Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Land of Promise – Part IX: Copper in the Great Lakes

Continued from the previous post regarding why we need to understand the writings of the early prophets regarding the geographical setting of the Land of Promise to better understand the application of the scriptural record today.
    As mentioned in the previous post regarding theorists Rian Nelson’s view that inland rivers, such as the Hudson and the Connecticut rivers formed a pathway to the St. Lawrence River, and thus to the sea, it might be of interest to note the work of Timothy Dwight, former president of Yale, who traveled through New England and New York beginning in the 1790s, in which he stated: “English colonists used the Connecticut River as their primary transportation route just as the Native people had, but there were problems. A vessel leaving Long Island Sound could navigate only the first 60 miles. Beginning at the rapids in Enfield, Connecticut, it would encounter a series of natural barriers. 
    The most daunting were the Great Falls in South Hadley. Draft horses or oxen could pull flat-bottomed boats over the Enfield rapids, but the 50-foot drop at South Hadley was a different matter. There, and again upriver at Turners Falls, cargo had to be removed from the boats, loaded onto wagons, driven around the falls, and re-loaded onto the boats — a time-consuming and expensive proposition” (Timothy Dwight, Travels in New England and New York, Vol.1, William Baynes and Son, London, 1823).
    It might be said that trying to connect by inland waterways to the St. Lawrence River during Nephite times, specifically that of Hagoth, in the last half of the first century BC, would not have been likely, if even possible.  But on this theme, Nelson continues:
• Rian Nelson: “Although the common view regarding Hagoth is that he launched his boats directly into the Pacific Ocean (i.e., the west sea), his ships could have arrived in the Pacific from Lake Michigan also.”
(White Line) The route used before the Erie Canal was built; (Yellow Line) The route theorists claim; (Blue Line) The Erie Canal shortened the distance considerably. Right: Sailing through the Northwest Passage in a ship “driven forth by the wind” would have been impossible because of the numerous conflicting wind directions and sea currents, not to mention this area is often iced in for months on end

First, if there had been such a route as Nelson suggests, then the 363-mile long Erie Canal, which opened in 1825, would not have been dug, nor its 82 locks built, since the canal’s purpose was to connect the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. Prior to this, inland farmers and merchants had to ship their product down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Within 25 years, the Canal carried 62% of all U.S. trade. Had there been any other means to reach the Atlantic, it certainly would have been used and would have been shorter and faster (yellow line left image) than going to the Gulf of Mexico (white line left image) and around Florida to New York’s eastern ports.
    Keep in mind that the early inland waterway system in the U.S. was thoroughly mapped and evaluated in the 19th century when travel inland from the coastal areas was at its peak in interest. Any route, or combinations of routes would have been thoroughly searched for and reported had there been one. While a route did exist to the St. Lawrence through New England, it required numerous portages, traveling around dams, rapids, and falls so extensive, that the cost of such shipping was prohibitive.
    As for a route to the Sea, had there been a rout to the St. Lawrence, no one would have taken a route to the Pacific, for it required passing through the Northwest Passage where all the water passages move from west to east, against sailing such a course.  These currents move northward through the Bering Sea, through the straits to the Chukchi Sea. From there they move into the clockwise circling Beaufort Gyre, and through the Canadian Archipelago from West to East, down through the Baffin Bay and to the Labrador Sea.
    Hardly a course to be taken in a sailing ship that was “driven forth before the wind.”
• Rian Nelson: There is more copper in North America around the Great Lakes than anywhere else and should certainly qualify this area for the Land of Promise based on all the mention of copper in the Book of Mormon.”
Lake Superior’s native copper, including Michigan copper, showed lower levels of tin, arsenic, gold, and especially cobalt, than the “European copper” manufactured artifacts

