Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 13: Mining

The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 13: Mining

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 13, 2011

For background and links to chapters in this series, see here



Mining may properly be divided into at least three vocations. There is the mine owner or operator who is in reality a business man. The ownership of the larger mines is usually held by companies and the investors may be individuals who know almost nothing directly about mining,. They invest their money in the industry because they consider it a good way of securing dividends. Probably the most important person in the industry is the mining engineer who must make decisions on all technical matters. He must decide as to the practicality of operating a property; he must lay out the plans for working the mine; and he must direct the actual workings. Then there comes the miner who is the one who digs out the ore and brings it to the surface of the ground. He may work for day wages or he may be paid in proportion to the ore which he digs. He usually earns high wages but he is in a dangerous and often an unhealthful occupation. Miners, as a class, tend to be wanderers who drift from camp to camp.

Importance of Mining

It is often said that all of the industries are based on agriculture and mining. Certain it is that civilization could not be in a very advanced state without the metals, the coal, and the oil and gas which comes from the earth. In the history of man, his advancement is marked by his ability to use the products of mining. First came the stone age when no metals were used; progress was slow prior to the time when the industrial uses of copper, iron, silver, gold and coal was discovered.

The materials employed by man for making tools with which to work, for constructing transportation facilities, and for building part or all of houses are taken from the mines. The discovery of cheap methods of removing metals from the earth and extracting them from their ores has made possible the enjoyment by common people of the necessities, conveniences, and luxuries of modern civilization. The United States now produces about six billion seven hundred million dollars worth of mineral products each year, and in 1919 there were 1,086,264 persons engaged in the industry.

Notable Examples

Some of the outstanding leaders in the development of the country have been men connected with the mining and related industries. The life story of Herbert Hoover has become familiar to most Americans since the war days when he did so much to bring relief to the suffering nations of Europe. His wonderful organizing and administrative ability grew largely out of his training and experience as a mining engineer. After he was graduated from Stanford University eh took up his profession in this country, but it was not long until his ability was recognized and his services were in demand in nearly every part of the world. John Hayes Hammond is another example of an unusually successful mining engineer. Governor George H. Dern of Utah is also a mining engineer by profession.

Kinds of Mining

Mining is usually divided into two classes, depending on the kind of deposit. In the one class such materials as iron, coal, and salt are found in horizontal beds. In other classes the ore is found in veins or lodes. The method of mining varies with the nature of the deposit.

Ore usually occurs in the mountains at some distance from centers of population and it is there that the mining camp must be built. This often consists of a town made up almost entirely of those connected, either directly or indirectly, with the mines. The time of existence of the community depends on how long the ore lasts; when it is gone the settlement is abandoned. In some cases other industries spring up making the community permanent.

Preparation for Mining

The work of a mine laborer requires very little preparation outside of experience. He requires a strong body and should have at least a fair amount of intelligence. The expert in mining, or the mining engineer, requires years of study and considerable practical experience. Courses in mining schools usually require four years above the high school, and graduation from these schools is only the “beginning of wisdom,” since the University of Experience is the great teacher. The training after the completion of school should include work in a number of camps in order that familiarity may be acquired with varied conditions.

One man who became wealthy as a mine operator lists the personal qualities of those engaged in the mining business as follows: “Courage, patience, and perseverance to execute; thoroughness, keen observation and ability to correlate data and evidence, so as to construct sound working theories; and ability to organize and systematize so as to operate efficie4ntly.” another mine owner says: “One certainly has to use his own judgment, otherwise he would be talked into more wild-cat schemes than a few.” I suppose it was this last point which Mark Twain had in mind when he defined a mine as a hole in the ground and the owner thereof a lair.

Compensation and Opportunities

Wages in mining average higher than in most occupations, but as a rule it also costs more to live. Men of extraordinary ability command very high salaries. Exceptionally good men are scarce in mining just as in every other industry. Most of the rich men of the west have acquired their wealth in mining; at the same time many fortunes have been lost in the business.

One trouble is that the money comes so easily that its value is not appreciate4d and it is likely to be squandered. The author was once talking with a miner who sold a prospect for $15,000. He said that at the end of three months he did not have a cent left. “But,” he added, “I had a royal good time while it lasted.

John Dern, formerly president of the American Mining Congress, writes as follows regarding opportunities in mining:

“The days of prospecting and finding a bonanza in the United States are almost past. Large scale operations, or new processes offer most of the opportunities today. There are plenty of chances for the man who has the gift of vision, the scientific knowledge, the executive and business ability, and the energy. But getting rich over night in mining will be less frequent in the future than it has been in the past.

“The gambler or plunger sometimes makes a success in mining, but generally he goes broke. Mining should be conducted on careful, conservative, scientific lines, and when so conducted there is bound to be some degree of success. There is always an element of chance that is fascinating, but the miner who makes the real success is the one who discounts luck, and who figures on coming out ahead without the aid of luck.”


1. What is the relationship between mining and the advance of civilization?
2. Enumerate the articles in every day use that are made possible by mining.
3. What different kinds of work enter into the mining, the smelting, and the stone quarrying business?
4. Where are the great oil fields of the world?
5. What are some of the difficulties of living in a mining camp?
6. Name some successful mine operators and mining engineers.
7. Outline the best possible training for a mine operator.


1 Comment »

  1. Interesting little article. It reminds me of an autobiography I read recently about a career in mining. It has a Utah connection: the English-born author, Bert Kipps, was cousin to a family that had joined the church and emigrated to Utah in the 1860s. After World War I he traveled to Utah at the invitation of one of his uncles and he began a career in mining there. Here’s just a bit from his story about getting a start in mining:

    Uncle Bert was Secretary of a rich, Silver Mine in Tintic, Eureka, Utah, with his office in Salt Lake City. He was enthusiastic about a future for me as a Mining Engineer. I was to go to the mine and see for myself if I would like it, and also if I thought I could make the grade. Of course I did not know a thing about it, but the math, geometry and mapping interested me, as it did in school.

    So I went to Eureka to study under their Chief Engineer, a dour Scotsman named Harry Pitts. At the time I did not know it but I was to grow to like him, and I was to become his best friend. He put me to work underground, drilling “uppers”, holes in solid rock, for survey plugs, and carrying mule loads of stakes, posts and equipment up large mountains to survey claims. It started to get interesting when I learned to “run a transit” and make maps by plotting co-ordinates.

    I was soon surveying by myself with a helper to do the “mule” bit. I learned about raises, winzes, stopes, drifts, and shafts. Also how to put in a Railroad siding, build good roads, install Aerial Tramways, and how to use explosives.

    Kipps stayed in Utah for a couple of decades and then followed other mining projects around the world as he tells in his autobiography:

    The Odyssey of Bert Kipps

    Comment by Researcher — September 13, 2011 @ 8:39 am

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