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Precious Metal Mining Techniques of Ancient Rome

Any miner who knows mining history knows that the Romans made some of the most important contributions to field. In fact, their ability to effectively exploit the mineral richness of Roman Britain was one of the main reasons they were so successful.

One major mining site of the Roman Empire was the Dolaucothi Gold Mines located in present day Wales. To prospect the gold veins in the area, the Romans built aqueducts and large tanks at the tops of hills. They would use massive amounts of water from these structures to wash away ground and expose quartzite and gold ore. When suitable veins were found they would use fire-setting, which involved heating the rock’s surface with fire then dousing it with water – causing the rock to fracture from thermal shock.

Once the gold veins were broken up, the area would become an open pit mine. Ore removed from the mine would be crushed by hammers powered by an ingenious water wheel. The resulting dust could then be washed and sieved to retrieve any gold – which was smelted into ingots and sent all over the empire. For centuries, it was the largest mining operation in the world.

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