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quantity of silver in the ore, is judged of beforehand by experiments on a small scale.) The mass is well mixed by treading with the feet and working with hoes. A little calcined iron pyrites, called magistral, is also added—about four pounds to the caxon. The pile is often examined to see that the amalgamation is going on well. In some conditions the mass is called hot; in others, cold. The state of heat is cured by adding a little lime and rotten dung; that of cold, by a little magistral or oxide of iron. Practice and experience alone will enable one to judge of these states. It is then left to stand for eight or nine days, (occasionally re-trodden and re-worked,) until the amalgamation is complete, which is also judged of by experiment. It is then carried to an elevated platform of stone, and thrown, in small quantities at a time, into a well sunk in the middle of the platform; a stream of water is turned on, and four or five men trample and wash it with their feet. The amalgam sinks to the bottom, and the mud and water are let off, by an aperture in the lower part of the well, into a smaller well below, lined with a raw-hide, where one man carries on the washing with his feet. More amalgam sinks to the bottom of this well, and the mud and water again flow off through a long wooden trough, lined with green baize, into a pit prepared for it, where the water percolates through the soil, leaving the mud to be again re-washed. When the washing is finished for the day, the green baize lining of the trough, with many particles of the amalgam clinging to it, is washed in the larger well. The water, which by this time is clear, is let off, and all the amalgam, called "pella," is collected, put in hide-bags, and weighed. Two caxons are washed in a day. The pella is then put into conical bags of coarse linen, which are hung up, and the weight of the mass presses out a quantity of the quicksilver, which oozes through the interstices of the linen, and is caught in vessels below. The mass, now dry, and somewhat harder than putty, is carried to the ovens, where the remainder of the quicksilver is driven off by heat, and the residue is the plata piña, or pure silver. This is melted, run into bars, stamped according to the ley or quality of the silver, and sent to Lima, either for the mint or for exportation.
In the refining process the fumes of the mercury are condensed, and it is used again. Two pounds, however, are lost to every pound of silver. The proportion of pure silver in the pella seca, or amalgam, after the draining off of the mercury through the bag, is about twentytwo per cent. A careful experiment made by Mr. Galt, a jeweller of this city, on a bit of the pella which I brought home from Cerro Pasco, gave but eighteen and thirty-three per cent. of pure silver.
Salt is worth at this place three reals (377 cents) the arroba, and mercury costs one dollar the pound in Lima. The superintendent is paid twelve hundred dollars yearly; three mayordomos, thirty dollars each, monthly; the corporals, or heads of the working gangs in the mines, twenty dollars; the miners, sixty-two and a half cents per day, (as much more if they work at night;) and the laborers at the hacienda, fifty cents. This, however, is nominal, being more than swallowed up by the supplies. The estimated yearly expenses of these mines are thirty thousand dollars, and the annual yield, seventy thousand dollars. A caxon, of six thousand two hundred and fifty pounds of the ground ore, yields, by the assay on the small scale, fifty marks, though only twenty-five or thirty are obtained by this process, showing a loss of nearly one-half. The quantity of silver obtained from the relabes, or re-washings, is about twenty per cent. of the whole: that is, if a caxon yields twenty-five marks at the first washing, the re-washing will give five.
An idea may be formed of the value of these mines when I state that at Cerro Pasco, which is seventy-five miles further from Lima, and on the other side of the Cordillera, ore which yields only six marks to the caxon will give a profit to the miner, though it is saddled with some duties--such as those for drainage and for public works, from which the ore of Parac is exempt. Malarin, the superintendent, said that the caxon must yield fifteen marks here to pay. But granting this, I do not wonder at his expression, that these mines would in a few years render my countryman, Mr. Prevost, the richest man in the country, ("El hombre mas poderoso, que hay en el Peru,") he owning a third of them.
May 29.–Visited the mines. These are situated down the valley with regard to the hacienda, and are two leagues W. S. W. of it. They are much nearer San Mateo than is the hacienda, but there is no road to them from that village. The road, or rather path, lay along the side of the mountain, and zigzagged up and down to turn precipices, now running near the banks of the little stream, and now many hundreds of feet above it. The ride was bad enough at this time—it must be frightful in the rainy season; though Malarin says he sometimes travels it on horseback. This I am sure I should not do; and when these paths are slippery I would much prefer trusting to my own legs than to those of any other animal. Many persons suffer much in riding amongst these precipices and ravines. Dr. Smith knew a gentleman, who, “ familiar with downs and lawns, was affected at the steeps of the Paxaron with a giddiness that for some time after disordered his imagination;" and one of a party of English officers, who crossed the
Cordillera at Valparaiso whilst I was there, had to return without crossing, because he could not bear the sight of the sheer descents.
The valley of Párac lies about east and west; and the veins of silver on the sides of the mountains E. N. E. and W. S. W., thus crossing the valley diagonally. There are four mines belonging to the establishment, which employ about sixty workmen, though more could be employed to advantage. These men are directed by a mayordomo and four corporals. They are divided into two gangs for each mine: one party will go on duty at 7 p. m. and work till 5 a. m., when they come out, rest two hours, and go on again till 7 p. m. They are then relieved by the other party. This is very hard work, for the mines are very wet and cold.
The getter-out of the ore wields, with one hand, a hammer of thirty pounds, and the carriers of the ores bear a burden of one hundred and fifty pounds from the bottom of the shaft to the surface—a distance in this case of about a quarter of a mile, of a very steep and rough ascent. When I first met one of these men toiling up in the dark, I thought, from the dreadful groans I heard before I saw him, that some one was dying near me; but he does this "a purpose," for when we met he had breath enough to give me a courteous salutation, and beg a paper cigar. Boys commence this work at eight years of age, and spend probably the greater part of their lives in the mine.
