'Glossary of 19th and Early 20th Century Mining Terminology.'


Jennifer Lambert Tracey and Michael MacLellan Tracey




Australian Mining History

Mel Davies, Secretary, AMHA

Department of Economics

University of Western Australia

Nedlands 6907

Western Australia

E.mail: mdavies@ecel.uwa.edu.au




Proceedings of the Australian Mining History Association 1996 Conference and this article are copyright. Apart from any fair dealings for the purposes of study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any means without permission. Enquires should be made to the Publisher or Author.


Bibliographic Reference

Tracey J. L., and Tracey, M. M., 1997, ‘Glossary of 19th and Early 20th Century Mining Terminology’, Proceedings of the Australian Mining History Association 1996 Conference, Ruth S. Kerr and Michael M., Tracey (eds), Australian Mining History Association Inc, University of Western Australia & Home Planet Design and Publishing, Canberra, pp 8792. (ISBN 0646343467).

'Glossary of 19th and Early 20th Century Mining Terminology.'


Jennifer Lambert Tracey and Michael MacLellan Tracey



This glossary is compiled primarily from documentary material published between 18501920 in an endeavour to present clear and concise descriptions of the terms and technologies applicable to gold mining during that period. Reports of the Departments of Mines, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, provided excellent descriptions from which brief definitions of mining practices have been extracted.


Terms from Robert Brough Smyth's The Goldfields and Mineral Districts of Victoria published in 1869 and Willmett's Northern Queensland Almanac and Directory Miners' and Settlers' Companion for 1879 has enabled a regional variation of the definitions and their applications. It is also considered essential to include appropriate geological descriptions often erroneously interpreted in papers and reports.



Access Road  



 a track or road constructed to enable travel and transport to and from the goldfield.  





a horizontal or near horizontal drive in the side of a hill for the purpose of usual mining operations, ventilation or drainage


Aerial ropeway





an overhead arrangement for the transport of ore; material is carried in buckets running on overhead steel cables supported on towers; often used to transport ore from the mining site to the crushing plant usually lower in the valley. 


Air stack


a chimney built over a shaft for ventilation. 





 the planned direction of a tunnel or drive, irrespective of the orebody structure. 






any metal other than a pure metallic element prepared by adding other metals or non metals to a basic metal to secure certain desirable properties.


Alluvial Fan





a mass of sediment deposited at a point along a river where there is a decease in gradient, eg. from a mountain to a flat. The mass is thickest at its point of origin and thins rapidly in a downstream direction.  







soils, sands, quartz drifts, clays and auriferous gravels of recent geological deposition found in the lines of watercourses, on flats and the slopes of hills in the present or previous drainage channels or ancient river beds.  


Amalgam Retort  



a vessel in which mercury is distilled off from the gold amalgam see amalgamation.  


Amalgamated Claims  



claims adjoining one another that have been joined temporarily or permanently into one claim for more economical working.  


Amalgamating Barrel






a barrel with one axle passing through the longer axis. It is charged through a square hole in its side, with pyrites and other minerals caught by the blanket tables, together with a proportionate quantity of mercury. During revolution, the minerals and the mercury are brought into contact. Barrels were cleaned approximately every 48 hours.  






the process of recovering gold (a) by passing the finely divided gold bearing material in a thin stream over mercury covered copper plates or (b) by causing contact between the gold and mercury.  





a fold or fold system in the form of an arch; anticlinal structure favours the accumulation of gold as in saddle reefs.


Aqua Regia  



 a mixture of one part concentrated nitric acid and three parts hydrochloric; the only acid that will dissolve gold or platinum.




clay like.  





a round fixed iron pan in which calcined sulphides are ground with mercury and water by revolving weights. 







the determination of the quantity of pure metal per unit weight of the material containing it. In the case of gold, it is referred to as ounces, pennyweight per long ton (2,240 lbs.). The term assay is usually restricted to materials containing precious metals.  




gold bearing. 





timber laid across a drive near the roof, each end fitted into hitches cut in the rock, with slabs placed between it and the roof. 


