Silver Mines - Modern Marvels

While silver has been used for decoration and ornament since ancient times,it was not until the discovery of the Comstock Lode near Virginia City, Nevada that it played an important role in the economy of a nation. In its first 25 years of operation, theComstock Lode produced $300 million of gold and silver ore. Money from the Comstock helped the Union win the CivilWar, secured statehood for Nevada, and made millionaires of many men. MODERNMARVELS traces the remarkable story of this "mother lode" thatspurred the development of vast improvements in mining technology and safety. Go beneath the earth to see firsthand the innovations in drilling, ventilation, drainage and processing that transformed the mining industry into a modern operation. Meet themen who have spent their lives in the mines, and get an up-close look at a modern mining operation.

Silver is found in native form very rarely as nuggets, but more usually combined with sulfur, arsenic, antimony, or chlorine and in various ores such as argentite (Ag2S), chlorargyrite ("horn silver," AgCl), and galena (a lead ore often containing significant amounts of silver). As silver is often found in conjunction with these or alloyed with other metals such as gold, it usually must be further extracted out through amalgamation or electrolysis.

Silver mining has been undertaken since early times. As silver is a precious metal often used for coins, its mining has historically often been lucrative. As with other precious metals such as gold, newly discovered deposits of silver ore have sparked silver rushes of miners seeking their fortunes. In recent centuries, large deposits were discovered and mined in the Americas, influencing the growth and development of Mexico, Andean countries such as Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, as well as Canada and the United States.