The mine called Sta. Rosa, which we visited, has a perpendicular depth of five hundred and twenty feet—that is, the bottom of the shaft, which penetrates the mountain at an angle from the horizon of about 25°, is five hundred and twenty feet below the mouth of it. By the mining laws the shaft (cañon) of the mine must be three feet eight inches high, three feet five inches wide, and arched for security. The superincumbent earth frequently requires to be supported by beams of wood laid against each other in form of Gothic arch. I could not learn how much ore a man could get out in a day, for it is a very uncertain quantity, depending upon the hardness of the rock that encloses the vein, Malarin told us that he had instructed the workmen not to blast whilst we were in the mine, because the dreadful reverberation of sound often had an unhappy effect upon people not accustomed to it, which, as we were men who sometimes dealt in heavy artillery, we did not thank him for. Returning from the mine we met a drove of llamas on their
way from the hacienda. This is quite an imposing sight, especially when the drove is encountered suddenly at a turn of the road. The leader, which is always selected on account of his superior height, has his head
decorated with tufts of colored woollen fringe, hung with little bells; and his extreme height, (often six feet,) gallant and graceful carriage, pointed ear, restless
eye, and quivering lip, as he faces you for a moment, make him as striking an object as one can well conceive. Upon pressing on him he bounds aside, either up or down the cliff, and is followed by the herd scrambling over places that would be impassable for the mule or the ass.
They travel immense distances, but by short stages--not more than nine or ten miles per day. It is necessary, in long journeys, to have double the number required to carry the cargo, so as to give them relays. The burden of the llama is about one hundred and thirty pounds; he will not carry more, and will be beat to death rather than move when he is overloaded or tired. The males only are worked; the females are kept for the breed. They appear gentle and docile, but when irritated, they have a very savage look, and spit at the object of their anger with
great venom. The spittle is said to be very acrid, and will raise blisters where it touches the skin. We saw none in the wild state. They are bred on the haciendas in great numbers. We had no opportunity of seeing the guanaco or alpacca, (other varieties of the Peruvian sheep,) though we now and then, in crossing the mountains, caught a glimpse of the wild and shy vicuña. These go in herds of ten or fifteen females, accompanied by one male, who is ever on the alert. On the approach of danger he gives warning by a shrill whistle, and his charge makes off with the speed of the wind. The wool of the vicuña is much finer and more valuable than that of the other species-it is maroon-colored.
A good and learned Presbyter, Dr. Cabrera, whose portrait hangs in the library at Lima, by patience and gentleness, succeeded in obtaining a cross between the alpacca and vicuña, which he called paco vicuña, the wool of which is said to combine the fineness of that of the vicuña and the length of staple of that of the alpacca. The value of vicuña wool, at the port of shipment, was, in 1838, one hundred dollars the hundred weight; that of the alpacca, twenty-five dollars; and that of the sheep, from twelve to fifteen. Peru shipped, from the ports of Arica, Callao, and Islay, during the four years between 1837 and 1840, inclusive, wool of the sheep, alpacca, and vicuña, to the value of two million two hundred and forty-nine thousand and thirty-nine dollars. (Castelnau, vol. 4, page 120.)
Were any care taken in the rearing of these wild sheep of Peru, the country might draw a great revenue from the sale of their wool.
May 30.--Dull, rainy day. Gibbon laid up with chills and fever,
which he either brought from Lima or took yesterday in the damp, cold mine. He would drink as much cold water as he wanted, though our friends held up their hands in astonishment, and said he would kill himself. Fire in a stove is very comfortable; the thermometer, during the day, standing at 50° Fal
May 31.—Beautiful day. Ther., at 5 a. m., 36o. The general character of the rock is red porphyry. There is grass for pasturage; and the hill-sides are covered with a bush of some eight or ten feet high, bearing bunches of blue flowers, resembling our lilac. There are several kinds of stinging nettle, one of which, that bears a small yellow flower, Malarin says, will cause gangrene and death. I had no disposition to try it; but I doubt the statement. So dangerous a thing would scarcely be so plentiful where the bare-legged herdsman and miner are exposed to it. Returned with Gibbon to San Mateo.
. June 1.-Found Richards sick and the muleteer growling at the delay; loaded up, and got off at eleven. At twelve the valley narrowed to a dell of about fifty feet in width ; the stream occupying its whole breadth, with the exception of a narrow, but smooth and level mulepath on its right bank. This is a very remarkable place. On each side the rock of red porphyry rises perpendicularly for full five hundred feet. In places it overhangs the stream and road. The traveller feels as if he were passing through some tunnel of the Titans. The upper exit from the dell is so steep that steps have been cut in the rock for the mule's feet; and the stream rushes down the rock-obstructed declivity in foaming fury, flinging clouds of white spray over the traveller, and rendering the path slippery and dangerous.
Passed Chiglia and Bella Vista, mining haciendas. The country is quite thickly settled, there being houses in sight all the way between these two places. The barley here does not give grain, but is cut for fodder. The alfalfa has given way to short thin grass; and we begin to find difficulty in getting food for the beasts. We saw cabbages growing in the gardens of Chiglla, which is a straggling village of some three or four hundred inhabitants. Just after passing Chiglla the mountains looked low, giving the appearance of a rolling country, and were clothed with verdure to the top. Upon turning a corner of the road the snow-covered summits of the Cordillera were close before us, also looking low; and when the snow or verdure suffered the earth to be seen, this was of a deep pink color. The general character of the
, rock is conglomerate. We stopped, at four, at the tambo of Acchahuarcu, where we pitched and bought barley straw (alcaser) at the rate of twelve and a half cents the armful, called “tercio," which is just