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Extracting precious metals is a dangerous business

Watching the recent rescue of miners in Chile was a stark reminder of how dangerous deep mining for metals can be.

For my book, Crime of 1873: The Comstock Connection, I did a lot of research into the miners and mining on Virginia City, Nev.'s Comstock Lode. Several historians have covered this, with one of the earliest being Eliot Lord.

From the threat of cave-ins to explosions, the list of ways in which a Comstock miner could lose life or limb extracting gold and silver from earth was endless.

Even at shift's end, when rising aboard a cage to the surface, there was a chance of falling off and dying. Temperatures in the mines rose dramatically the deeper and deeper the mines were worked. Thus, during winter it was especially dangerous for miners returning from such an environment to the surface, where it was much colder. A miner could easily become dizzy and faint.

I like collectibles related to the Comstock and among my favorite are the payment receipts for a miner's service at $4 a day.