Response: While copper is said to be the most common metal on the face of the Earth with the exception of iron, it is not found just anywhere. However, it should be noted that while scores of ancient copper mines have been found around Lake Superior producing large amounts of copper by ancient workmen along what is called the Copper Belt, the vast majority of copper holdings now, and exploited anciently, are found in Andean Peru. 
    In fact, Chile out produces the second largest producer of copper, China, by 5,750.000 tons to 1,760,000 tons. Adding Peru, that number is 7,130,000 tons to 6,570,000 tons for the next 6 countries, including China, the U.S., Russia and Australia. When adding Ecuador the Andean total of Chile, Peru and Ecuador is 7,375,000 tons annually. The entire United States produces only 1,300,000 tons annually.
    While most copper around the world is in the form of low-grade ores that require a sequence of concentration mechanisms to upgrade it to exploitable ore through a series of proto-ores, that of the Copper Belt is more pure copper.
    Copper ores of the “oxidized type”, including the oxide cuprite, and carbonates (malachite) are generally green or blue, and reducible to copper metal by simple heating with charcoal. Ores of the “reduced type” are sulfides or sulfosalts (chalcocite, chalcopyrite, tetrahedrite), and are not readily identified in outcrops as ores; they require roasting to convert them to oxides, then reduction of the oxides to produce metal. There are a number of places in the world where copper can be found in small deposits in the pure state, but it is usually embedded in a rock matrix, from which it must be freed by intensive labor, or, today, crushed in huge volumes, and treated to obtain the metal.
Most of U.S. copper is found around Lake Superior specifically in Houghton County, especially on the Keweenaw Peninsula, although copper is scattered through most of that area
The Unique Geology of Michigan Copper resulted in Earth’s early history, when there were huge volcanic outflows over the Great Lakes area. As new sediments overlaid these flows, copper solutions were crystallizing in the Precambrian flood basalts of the lava layers. The copper had been crystallized in nodules and irregular masses along fracture zones a few inches, to many feet wide. Eventually glaciation occurred and the heavy ice ground upon the edges of the old layered basalt lava beds, and exposed some of the embedded copper Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula remained high ridges of volcanic basalt. 
    The scraping and digging by the glaciers, followed by surface exposure of the hardest material, the metal, was followed by sluicing of the land by glacial meltwaters. This left many mineral nodules of all sizes on the surface, called “float copper,” in the huge pine forests, because it had “floated” to the surface. Nodules of copper were discovered shining in the surf along the shores of Isle Royale. The prolonged crystallization, followed by glacial exposure, was a unique sequence of events. When exploited, it took man from the stone age to an industrial world.
The Isla Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula have hundreds of copper mine pits of ancient origin; however, evidence shows they were inoperative by 1200 BC 

What is important to keep in mind when theorists talk about plentiful Great Lakes copper, is that the scriptural record never talks about copper as a singular ore, but always in connection with gold and silver, as in Nephi’s statement of what was found on the ground in the Land of Promise being (all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper” (1 Nephi 18:25). 
    In fact, copper is mentioned with other ores besides gold and silver, such as “we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war—yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war” (Jarom 1:8), and also with ziff and zinc (necessary to make brass). In all other cases copper is mentioned with gold and silver, and in large quantities (2 Nephi 5:15; Jarom 1:8; “they have brought breastplates, which are large, and they are of brass and of copper, and are perfectly sound” (Mosiah 8:10); or iron (Ether 10:23).
    However, it should be noted that gold and/or silver are mentioned without copper numerous times (Jacob 1:16; 2:12; Mosiah 2:12; 4:19; 19:15; 22:12; Alma 1:29; 4:6; 11:3-7,11-12,22; 15:16; 17:14; 31:24; Helaman 6:9,11,31; 7:21; 12:2; 13:28; 3 Nephi 6:2; 4 Nephi 1:46; Ether 9:17; 10:12,23). The point is, while the Great Lakes has copper—gold and silver are almost non-existent and totally inconsistent with the scriptural descriptions. 
    Every river in the world contains gold, however, some rivers contain so little gold that one could pan and sieve for years and not find even one small flake. This stream gold, referred to as placer gold, exists in the Great Lakes area, but not in any kind of abundance. Gold also exists in the Lakes themselves, but again, finding any quantity is not worth the time and cost to extract it. While prospectors have found gold in the Manistee, Au Sable and other rivers, they have also found gold dry panning in gravel pits. But large quantities throughout their Land of Promise simply does not exist. 
    In short, most placer gold found throughout Michigan is very small, and not in quantities suitable for commercial extraction. Due to the low volumes, not much exploration has been done on a large scale. It is very possible for small amounts of gold to be recovered from just about any creek or river in the state if you use the proper methods to find it.
    The mining of copper in the Great Lakes started in the 1840s, with Iron from the Precambrian banded iron formation deposits around Lake Superior being mined since 1846 (the great bulk of iron ore mined in the U.S. is from seven pits in Minnesota). 
    The point once again is that this Great Lakes area as well as the Heartland) does not have sufficient gold or silver, or any other ore other than copper. 
(See the next post, “The Land of Promise: An Understand of the Land – Part VIII,” for more on why we need to understand the writings of the early prophets regarding the geographical setting of the Land of Promise to better understand the application of the scriptural record today)

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