-bearing sand remained when the gravel was washed away.
>>It combined with mercury to form a solid amalgam.
>>Paddling separated the amalgam from other material.
>>The boxed amalgam was taken to town and shoveled into a retort and melting furnace.
>>Heat separated the mercury which distilled out as a liquid to be reused.
>>More heat melted the gold and released impurities.
>>Then pure liquid gold was poured into molds.
>>In those days it went for $35 an ounce.