Ball Mill




a horizontal cylindrical machine for grinding ore; grinding is effected, usually wet although sometimes dry, by the pounding and rolling of a charge of steel balls carried within the shell. 


Ball Up



accumulation of stones, gold and debris in a ball of clay which often occurred in sluice boxes or cradles when argillaceous wash dirt was being worked.


Bank Right


the right to divert water to a bank claim.


Bank Claim


a claim which includes the bank of a river or creek.  




a band of hard rock, generally a dyke, crossing a lode or creek bed.




sloping sides of a tank or dam.




see Stamper Battery  


Beam Engine


an early type of vertical steam engine that operated the Cornish Pump.  






textile used in ore treatment plants for the catching of coarse free gold; blankets are taken up periodically and washed in a tub to remove the gold concentrates; gold is then recovered by amalgamation. 


Blanket Table




an inclined table covered with a blanket or baize material that is placed at the end of the copper plated tabled in a quartz crushing plant to catch the mercury, pyrites, etc.


Block Claim



a claim with boundary lines at right angles fixed and defined by pegs, posts or trenches at each angle of the claim.





a rail truck or trolley of low height used for carrying ore or timbers underground, or for conveying the washdirt.


Boning Rod


a ‘T'’ shaped instrument used for levelling.





the rock formation below the alluvium on which the gold bearing dirt has settled. 


Box Sluice



an open wooden channel for washing alluvial dirt during which gold and heavy minerals settle on the riffled bottom.


Buck Quartz


A term applied to large nonauriferous quartz reefs.  





a circular pit in which rapidly revolving agitators concentrate finely crushed and slimed auriferous material.





the structure used in a mineshaft for the conveyance of miners and materials.


Calabash ring



a steel ring with an extended eyelet enabling chain to be linked by slotting into the extension. Used for hauling logs.  






roasting or burning quartz for the purpose of decomposing the pyrites and driving off the sulphur, arsenic and other substances which may interfere with the process of amalgamation.


Californian Pump  




a rectangular box through which passed an endless flexible belt on one side of which were fastened floats of wood, almost as large as the internal dimensions of the box The pump was worked by hand or horse power depending on its size.  







an alloy of iron and carbon It differs from steel by its relatively high content of graphite making it unsuitable for working. Castiron has a low melting point and can be readily poured into intricate shapes.  


Centrifugal Pump




a pump in which water is drawn into the centre of a high speed rotating impeller through which it flows radially under centrifugal force;

 kinetic energy is then converted into pressure energy in the casing.


Chinese Pump




(Suey chae) similar to a Californian pump except that it was constructed entirely of wood; the belt comprised short pieces of wood hinged together by wooden pins.




a space or gallery in an underground mine.











a portion of land marked off in accordance with the mining bylaws of the district and held by virtue of a Miner's Right A portion of Crown Land which any person or number of persons shall lawfully have taken possession of and be entitled to occupy for mining purposes No land comprised in any mining lease can be considered a claim A claim was marked out by fixing posts in the ground at each angle of the claim boundary A miner was required to hold a Miner's Right before he could legally mark out or work a claim.






a fine grained aggregate of hydrous aluminium silicates in which there may be grains of silica and other minerals; it exhibits plasticity when wet and dries to a solid mass.


Cobbing Hammer



A hand held chisel type of hammer used to separate the mineral in a lump from the gangue.




a castiron box in which the stamp heads work. see Stamper Battery  





 the junction of a mine shaft with the surface see Collar Structure.


Collar Structure



a heavy wooden frame erected at the mouth of a rectangular shaft to provide a solid support for the timber sets.


Colonial boiler  


common type name for an 'Under Fired Multi Tubular Extension Boiler'.




a mill or plant in which valuable minerals are separated from gangue.  





Rock composed of rounded water worn material of different sizes, ranging up to large boulders, cemented together in a large mass.


Copper Plate




a sheet of copper coated with mercury and nailed onto the foot of the riffle board tables Its purpose was to catch the fine gold contained in the pulverised quartz passing over it.




ribbed material used as a blanket for recovering coarse gold.


Cornish Boiler





steam boiler that resembles the Lancashire boiler, except that there is only one furnace tube The diameter of the boiler shell is approximately 5 to 6 feet. The furnace tube contains cross tubes to increase the evaporative power.


