Thread: Stemming Gold
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Old 08-02-2006, 10:39 PM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Posts: 179

“See the drunkard in the tavern
Stemming gold to make ends meet”

I know we have discussed this many times, but now I think I’ve come up with an answer that I’m really happy with. ( What is Stemming gold ? )

On my recent holidays I visited a “Crushing battery”, in Charters Towers, Northern Queensland, where they mined gold for over one hundred years.

The tour guide whom I guess had been there for everyone of these years, explained that once the rock had been very finely crushed, mercury is added which attaches itself to the gold dust to form “amalgam”. Water is then added and it passes through a cradle into a spinning drum, where the amalgam being heaver then any other rock falls to the bottom and everything else is removed. The amalgam is then removed from the drum and heated in a mould until the mercury is vaporised off, this then leaves the gold ingot.

Once the Amalgam is removed from the drum, a very small amount is left, it was the habit of the drum operator to run his finger around the rim of the drum and any amalgam picked up was stored in his pipe. This happened a number of times during the working day, so he would end up with a reasonable amount of amalgam in the “stem” of his pipe at the end of his shift.

The owners were aware of this type of thing happening so they made everyone light their pipes before they left work, mercury vapours in the lungs weren’t very pleasant. But the practice continued with the workers going straight to the Tavern ( Bar, Pub or whatever ) . Once they reached the bar they would tip their pipe upside down and a small gold nugget would fall out. The Tavern owner would keep the gold on account against the workers drinks, no money changed hands and the gold could only be used for drinks.

Because of the manner in which the worker obtained the gold they couldn’t dispose of it in a legal manner.

So I guess they soon became drunkards.

I hope you all like this story, ( and didn’t fall asleep before the end. )

Keep Smiling.. Ron.
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