Molten gold signals revival in Calif. Mother Lode

December 17, 2012 • Business

In this photo taken Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, Matt Collins, chief operating officer of the Sutter Gold Mining Co., left, watches as Allen Smith, second from left, Brain Herfel, third from left, Ted Chapman fouth from left, and Wayne Murphy, right, calibrate the water flow of a gravity table at the company’s newly constructed mill near Sutter Creek, Calif. The gravity table uses technology similar to those used by gold rush-era miners who used pans to separate gold from surrounding materials. The company, which has begun mining adjacent to the historic Comet-Lincoln ore zones, announced Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, that it poured its first gold as it prepared to begin the first large scale Sierra Nevada underground gold mining in a half century. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SUTTER CREEK, Calif. (AP) — The gold miners who made California famous were the rugged loners trying to shake nuggets loose from streams or hillsides. The ones who made the state rich were those who worked for big mining companies that blasted gold from an underground world of dust and darkness.

The last of the state’s great mines closed because mining gold proved unprofitable after World War II. But with the price of the metal near historic highs, hovering around $1,700 an ounce, the California Mother Lode’s first large-scale hard rock gold mining operation in a half-century is coming back to life.

Miners are digging again where their forebears once unearthed riches from eight historic mines that honeycomb Sutter Gold Mining Co.’s holdings about 50 miles southeast of Sacramento. Last week, mill superintendent Paul Skinner poured the first thin stream of glowing molten gold into a mold.

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