Cornish Pump or Cornish Engine




a single acting engine in which the power for pumping operations was transmitted through the action of a large beam. These pumps were introduced early in the 19th century and were used in Australia for over 100 years.  







(a) trench cut across country in search of a lode (b) a trench cut across an outcrop in an effort to determine the direction of the lode (c) A channel eroded by a flow of water to expose mineral deposits during prospecting.


Country Rock  



a name applied by miners to the rock in which the lode, vein or reef is located.




a rocker or box like contrivance on a rocker for washing auriferous dirt.


Creek Claim


a claim located in the bed of a creek.


Creek Right


the privilege of diverting water for the purpose of working a creek claim




a meal taken during a work shift in a mine.


Cross cut  


a drive put through a lode or vein at right angles.  





a vessel made of refractory material used in assaying, smelting and refining processes.




reduction of quartz by a crushing machine.


Cyanide Process




extraction of gold and silver from their ores The process is only applicable to these metals The solvent is a weak solution of sodium or calcium cyanide which, when aerated, dissolves the metals.




lifting device or crane on board a ship driven by a windless.  




a person who prospected for gold and worked shallow alluviums.  




an implement used for crushing quartz to release the gold fragments.  


Dolly Pot


a steel pot in which small quantities of ore is crushed. see Dolly  


Double Bank



to take up a claim parallel with and adjoining another claim in which an auriferous reef or lead has been located.





a vessel or floating pontoon with plant and equipment for working alluvial deposits eg digging, washing and concentrating.




loose alluvial deposit encountered close to the wash dirt.








an underground passage for exploration, development or working of an ore body. It may be taken along the lode or parallel to it. Drives are made at an appropriate level below the surface. In a working mine the ore from the stopes above the level descends to the drive below, along which is transported towards the shaft or main entry.  


Dry Blowing




a process sometimes used where water was scarce. The separation of free gold from the accompanying fine material was effected by the use of air currents.  




a spoil heap at the surface of a mine.






a wall like intrusive igneous rock filling a fissure in the parent rock. Dyke rock originated deep below the surface and solidified in fissures or pipe like channels in the upper layers.


Eluvial Gravels  




gravels resulting from the disintegration in situ of the rocks that

contributed to their formation; opposed to alluvial gravels that are transported by water and deposited elsewhere.





surface of ground exposed by excavation in a tunnel or stope, the end at which work is in progress.  


Face Height


vertical height of the exposed area.





a mass of rock or ore which has collapsed from the roof or sides of a tunnel face.


False Bottom


pseudo bedrock which may conceal another alluvial deposit beneath it.







a fracture in the rocks along which the movement or displacement of one side relative to the other has taken place parallel to the fracture In some areas, faults are important features associated with the occurrence of precious minerals.


Fault Line


the intersection of a fault with the surface of the earth.




(of gold) the degree of purity of gold.




a brick with refractory properties.


Flitch or cant



heavy piece of timber cut from log in the first cut through a breaking down saw.  


Floating Reef  


large loose masses of auriferous quartz found in alluvium.


Flour Gold


finest gold particles.  





a passage through which the products of combustion of a boiler are taken to the chimney or stack.





a wooden or metal trough used for conveying water from a higher to a lower level often used in conjunction with a race for crossing gullies or valleys.





material of no economic value associated with valuable minerals in veins or lodes.


Geological Map  


a map detailing exposed rocks and minerals and also topographical forms; 




see Hydraulic Monitor.  







Au; Element SG 194; gold occurs very widely diffused in nature, mainly in a free state, although invariably alloyed with silver or copper Native gold usually contains 85 to 95% gold; when pure, gold is the most malleable and ductile of all metals.   


Ground Sluice



a channel cut in bedrock or alluvial gravels to fulfil the same purpose as a sluice box.


