HighGraders

by kfrego

High graders is a term which relates to individuals who steal or innovatively acquire minerals, normally gold, which do not rightfully belong to them. The simplest and most common high graders are miners who pocket gold nuggets or high grade ore while working. Forms of sophisticated high grading would be trespass mining operations on property of others. The term high grader also applies to people who buy or sell gold or minerals obtained by high graders. A small souvenir of gold wouldn’t be considered high grading.

In 1975 I was core drilling underground at the Lovitt Mine on the city limits of Wenatchee, WA. The drill we used was a brand new concept built by Boyles Brothers in Salt Lake. The drill was powered by a state of the art electric over hydraulic system. The old mine had small drifts and some really heavy timbered ground. The drilling was to define ore below the existing workings and to test some areas previously mined for the feasibility of leaching the gold out of the rock with chemicals. The geologist was Tub Garrett from Spokane. Our third hole was a vertical hole expected to go seven hundred feet below the original workings. Myself and Ray Hynes were on day shift. We got the hole cased for twenty feet and started coring. At about 75 feet we hit a void of two feet and lost all of our mud circulation down the hole. We sat the rods on the bottom of the hole and slowly advanced the drill string. We had no water pressure and our diamond core bit wouldn’t penetrate whatever was in the bottom of the hole. We made several attempts with no luck. When we pulled the rods to inspect the bit we could see little slivers of wood in the waterways of the bit. Go figure, we’re 75 feet below the lowest workings. We finally recovered a six inch piece of solid wood in our core barrel. Eventually we drilled through two six inch pieces of wood and went six feet thru another void. The core at the bottom of the void had several inches of loose gravel before going back into native rock. It was pretty obvious we went through an existing tunnel not shown on any documents. Tub was scratching his head. We took the hole to seven hundred feet after extending the casing through the old drift so we could maintain circulation of our mud through the hole when drilling.

Several months later Tub was on one of our Montana jobs and told us the story. High graders employed by the mine manager had driven half a mile of tunnel from the banks of the Yakima River under the existing workings. The muck was hand sorted for gold. The gold was packed out by mules at night and all the muck was dumped into the river and washed downstream. Everything used was stolen from the mining company. Talk of the high graders tunnel was documented, but nobody had ever found the location.

Tub knew what he was doing……our hole was on the edge of Washington’s biggest gold bearing deposit mined in the 1980’s and 90’s.

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