Cedar Mt Mine 1
Denny Hicks was a small mining contractor out of the Coeur D’Lene mining district in Idaho. One of the timber companies logging in the Coeur D’Lene National Forest just south of Priest Lake cut across a small vein of silver while pioneering roads for logging. The dozer operator shaded some topsoil over the vein until the owner of the logging company could get some samples and geologic information on the ore. The vein proved to be very good silver. The owner hired Denny to drive a tunnel to further investigate and confirm the vein was large enough at depth for production. Denny was shopping for equipment when I met him. When he found out I was a miner he offered me a job as his partner on the tunnel. The geologist was completing the mapping to determine orientation of the tunnel. We set up a camp on the North Fork of Hayden Creek a mile and a half from the tunnel site.
Denny and myself would drive the 9 foot x 7 foot tunnel. A two man project in the Coeur D’Lene National Forest on a silver mine was as good as it gets. Denny had accumulated used equipment for the work. We had an old Joy air compressor that was probably older than either one of us. The cylinders on the engine had spark plugs and diesel fuel injectors. The starter couldn’t turn the engine over against the high compression needed to ignite the diesel in the cylinders. We threw a lever after starting the compressor on gasoline to run on diesel. A little John Deere 450 front end loader was our mucking machine. A small diesel engine powered our squirrel cage ventilation fan. We didn’t have a chainsaw. We used a swede saw to cut the posts and caps for wooden timber sets. The logging company delivered barked logs to be used for timber when needed.
Denny, like most miners, wanted the fastest burning dynamite available so we used all 60% nitroglycerin powder. We used fuse and blasting caps down the hole to initiate detonation. The fuses were timed and ignited with spitter cord. This is the same system you see in the movies when the old miner lights the sparkling cord and runs like hell. We were a little more methodical and safe with it than the movies. We cut the fuses to length, crimped on the blasting cap, and crimped on the igniters. The igniters had a slot to attach the spitter cord by bending a small tab. When loading a hole the blasting cap goes into the first stick of powder. When pushed to the bottom of the hole the fuse and igniter extend a couple feet out of the hole. After all the holes are loaded the spitter cord is attached in the sequence you want the holes to explode, usually from the center of the tunnel face out to the perimeter line holes. Delay between holes is adjusted by the distance between igniters as they are attached to the spitter cord.
A gyppo miner works for days pay plus production bonus on small jobs………tramp miners move from small job to small job north in summer, south in winter.