Mining Jargon: Cleaning up
Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 5:25PM
Jo Giessner

According to John S. Hittell in the book Hittell on Gold Mines and Mining:

Cleaning up - The separation of the gold, amalgam, and quicksilver, from the dirt in the bottom of the sluice, is called "cleaning up;" and the period between one "cleaning up" and another is called a "run." A run in a common board-sluice usually lasts from six to ten days. Ordinarily the sluice runs only during daylight, but in some claims the work continues night and day. Cleaning up occupies from half a day to a day, and therefore must not be repeated too often because it consumes too much time. In some sluices the cleaning up does not occur until the riffle-bars have been worn out or much bruised by the wear of the stones and gravel. Cleaning up is considered light and pleasant work as compared with other sluicing, and is often reserved for Sunday.

At the time fixed, the throwing in of dirt ceases, and the water runs until it becomes clear. five or six sets of riffle-bars, a distance of thirty or thirty-five feet, are taken up at the head of the sluice, and the dirt between the bars is washed down, while the gold and amalgam lodge above the first remaining set of riffle-bars, whence it is taken out with a scoop or large spoon, and put into a pan. Five or six more sets of bars are taken up and so on down. Sometimes all the riffle-bars are taken up at once, save one set in every thirty six feet, and then the work of cleaning up is dispatched much more rapidly.

The quicksilver and amalgam taken from the sluice are put into a buckskin or cloth, and pressed, so that the liquid metal passes through, and the amalgam is retained. The amalgam is then heated, to drive off the mercury. This may be done either in an open pan or in a close retort. In the former, the quicksilver is lost; in the latter, it is saved. The pan is generally preferred. Often a shovel or plate of iron is used. Three pounds of amalgam, from which the liquid metal has been carefully pressed out, will yield one pound of gold. The gold remaining after the quicksilver has been driven off by heat from the amalgam, is a porous mass, somewhat resembling sponge-cake in appearance.~

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