Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lessons from the Juneau Gold Mill

When my grandparents, Charles and Florence Personeus*, landed in Juneau in 1917 to begin their missionary work there, the hard-rock gold mines were the primary industry. I recently came across Grandma's handwritten description of touring the gold mills and watching the process of separating the gold from the rock containing it and some spiritual lessons she derived from it. After my post last week about gold, I thought you might find this of interest as well.

Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine at south end of Juneau
Juneau is nestled at the foot of two mountains, Mt. Juneau and Mt. Roberts. In the heart of Mt. Roberts was one of the largest, richest gold mines of Alaska. It employed about 650 workers.

Gray rocks containing the gold were dug out of the mountain and brought by trains through a tunnel to the mill located above the lower end of the town. The trains emptied the rocks into a large receiver where they tumbled down into large crushers. If they were too large, they were first blasted into smaller pieces about a foot in diameter.

Gold bearing white quartz
The tumbling rocks were sprayed with a powerful stream of clear water. As the mud and muck were washed away, white quartz in which the gold was imbedded began to show through.

The white quartz must then be separated from the useless gray rock. As the rocks fell from the crusher, they were met by another stream of clear water before they landed on a moving belt about two feet wide. On each side of the belt stood a long line of men, called pickers. As the belt moved past them, they snatched off each rock that showed even the tiniest bit of white. The belt carried those that showed no white to the rock dumps to be discarded.

The rocks that showed white went to another crusher, where they were broken into smaller pieces. They were again washed and carried to another moving belt for the same separating process. Finally, the crushed pieces went into the tumbling barrels, which contained many iron balls. As they tumbled over and over, the heavy balls pounded the little pieces of rock almost to powder, which could be poured out like a stream of dirty water.

At this stage, the slurry was ready to be poured onto large slanting tables with ridges from end to end that vibrated back and forth while the fine crushed rock was continually washed with water. The gold, being the heaviest, settled into the spaces between the ridges, while the water carried away the dross.

Inside the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine
Along with the gold ore were other metals such as iron and silver. They were useful too, but the gold must be separated even from them. Some of the gold let go easily. It was called "free gold." It fell out first into the top grooves of the tables. These little gold nuggets were gathered up with great care and formed into gold bricks.

Much of the gold, however, clung to the other metals. The "concentrates" had a dirty gray appearance and had to be refined by fire.

Grandma wrote that as she watched the rocks being washed and crushed and separated and tumbled repeatedly, she was reminded of how the trials of our faith bring us to spiritual maturity. We need to have the washing of water of God's Word continually applied to our hearts to reveal the pure gold hidden under the grit and grime of sin.

The process is not easy. Just as the other metals cling to the gold, the sinful nature clings tenaciously to us. Some things, like the iron and silver that cling to the gold, may not be sin in our lives, but they weigh us down and hinder us in our Christian walk. We need to let them go.

But don't lose heart. We used to sing a chorus, "Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me." Each step brings us nearer to having His image revealed in us. If we persevere through the trials that seem to crush us, we shall soon come forth as pure gold.


*You can read the complete story of the Personeuses in my book, Frontiers of Faith, available at www.AnnaLeeConti.com.




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