The yield reached its lowest point in 1899, but subsequently increased through the application of improved machinery, while the tailings of the old diggings were treated by the cyanide process with profitable results.
This interruption, due to the practical prohibition of the industry by the United States courts, on the ground that it was injuring, through the deposit of tailings, agricultural lands and navigable streams, was lessened, though not entirely removed, by compromises and regulations which permit, under certain restrictions, the renewed exploitation of the ancient river-beds by the hydraulic method.
There are belt conveyers for discharging the gravel and tailings at the end of the vessel remote from the buckets.
The process was introduced in 1858 by Deetken at Grass Valley, California, where the waste minerals, principally pyrites from tailings, had been worked for a considerable time by amalgamation.
The process is rarely applied to ores direct; free-milling ores are generally amalgamated, and the tailings and slimes, after concentration, operated upon.
Of gold to the metric ton (2000 ib), is stamped and amalgamated, and the slimes and tailings, containing about 32 dwts.
In the Transvaal the operation occupies 32 to 4 days for fine sands, and up to 14 days for coarse sands; the quantity of cyanide per ton of tailings varies from 0.26 to 0.28 lb, for electrolytic precipitation, and o 5 lb for zinc precipitation.
The placer-miner's cradle and rocking-trough were replaced by puddling troughs stirred by a revolving comb worked by horse power; reservoirs were constructed for the scanty water-supply, bucket elevators were introduced to carry away the tailings; and the natives were confined in compounds.
But the mines continued to be worked, though Strabo records that in his time the tailings were being worked over, and Pausanias speaks of the mines as a thing of the past.