A GOLD MINE TOUR
THE HOMESTAKE MINE, Lead, SD
would you like to take a guided tour through the surface workings and mill
buildings of the
grew up in the heart of
pine-clad granite hills above the
1868, the federal government allocated the
door had been opened, so the rush began. Tens of thousands of miners poured
Homestake turned out to be a mountain of free-milling gold. Word of the
richness of the Homestake Mine got out quickly, and in June 1877 George Hearst
In 1899 the Homestake was one of the first, if not THE first, American gold mining operation to install the newly developed cyanide processing. This method of gold recovery increased the recovery percentage from 90% to nearly 100%. The treated ore came from both the underground shafts and tunnels, and the growing open pit that operated from 1876-1945.
A half-century later the mine was still producing, and in 1942, was one of the few mines in the country that was not closed during WWII. Even after the war ended and gold was artificially valued at $35/oz., the mine continued to be worked profitably. In 1983 tests were run in the open pit and it was determined to be economically feasible to begin mining operations there again. That ore is now trucked to the top of the pit in huge dump trucks and dumped into a 6300' long pipe conveyor belt that carries it to the mill across the gulch.
the Homestake is the largest gold mining operation in the country as well as
the most productive mine in the
Tours of the surface workings at the Homestake Mine have been conducted since 1920, and over 2 million people have taken it. They are reasonably priced, and well worth the time and energy. At the mine's visitor center, a video outlines the history of the mine and shows various facets of the complex's operations. Many books on local history are also available.
The tour of the milling complex begins at the visitor center, which sits on the south lip overlooking the monstrous open pit excavation. Buses leave from the building and wind their way up to the top of the hill into the mine's complex of buildings. The tour stops at the Yates Shaft headframe, where mine visitors don blue hardhats and enter the huge corrugated steel tower erected in the 1940s. This tower is the "skyscraper" of the complex, and dominates the city's skyline from its hilltop perch. Inside are hoisting cages which raises and lowers miners deep into the bowels of the mountain. There are huge buckets of raw ore brought up and dumped into various crushers on the west side of the room. It is here the ore undergoes its first crushing as it begins its milling process.
The tour exits the headframe, then around the side of the to another building just east of the Yates headframe. This structure is the hoisting house where operators still sit on elevated stools and keep track of their personnel cages and ore buckets. Television monitors allow visitors to see what is going on inside the bucket dump station. Connecting the two buildings are the thick iron cables that raise and lower the hoists and ore buckets up and down the main shafts. Leaving the hoisting facility with fresh ore samples in hand, visitors are bused past the award-winning waste water pretreatment plant, where cyanide eating bacteria clean the water to where it exceeds federal standards for clean water! The tour then loops past other buildings such as a foundry, metallurgical labs, and other structures. At the South Mill, visitors stroll across platforms and look into the heart of where the ore is processed. Here it is ground into a fine powder by ball, roller and drum mills prior to being sent to the cyanide vats in two nearby "sand plants'.
Homestake Mine still produces over $2 million in gold per year, and the mine
employs about 1300 people. Approximately 2500 tons of ore are required to
produce a single 400-ounce bullion bar. The town of
mine sits at the east end of Lead, and is highly visible from almost anywhere
in the entire town. This tour through
This was our GHOST TOWN OF THE MONTH for Aug-Dec 2000 and January 2001. The long time was due to a computer failure, and subsequent time involved in rescuing the page.
This is one of the locations featured in my newest book, GHOST TOWNS: Yesterday & TodayTM.
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FIRST POSTED: January 01, 2001
LAST UPDATED: March 20, 2005
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