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Molten gold signals revival in California's mother lode

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

In this photo taken Thursday, Dec. 13, Sutter Gold Mining Co. mill superintendent Paul Skinner pours the first thin stream of glowing molten gold into a mold, forming a shiny one-inch pyramid, near Sutter Creek, Calif. The company announced Monday, Dec. 17, that it poured its first gold as it prepared to begin the first large-scale Sierra Nevada underground gold mining operation in a half century.

By Don Thompson, Associated Press 

The last of California's great gold mines closed a generation ago. But with the price of the metal near historic highs, hovering around $1,700 an ounce, the first large-scale hard rock gold mining operation in a half-century is coming back to life. 

Miners are digging again where their forebears once unearthed riches from eight historic mines that honeycomb Sutter Gold Mining Co.'s holdings about 50 miles southeast of Sacramento. 

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Miner Keith Emerald uses a pneumatic drill to drill holes that will be packed with explosives to blast into the sold rock wall at the Sutter Gold Mining Co.'s mines near Sutter Creek, Calif.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Matt Collins, chief operating officer of the Sutter Gold Mining Co., left, watches as, from left, Allen Smith, Brain Herfel, Ted Chapman and Wayne Murphy calibrate the water flow of a gravity table at the company's newly constructed mill near Sutter Creek, Calif. The gravity table uses technology similar to those used by gold rush-era miners who used pans to separate gold from surrounding materials.

By spring, the company's 110 employees expect to be removing 150 tons of ore a day from a site immediately north of the old Lincoln Mine, enough to produce nearly 2,000 ounces of gold each month. 

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Sutter Gold Mining Co. mill superintendent Paul Skinner removes a crucible of glowing molten gold that will be poured into a mold.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Sutter Gold Mining Co. mill superintendent Paul Skinner displays a four-ounce pyramid of gold he has just poured at the new mill.

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