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Western Mining
During the late 1840s and the 1850s, hopeful prospectors flooded the gold-rich areas of the American West. By the 1860s, when the gold yield had declined to a modest level, most whites abandoned the enterprise, leaving the Chinese to constitute nearly two-thirds of the mining workforce west of the Rocky Mountains. According to the 1870 census, for example, Chinese made up 61 percent of the total number of miners in Oregon, 21 percent in Montana, 59 percent in Idaho, and 25 percent in California. It is not certain how many Chinese worked for American companies or Chinese contractors and how many owned stakes themselves. It is known that larger companies used hydraulic mining techniques, while the Chinese tended to use simpler methods. The Chinese also mined salt in the San Francisco area; borate in California, Nevada, and Oregon; coal in Utah, Wyoming, and Washington; and quicksilver in the Napa and Lake county regions of California. In addition to miners, Chinese also were hired in the mining communities as laundrymen, cooks, and servants.
Source consulted:
Shih-Shan Henry Tsai, The Chinese Experience in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986)

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