Early stamp methodology was a very simple and archaic one – nothing more than a simple process of smashing rock down into small pieces and sorting out the copper. Everything that remained would then be dumped into tailing ponds as waste. In the Copper Country the largest of these tailing ponds was Torch Lake, where no less than five mines dumped millions of tons of waste rock into its depths. Unfortunately, these waste tailings often contained a great deal of copper which the jigs and wash tables of the mills failed to remove. Copper that ended up in Torch Lake.
As copper prices dropped and milling technology improved, mine companies began to take a second look at these copper bearing deposits in Torch Lake. It was now possible – and economically advantageous – for mines to retrieve those tailings and remove the copper that they still contained. The process was known as reclamation, and was first undertaken in earnest by C&H around 1920. Towards that end C&H built itself a dredge that could suck up those sands from the lake bottom and send them out to the reclamation plant on shore. This first dredge – known as C&H Dredge No. 1 – would be responsible for retrieving over 48 million tons of C&H sands in its lifetime, yielding over 423 million pounds of copper for the company.
The Quincy Mine got into the reclamation game several decades later – in 1943 – after failing to make a profit on its underground operation. In 1953 the C&H Dredge No. 1 was bought by Quincy to supplement its own dredge. It turned out to be exceptional foresight, as Quincy’s first dredge ended up sinking in Torch Lake in 1956. Its roof top can still be seen sticking up from the center of the lake. As for Quincy Dredge No. 2, it continued to mine Torch Lake for several more decades until it too sank in 1967.
Read on for a detailed account of the workings of the dredge, lots of views of the dredge and some great historical photos.
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