PRECIOUS METAL INDUSTRY 18 THE UNITED STATES. 89
which for.a long time has produced a small amount of silver, and lately has added a nearly equal value of gold to its product. Even less is known of the geological relations of the deposits from which the metals have been obtained in this State. In a general way it is assumed that they occur in the same series of rocks as do the great iron bodies which constitute its principal mineral wealth, and it is fair to assume that if more attention were giyen to the exploration for precious metals in this region the product of the State might assume considerable importance.
In reviewing the production of the whole country for the period under consideration, it is to be remarked that the gold product has remained fairly steady while the silver product has nearly doubled. The average gold product of the country since 1S73, as shown by available statistics, has been about $33,000,000 per annum, except during the years when the Comstock mines were in bonanza, to the abnormal yield of which, it is fair to assume, the increased product during the years 1870-1880 was due. The falling off during the first half of the last decade was due to the restriction of hydraulic mining, which in the later years has been replaced by the normal increase from deep mines. It is probable that the increase for 1892 over former years is greater than present statistics show. On the whole, the gold industry may be said to be in a normal and healthy state, ready for a permanent though not necessarily rapid increase, as more capital is intelligently directed to its development.
The increase in the silver product has been phenomenal, especially when it is considered that the yield of the Comstock lode, which during the previous decade constituted about half the total product of the country, has become practically an insignificant factor, and that the average price of the metal itself has steadily fallen during the period, except for the few months immediately succeeding the passage of the Sherman Act; the average price for 1892 having been about 25 per cent, less than that of 1880.
The prime factors in this increase have been the discovery and developement of great ore bodies in limestone, such as those of Leadville and Aspen, the ores of which must be reduced by smelting. This has resulted in the building up of the great smelting industry in the West and, in consequence, of an immense increase of railroad facilities, which in turn have encouraged the investment of capital in other mining enterprises. The development of the great veins of Utah, Montana, and the San Juan region, although they produce ores not necessarily reduced by smelting, is nevertheless dependent on railroad facilities which the smelting industry has been the most important factor in developing. In other words, the increase in the silver industry has been due mainly to favorable industrial conditions. If capital had not beeu invested in.