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elevation may be regarded as the mean height of the most abundant mines in Germany. But in the New Continent the metallic wealth is deposited by nature on the very ridge of the cordilleras, and sometimes in situations within a very small distance from the limit of perpe'ual snow. The most celebrated mines in Mexico are at absolute heights of from 1800 to 3000 metres”. In the Andes the districts of mines of Potosi, Oruro, Paz, Pasco and Gualgayoc are in regions of which the elevation surpasses that of the highest summits of the Pyrenees. Near the small town of Micuipampa, the great square of which according to my measurement is 3618 metrest above the level of the sea, a mass of silver mineral known by the name of Cerro de Gualgayoc abounds with immense wealth at an absolute height of 4100 metress. We have mentioned in another places the advantage which in working the Mexican mines, is derived from the most important veins being in a middle region where the climate is not unfavourable to agriculture and vegetation. The large town of Guanaxuato is placedin a ravin, the bottom of which is somewhat
* From 5904 to 9842 feet. Trans.” + 11,868 feet. Trans. f 13,451 feet. Trans. $ See vol. i. p. 71, and vol. ii. p. 407.
lower than the level of the lakes of the valley of . Tenochtitlan. We are ignorant of the absolute heights of Zacatecas and the Real de Catorce; but these two places are situated on table lands seemingly more elevated than the level of Guanaxuato. However the temperate climate of these Mexican towns, which are surrounded with the richest mines in the world, is a contrast to the cold and exceedingly disagreeable climate of Micuipampa, Pasco, Huancaavelica and other Peruvian towns.
When in a district of small extent, for
instance, in that of Freiberg in Saxony, we compare the quantity of silver annually coined, with the great number of mines constantly worked, we perceive on the slightest examination that this produce is derived from a very small part of the mining operations, and that nine tenths of the mines possess almost no influence on the total mass of minerals extracted from the bowels of the earth. In the same manner in Mexico the 2,500,000 marcs" of silver which are annually sent to Europe and Asia, from the ports of Vera Cruz and Acapulco, are the produce of a very small number of mines. The three districts which we have frequently had occasion to name, Guanaxuato, Zacatecas and Catorce supply more than the half of that sum.
* 1,640,791 lb. troy. Trans.
The vein of Guanaxuato alone, yields more than a fourth part of the whole silver of Mexico and a sixth part of the produce of all America. In the general view already presented by us, the principal mines are confounded with those from which a very small quantity of metal is extracted. The disproportion between the two classes is so great that more than £3 of the Mexican mines belong to the latter, of which the total produce does not probably amount to the sum of 200,000 marcs". In Saxony also the mines which surround the town of Freiberg produce annually nearly 50,000 marcs of silver, while all the rest of the Erzgebirge does not yield more than from seven to eight thousand marcs. The following is the order in which the richest mines of New Spain follow one another, arranging them according to the quantity of money actually drawn from them:
Guanaxuato, in the Intendancy of the same name. Catorce, in the Intendancy of San Luis Potosi. Zacatecas, in the Intendancy of the same 113Mosle, Real del Monte, in the Intendancy of Mexico. Bolaños, in the Intendancy of Guadalaxara.
Guarisamey, in the Intendancy of Durango. Sombrerete, in the Intendancy of Zacatecas. Tasco, in the Intendancy of Mexico. Batopilas, in the Intendancy of Durango. Zimapan, in the Intendancy of Mexico. Fresnillo, in the Intendancy of Zacatecas. Ramos, in the Intendancy of San Luis Potosi. Parral, in the Intendancy of Durango.
We are absolutely in want of accurate materials for tracing the history of the mining operations of New Spain. It appears certain, that of all the veins those of Tasco, Zultepeque, Tlapujahua and Pachuca, were first wrought by the Spaniards. Near Tasco, to the west of Tchuilotepec, in the Cerro de la Campana, Cortez cut a level across the micaceous slate which is as we have already stated covered by alpine lime-stone. This gallery called el socaboo: del rey was begun on such a large scale that
one may go through it on horseback for a
length of more than 90 metres*; and it has been lately finished by the patriotic zeal of Don Vicente de Anza, a miner of Tasco, who was enabled to cut the principal vein at the distance of 530 metres, from the mouth of the level. The working of the mines of Zacatecas fol
lowed very closely those of Tasco and Pachuca. The vein of San Barnabe was begun in the year 1548, twenty-eight years after the death of Montezuma, a circumstance which must appear so much the more remarkable, as the town Zacatecas is distant in a straight line more than 100 leagues from the valley of Tenochtitlan. It is said that the silver minerals of the district of Zacatecas were discovered by the muleteers who travelled between Mexico and Zacatecas. In this district near the basaltic-hill of Cubilete the mine of San Barnabè exhibits the most antient mining operations. The principal vein of Guanaxuato (la veta madre) was discovered somewhat later, on digging the pits of Mellado and Rayas. The first of these pits was begun on the 15th, and the second on the 16th of April in the year 1558. The mines of Comanjas are undoubtedly still more antient than those of Guanaxuato. As the total produce of the mines of Mexico till the beginning of the 18th century, has never been more than 600,000 marcs of gold and silver a year, we may conclude that in the 16th century they did not labour with very great activity in the extraction of the minerals. The veins of Tasco, Tlapujahua, Zultepeque, Moran, Pachuca, and Real del Monte, and those of Sombrerete, Bolaños, Batopilas and Rosario have afforded from time to time immense wealth; but their produce has been less uniform than that of the mines of Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, and Catorce.
* 295 feet. Trans.