Many mines, especially in the south, were worked by foreigners who came solely for the gold.
Like their American-born counterparts, foreign miners had no intention of staying in California. Bymost of the easily accessible gold had been collected, and attention turned to extracting gold from more difficult locations. There was still gold in the riverbeds, but it was getting harder and harder to find. A typical miner spent 10 hours a day knee-deep in ice cold water, digging, sifting, washing. It was backbreaking labor that yielded less and less. Faced with gold increasingly difficult to retrieve, Americans began to drive out foreigners to get at the most accessible gold that remained.
The new California State Legislature passed a foreign miners tax of twenty dollars per month, and American prospectors began organized attacks on foreign miners, particularly Latin Americans and Chinese. As the gold became more difficult to extract, profound changes in California took root. By the early s, a single miner could no longer work his claim alone.
He needed help and he needed technology. At first, miners banded together in informal companies to dam the rivers, reroute the water and expose the gold underneath.
Orange County, California Mining Image Gallery
But soon even more capital-intensive measures were needed to extract the gold and the loose knit groups of miners were replaced by corporations. By the mid s, most of the miners who remained were employees, a way of life they found distasteful but necessary. The new mining corporations developed extraction techniques that were frighteningly efficient, techniques that destroyed the rivers and caused California’s first environmental disasters.
Massive derricks lifted rock and sand–obliterating the formerly pristine rivers. The worst of the large scale mining techniques came in – hydraulic mining.
Mining Claims (BLM)
Huge jets of water tore apart the walls of the riverbeds.