Quartz mining is the mining of gold on veins or ore bodies in place as distinguished from surface digging or washing: underground mining in rock. Quartz reef mining is a type of gold mining in “reefs” (veins) of quartz. Quartz is one of the most common minerals in the earth’s crust, and most quartz veins do not carry gold, but those that have gold are avidly hunted by prospectors. Primary gold typically happens in quartz veins. The removal of gold ore from these tough quartz veins was traditionally referred to as quartz reef mining.
Reef prospecting entails locating gold-bearing quartz veins. In the shallow, oxidized zones of quartz reef deposits, the gold occurs in its metallic state and is easily recovered with simple equipment. The majority of the accessible reefs have most likely been found by early prospectors and explorations; as a result, remote and poorly outcropping reefs are more probable to be found. Quartz reef mining played an important role in 19th-century gold-mining districts such as Bendigo, Victoria, Central Otago in New Zealand, and the California mother lode.
Quartz reefs were the primary sources of gold in most goldfields. The gold was brought to the surface as small particles embedded in lumps of quartz. The novel mining firms had to sink very profound shafts to get quartz from the reefs profound underground. The quartz was then crushed into a fine dust by stamping batteries in a stamp mill. A stamp battery contained a row of stamps. On the bottom of each stamp was a heavy piece of iron steel. Each battery was driven by a camshaft which was turned by a water wheel.
The steel shoes went up and down between wooden guides and pounded the quartz which had been fed into steel boxes underneath the stampers. In areas that are badly exposed, reef prospecting is mostly limited to the low hills and rises, where outcrop is best. Ideally, the stamping batteries would work 24 hours a day.