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"The question as to how gold was originally deposited in our auriferous lodes is one to which a large amount of attention has been given, both by mineralogists and practical miners, and which has been hotly argued by those who held the igneous theory and those who pronounced for the aqueous theory. It was held by the former that as gold was not probably existent in nature in any but its metallic form, therefore it had been deposited in its siliceous matrix while in a molten state, and many ingenious arguments were adduced in support of this contention. Of late, however, most scientific men, and indeed many purely empirical inquirers (using the word empirical in its strict sense) have come to the conclusion that though the mode in which they were composed was not always identical, all lodes, including auriferous formations, were primarily derived from mineral- impregnated waters which deposited their contents in fissures caused either by the cooling of the earth's crust or by volcanic agency.
"The subject is one which has long had a special attraction for the writer, who has published several articles thereon, wherein it was contended that not only was gold deposited in the lodes from aqueous solution, but that some gold found in form of nuggets had not been derived from lodes but was nascent in its alluvial bed; and for this proof was afforded by the fact that certain nuggets have been unearthed having the shape of an adjacent pebble or angular fragment of stone indented in them. Moreover, no true nugget of any great size has ever been found in a lode such as the Welcome, 2159 oz., or the Welcome Stranger, 2280 oz.; while it was accidentally discovered some years ago that gold could be induced to deposit itself from its mineral salt to the metallic state on any suitable base, such as iron sulphide.
"Following out this fact, I have experimented with various salts of gold, and have obtained some very remarkable results. I have found it practicable to produce most natural looking specimens of auriferous quartz from stone which previously, as proved by assay, contained no gold whatever. Moreover, the gold, which penetrates the stone in a thorough manner, assumes some of the more natural forms. It is always more or less mammillary, but at times, owing to causes which I have not yet quite satisfied myself upon, is decidedly dendroidal, as may be seen in one of the specimens which I have submitted to members. Moreover, I find it possible to moderate the colour and to produce a specimen in which the gold shall be as ruddy yellow as in the ferro- oxide gangue of Mount Morgan, or to tone it to the pale primrose hue of the product of the Croydon mines.
"I note that the action of the bath in which the stone is treated has a particularly disintegrating effect on many of the specimens. Some, which before immersion were of a particularly flinty texture, became in a few weeks so friable that they could be broken up by the fingers. So far as my experiments have extended they have proved this, that it was not essential that the silica and gold should have been deposited at the one time in auriferous lodes. A non-auriferous siliceous solution may have filled a fissure, and, after solidifying, some volcanic disturbance may have forced water impregnated with a gold salt through the interstices of the lode formation, when, if the conditions were favourable, the gold would be deposited in metallic forms. I prefer, for reasons which will probably be understood, not to say exactly by what process my results are obtained, but submit specimens for examination.
"(1) Piece of previously non-gold bearing stone. Locality near Adelaide, now showing gold freely in mammillary and dendroidal form.
"(2) Stone from New South Wales, showing gold artificially introduced in interstices and on face.
"(3) Stone from West Australia, very glassy looking, now thoroughly impregnated with gold; the mammillary formation being particularly noticeable.
"(4) Somewhat laminated quartz from Victoria, containing a little antimony sulphide. In this specimen the gold not only shows on the surface but penetrates each of the laminations, as is proved by breaking.
"(5) Consists of fragments of crystallised carbonate of lime from Tarrawingee, in which the gold is deposited in spots, in appearance like ferrous oxide, until submitted to the magnifying glass.
"The whole subject is worthy of much more time than I can possibly give it. The importance lies in this: That having found how the much desired metal may have been deposited in its matrix, the knowledge should help to suggest how it may be economically extracted therefrom."
A very remarkable nugget weighing 16 3/4 oz. was sluiced from near the surface in one of my own mining properties at Woodside, South Australia, some years ago, which illustrated the nuclear theory very beautifully. This nugget is very irregular in shape, fretted and chased as though with a jeweller's graving tool, showing plainly the shape of the pyritous crystals on which it was formed while the interstices were filled with red hematite iron just as found in artificially formed nuggets on a sulphide of iron base. The author has a nugget from the same locality weighing about 1 1/2 oz. which exhibits in a marked degree the same characteristics, as indeed does most of the alluvial gold found in the Mount Lofty Ranges; also a nugget from near the centre of Australia weighing four ounces, in which the original crystals of pyrites are reproduced in gold just as an iron horse-shoe, placed in a launder through which cupriferously impregnated water flows, will in time be changed to nearly pure copper and yet retain its shape.
Now with regard to the four points I have put as to the apparent anomalies of occurrence of alluvial gold. The reason why alluvial gold is of finer quality as a rule than reef is probably because while gold and silver, which have a considerable affinity for each other, were presumably dissolved from their salts and held in solution in the same mineral water, they would in many cases not be deposited together, for the reason that silver is most readily deposited in the presence of alkalies, which would be found in excess in mineral waters coming direct from the basic rocks, while gold is induced to precipitate more quickly in acid solutions, which would be the character of the waters after they had been exposed to atmospheric action and to contact with organic matters.
This, then, may explain not only the comparatively greater purity of the alluvial gold, but also why big nuggets are found so far from auriferous reefs, and also why heavy masses of gold have been frequently unearthed from among the roots even of living trees, but more particularly in drifts containing organic matter, such as ancient timber.
All, then, that has been adduced goes to establish the belief that the birthplace of our gold is in certain of the earlier rocks comprising the earth's crust, and that its appearance as the metal we value so highly is the result of electro-chemical action, such as we can demonstrate in the laboratory.
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