Hand Whip








comprised a rough post fixed vertically in the ground, to the upper end of which a long straight sapling was fastened at its centre. A bucket was attached by a rope to the thin end of the sapling and a bag filled with gravel was tied to the thick end. The bag acted as a balance to the full bucket. Hand whips were employed in shallow alluvial mining for raising the washdirt to the surface. Trees situated close to the workings were often used as uprights.





dividers fixed to the pole of a puddling machine mixed the auriferous clay with the water.





a timber or steel structure erected over a mineshaft. It carries the winding sheaves over which the winding rope travelled.





an agricultural implement used on the goldfields for separating the dirt washed in long toms.





a winding engine installed at the top of a shaft used for raising the ore, lowering supplies, and raising and lowering cages.


Hook Handle  



the handle of a windlass, generally made of iron. Wooden handles were sometimes used, with wattle being preferred.




a box with a perforated bottom, forming the top section of a cradle.


Hydraulic Gradient  




the slope of the hydraulic grade; the slope of the water flowing in an open conduit, flume or race expressed as a fractional drop, in feet per mile or as the slope of the curve.


Hydraulic Monitor


an appliance for directing a high pressure jet of water in hydraulic mining


Hydraulic Sluicing



a form of hydraulicing in which the sand, gravel or other material is directed into sluice boxes or channels.





breaking down of a face of alluvial wash by the force of a jet of water directed onto it by a hose and nozzle, to allow the recovery of gold in sluice boxes.


Incline Shaft



a shaft sunk at an inclination from the vertical usually following the dip of a lode; skips or carriages on rails were used instead of cages.


Incline Tramway



a slope provided with a rail or tramway track for selfacting or rope haulage of ore wagons.






a geological feature which indicates the presence of valuable ore; a narrow seam of pyritic carbonaceous slate when followed may yield rich ore at the intersection with a quartz vein.





a metal casting of a weight and shape suitable for subsequent rolling or forging.


Inspector of Mines




a person appointed under the legislation to inspect a mine to ascertain whether the requirements of the Act, Regulations, etc were being carried out; a person responsible for the investigation of accidents and safety issues.


Inverted Siphon  





a pipeline, used in conjunction with a race, to carry water across a valley or gorge A true siphon operates below atmospheric pressure, an inverted siphon develops pressure higher than atmospheric.


Jumping a Claim   


a term used for ejecting an unlicensed digger derived from the act of actually jumping into the hole.




the clay derived from the decomposition of felspar and granites.  




bucket used during shaft sinking.




construction used for the calcining of quartz.


Lancashire Boiler




cylindrical steam boiler consisting in its simplest form of two longitudinal furnaces or fire tubes fitted with internal grates at the front. After leaving the tubes, hot gases pass to the front along a bottom flue and return to the chimney along wing or side flues.







a defined gutter of auriferous alluvial deposit A lead, correctly defined, is an auriferous gully, creek or river, the course of which cannot be determined without sinking, due to the deposition of new layers of sand and gravel.




a small vein which usually unites with a larger lode.





document granting the right to work and remove minerals from an area of land.  






main underground passage driven along the horizontal course to provide access to the stopes or workings and to provide a haulage way for the removal of ore.





a well defined occurrence of valuable mineral bearing material in situ used synonymously with ore body and to some extent with reef and vein.


Long Tom  


construction used for washing gold bearing gravels.




building specially constructed and located for the storage of explosives.





Hg (from the Greek word hydrargyrum, meaning 'liquid silver', or 'quick silver'); a liquid silver white metal that occurs as cinnabar.


Mia Mia





a construction comprised of four upright poles fixed securely in the ground or mullock surrounding a shaft; another four poles were used as bearers; branches or strips of bark were then placed on top to provide protection from heat or rain.




crushing of ore; the operation of removing valueless constituents.


Miner's Right 






a document purchased each year that permits the holder to take possession of Crown Land under the mining board bylaws of the district. The miner was entitled to cut, construct and use races and dams for goldmining purposes and to occupy for residence purposes not more than a quarter of an acre of Crown Land. 





an inorganic substance having a definite chemical composition and occurring naturally in the earth.


Mineral Vein  


see Vein.  


Miner's Inch  






unit used in California and subsequently on the Australian goldfields for measuring water flow in hydraulicing; represents the outflow from a square inch opening in the side of a pressure box; from 2,000 to 2,600 cubic feet per twenty four hours, according to the height of the water.   


