Forest Service Circular No. 35
Forest Preservation and National Prosperity


Superintendent Homestake Mining Company.

Forests are important to mining, and benefits accrue to mining from forests, but it is not sufficient to say so and there stop. The forests are an absolute necessity to the mines. Nor is it true to say that the timber produced by the forests is the only benefit accruing from them. Conservation of moisture by a thrifty growth of trees is to the credit of the forest while alike important and necessary to the mineral industry.

* * * Not many, perhaps, fully appreciate the enormous quantity of timber needed in and about a great mine in order to carry on its operations and protect the lives of its operatives. The hoisting works, metallurgical and other buildings on the surface, which are always in sight, perhaps make the average mind more or less oblivious to the fact that further supplies of the forest product are required with every foot of progress made in penetrating the ground. As the miner's work of taking out the ore advances he surrounds himself with a framework of timber, which is intended to hold in place the sides and roofs of his excavations.

Chief of Division of Mining and Mineral Resources, U. S. Geological Survey.

* * * We have no accurate knowledge of the amount of timber used in a year in the mines, but we do know that it requires about a cubic foot for each ton of anthracite, say 70 million cubic feet per year; somewhat less for each ton of bituminous, say 250 million cubic feet yearly. Iron ore needs at least 20 million feet, precious-metal mining needs, say, 75 million cubic feet, or, say, 400 million cubic feeta a year for the whole mining industry.

aEquivalent to nearly 5 billion board feet.

Director United States Geological Survey.

* * * Abundance of wood is one of the prime necessities for successful mining. There are four chief factors in the mining enterprise—the value of the ore, the cost of production, the cost of transportation, and the cost of reduction; and the sum of the last three must be less than the first or the mine will be closed. Mining, properly understood, is a business in which the profits or losses are the result of the balance of these conditions, not an excavation of treasure whose enormous value renders other considerations insignificant. Now, in the three costs mentioned above, the principal elements are water and wood.

Maj. F. D. FENN,
Supervisor Forest Reserves in Idaho and Montana.

* * * No other industry is more directly and intimately connected with the administration of forest reserves than mining. The preservation of timber and the conservation of the water supply—the two great purposes of the forester—are exactly suited to meet the two chief branches of the metalliferous mining industry, lode mining and placer mining. The lode miner must have timber for his underground workings; and without water the placer miner is helpless.

* * * Every successful lode miner is the consumer of enormous quantities of forest products. Such properties as the Homestake mine in South Dakota, the great copper mines of Butte and Anaconda in Montana, or the lead-silver producers of the Coeur d'Alenes in Idaho, require almost incredible amounts of timber for their operation. The first impulse of the miner in the hurry and scurry of the newly discovered mining region is to cut and slash indiscriminately. He is heedless of the damage that may be done to the remaining timber, and he is utterly extravagant in the use of that which costs him nothing and which there is no one to claim or protect. What might be expected ensues. Fires start in the cut-over tracts, spread through the accumulated debris to the adjacent forests, and the country for miles around is devastated. In a relatively few years the mining camp is surrounded by denuded hills and the miners are face to face with a timber famine.

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Last Updated: 01-Apr-2008