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As It Was: Giant Gold Dredge Refurbished for Canadian Mining

Gold mining in Southern Oregon that began in the 19th century has never completely come to an end.

On a pond off Pleasant Creek Road near Wimer, Ore., a 45-foot-high bucket-ladder dredge manufactured by the Washington Iron Works in Seattle sat idle for more than 40 years until the Pleasant Creek Mining Co. started using it to extract gold from 1939-1942.  The dredging stopped for good during World War II when the massive diesel engine that powered the operation was needed for war-related work.

The dredge floated on pontoons. Huge topside wheels pulled a chain of giant buckets that dug 20 feet into the mud, pulling up dirt dumped into sluice boxes and sieves.  The giant dredge sifted through 4,000 cubic yards daily and dumped the tailings into the pond behind it.

In 1981 a Canadian company bought the old dredge, dismantled, and cleaned it and used it to mine for gold in British Columbia.  Mining dredges were no longer being manufactured, so the company searched abandoned ones to refurbish.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to get environmental clearance today in the United States for such a large-scale dredge.

Source: Stanley, Denise. "Gold Dredge Is Going Back to Work." Mail Tribune, 18 Jan. 1981 [Medford, Oregon] , p. 16.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.