Miner's Right




a document purchased each year which permits the holder to take possession of Crown Land; the holder was entitled to mine; cut, construct and use races and dams for gold mining purposes and to occupy land for residence according to the bylaws of the mining district.


Mining Tenement  


an area of land occupied lawfully under a Miner's Right.



Mohs' Scale



a scale devised by Mohs in 1820 to measure the hardness of minerals.  





rock of no economic value associated with a reef or lode. Mullock is often


Mullock Heaps  



piles of decomposed or broken country rock usually stacked in close proximity to the mineshaft  




  rock of no economic value associated with a reef or lode; mullock is often brought to the head of the shaft and stacked in mullock heaps.




derived from the Cornish for iron pyrites.  




derived from the word niggot; a solid mass of gold.  


Old Workings



mines that have been abandoned, allowed to collapse, or have been sealed off.




portion of the lode which contains the metal.


Ore Dressing




the concentration of ore to remove the gangue or substances which are undesirable Dressing procedures vary with the nature and quality of the ore.





the surface waste or worthless rock overlying an economically viable ore deposit.  





(a) a section of a large area of alluvial being worked by hydraulicing (b) Ore stacked on the surface awaiting treatment was said to be in the 'paddock' or 'at grass'.






a metal dish with sloping sides used for washing gold bearing gravels or clays, 10 18 inches in diameter, with riffles or grooves to retain gold and other heavy minerals.


Poppet Head


see Headframe.  




a length of timber used in securing underground mine workings.




the setting of timber props in underground mine workings.  




the yield of gold got from a dish of washdirt or the bottom of a shaft.


Prospecting Dish


see Pan.  




a person who searches for metals or minerals.


Prospector's Claim




a larger than usual claim obtained as a reward for discovery; prospectors were permitted under the provisions of the Mining Statute 1865 (Victoria), to occupy larger areas than ordinary claims.



Puddling Machine





a circular space, the sides and bottom of which was lined with iron or laths of hardwood; perpendicular shaft moved by steam or horse power in the centre; two harrows were attached to the shaft which were dragged around puddling the washdirt; gold was deposited on the bottom and subsequently removed by panning.





a common crystalline silica which occurs in most rock formations often in the form of veins or reefs.




see Mercury.  








an aqueduct or artificial watercourse used for conveying water from a river or creek, a spring or a dam to a mining claim or mill. Races were cut through soil and rock and where the distance could be shortened by crossing a gully instead of following the contours of a hill, the water was conveyed across in a flume.  




a line of trucks on a timber tramway.  




a gold bearing quartz vein.


Reverberatory Furnace




a furnace designed so that the material is not mixed with the fuel. The roof is heated by flames and the heat is radiated down on to the material off the roof.  






a small dish with a perforated bottom. It was used as a sieve to divide the coarse gravel from the silt after the operation of cradling and before panning off.  


Riffle Board Table






an inclined timber plane of lengths which varied from eight to fourteen feet; grooves cut across the board were approximately one inch in depth at the lower side and diminishing towards the upper side, and with a width of about three inches; during milling operations, all the reduced quartz from the stamper boxes passed onto and over these tables; riffles were almost filled with mercury.    




transverse bars in a cradle or sluice to trap heavy minerals.  




a vertical or inclined passage above a level.


Rising Shaft


excavating a mine shaft upwards from mine workings.


River Bar  



alluvial gravel flats and terraces laid down by rivers when flowing at higher levels than present.  




timber 'rail' attached to sleepers on tramway.  


Saddle Reef  



an arch like mass of gold bearing quartz These may occur in succession, one below the other Excellent examples occur near Bendigo, Victoria.






a section of thin sheet iron punched with holes. Screens were fixed in front of stamper boxes to regulate the size of material discharged.







the term shaft came into use in Britain towards the end of the sixteenth century. It means a vertical or steeply inclined excavation or opening from the surface down through the strata to the mineral to be extracted.

Shaft Inset


a point where a horizontal tunnel intersects a shaft.


Shaft Sinking


the process of excavating a shaft; 'sinking a shaft' may be applied to both reef and alluvial mining.





holding possession of claims by doing the minimum amount of labour enforced by the mining bye laws; monopolisation of auriferous land by speculators.





a working period of usually eight hours; a synonym for the watch of the sailor, the guard of the soldier or the gang of the navvy.





the lower replaceable part of a gravity stamp which falls on the mineral ore or rock.  





the payable section of a lode; an enriched portion of a continuous orebody.  




wooden rails on which ore trucks, buckets or bags slide or run.





a strong piece of timber laid on the ground to support the runner or rail in a tramway system. Nails usually affix the runner to the sleeper.  




clay and gravel in suspension.




 an effective construction for the washing of gold bearing gravels.









a stream of water capable of being discharged at a given flow rate for the purpose of working an alluvial claim; the measure of the quantity of water a miner may divert under the byelaws. It was usual for a sluice head box to be fixed at the head of a water race to gauge the quantity of water diverted from a river or creek.  


Specimen Gold



a lump of gold intermixed with quartz or quartz very rich in gold.  





relatively short and small veins of quartz that cut across the bedding, in contrast to saddle reefs, which usually follow the bedding.




a brick chimney.


Stamper Battery










a machine for crushing ore or rocks, particularly used in gold milling. It consists essentially of a crushing member or stamp, composed of a stem, head and shoe, which is dropped on a die, the ore being crushed in water between the shoe and die. The crushing space is surrounded by a mortar box that is equipped with a screen to regulate the size of the discharge. The number of stamps is referred to by the number of ‘head’ e.g. a five head battery means 5 stamps enclosed in a mortar box.  





any excavation in a mine made for the purpose of extracting ore The outline of the ore body usually determines the outline of the stope.  







the premetric conversion method of measuring or estimating timber in the log or sawn timber. A cost, in pounds, shillings and pence, was then levied per 'super foot' or per '100 super feet'. Example: 2 feet (60.96 cm) wide and 25 ft (7.62 m) long would equal 100 super feet.    




a digger who walked to the goldfield behind a wagon on which he had put his swag.  


Tail Race



an artificial channel used for conveying the tailings away from the workings.  





detritus carried off by water from a crushing machine or any gold washing apparatus.


Tail Water


water that has been used or passed through a tail race.  


Test Pit


a shallow hole 23 feet in diameter put down to test alluvial deposits.  


Timber Sets


a wooden frame to support the roof or sides of a mineshaft.  




setting timber supports in mine workings.





a person who contracted to work a mine or claim for nominal wages and a fixed share of the profits, or for a percentage of the profits only.  




trolley complete jinker for the tramway system.






a horizontal or inclined drive for development or to connect mine workings. It may be open at one end for the purpose of haulage, drainage or ventilation.





a fracture, fissure or crack in rock that was subsequently lined or loaded with minerals.





auriferous gravel, sand or clay in which the greatest proportion of gold was found.


Waste Ground


a narrow strip of ground between two claims.


Water Right  



a document issued by a gold commissioner or warden authorising a miner to take or divert water from a river or creek.  







a strong timber construction supporting a large horizontally working drum around which ropes attached to the buckets in a shaft are wound. A horse was harnessed to shafts connected to a beam underneath the drum. By following a circular path, the horse would turn the drum, lowering and raising the ore buckets.








a post about twenty feet in length, firmly embedded in the ground at an angle of about 45 degrees. The narrow end of the post rose about eight feet above the centre of the mouth of the shaft. At this end was fixed an iron wheel or sheave with a grooved circumference in which a rope ran. A bucket was fastened to the rope that was raised or lowered by a horse walking to or from the shaft for the required distance.


Wilfley Table



a transversely inclined, reciprocating table with shallow riffles for separating ore pulp into mineral and gangue.


Winding Engine


a steam engine at the top of a shaft which rotates the winding drum





an apparatus utilising a roller with a crank on one or both ends on which a rope winds, hauling up and lowering down a bucket in a shaft.


Windlass Stand


the two uprights in which the axle of the windlass barrel is fixed




a vertical or inclined passage or shaft sunk between one level and another underground.


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