Abbildungen der Seite

tion has hitherto been insignificant, the demand is steadily increasing. In southern Europe and in Mexico, as in fact in all Spanish-American countries, cacão, in the form of prepared chocolate, is in common use by all classes; while in France, Germany, England, Russia, and the United States, it is employed chiefly in the manufacture of confections. Its use has become so varied and extensive that it is already a world staple of commerce, like tea and coffee; and the annual export, from Venezuela alone, amounts in value from $1,600,000 to $2,000,000. During the year 1890, it amounted to nearly $2,000,000, and it continued to increase until the breaking out of the civil war of 1892.




ENEZUELA, like Colombia, is peculiarly rich in minerals, and some of the richest gold mines

in both countries have been profitably worked for more than two centuries. Early in the sixteenth century, Spanish prospectors searched the Caribbean coast and on the margins of the great rivers for gold deposits; and it was by these prospectors that the mines of Buria and San Pedro were first discovered, and the first white settlements made at Barquisemeto and Nirgua. These rich mines continued to be somewhat crudely though profitably worked under the old Spanish regime through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but were abandoned after the great earthquake of 1812, which obstructed the shafts and totally destroyed the mining property. In 1560, the same Fajardo (or Faxardo) who made the first attempt to found the city of Caracas discovered the gold mines of Los Teques; but owing to the hostility of the Indians, who killed his miners and destroyed his works, he was soon forced to abandon the enterprise and seek safety on the coast. Some twenty years later, another company of Spaniards discovered the marvellously rich gold fields on the Tuy river, which, however, were soon abandoned owing to the insalubrity of the climate and the hostile character of neighboring tribes of Indians.

Since then, gold has been discovered in nearly every province and district of the Republic. But the deposits

of greatest extent and value are those recently found in the territories of Guayana, east of the Orinoco. There are abundant outcroppings of gold-bearing quartz in the entire region between the river Cuyuni and the province of Barcelona, and also in the valleys of the western tributaries of the Orinoco as far inland as the Colombian border. The mines of San Felipe, Nirgua, Barcelona, Calläo, and Carupino have yielded as much as seven and eight ounces of pure gold per ton. During the years 1880, 1890, 1891, the smallest product of these mines was about $920,000, and the largest about $3,400,000, – the average annual yield being about $2,160,000.

Copper deposits are abundant in many parts of the Republic, but hitherto not much disturbed. Those in the foot-hills near San Felipe, some seventy miles distant from Puerto Cabello, have been very successfully worked by an English company, and there are said to be equally rich, but as yet undeveloped mines of this metal in the vicinity of Coro, Carabobo, Barquisemeto, and Merida. In the decade from 1880 to 1890, the largest annual product of copper was about 30,000 tons, valued at $1,162,000; the smallest annual product, during the same period, being about 10,000 tons, valued at $175,000.

In various parts of the Republic, but more particularly in the foot-hills of the Parima range of mountains, there are rich deposits of red hematite and magnetic iron; but the most valuable deposits of this metal are found in the valley of the river Imataca, an important affluent of the great Orinoco, in part of the territory recently claimed by Great Britain. Here the ore is found in great quantities, generally near the surface, and has been assayed as high as eighty per cent of pure metal. The beds of ore are near the margins of the river, which is navigable for some distance above, and are easily worked at comparatively little expense.

Asphaltum of very superior quality, and in apparently inexhaustible quantities, is found near the Pedernales river, one of the estuaries of the Orinoco, and also in smaller deposits near Maracaybo, Merida, and Coro, in the western part of the Republic. That which has been recently discovered in the Orinoco delta, and on the little island of Pedernales near by, is a very superior quality. It differs from the asphaltum of Trinidad in that it is more liquid, and contains less earthy matter. The pitch is found in a series of little springs or fountains in conjunction with pure fresh water, and forms a flooring of several feet in depth. As taken from the mines, the pitch is a thick, jetty black, viscous mass, almost odorless, and very adherent. The process of preparing it for market is simple and inexpensive, the pitch merely requiring to be boiled so as to eliminate the higher volatiles and all contained moisture. The refining process may be carried to the extent of complete carbonization. The deposits at La Brea, in Trinidad, unlike those in the Orinoco delta, contain a large percentage of earthy matter which is difficult of separation from the pure pitch. These impurities add largely to the weight, and consequently to the cost of transportation; and whilst this extraneous matter, so difficult of elimination, is little detriment to the many uses of the material, it effectually debars it from others to which pure asphaltum is now applied in the various arts.

Perhaps the most extensive and valuable coal deposits yet discovered in the Republic are those near the old city of Barcelona, in the state, or province, of Bermudez. The area of these deposits is still but imperfectly explored, but enough is known to warrant the belief that they are both very extensive and very rich. There are more than a hundred outcroppings of pure coal strata, most of them of apparently regular formation, varying from four inches to six and seven feet in thickness. These strata are generally located between thin layers of sandstone and schist, and run in general direction east and west, dipping to the southward. The veins often crop out several feet above the level of the navigable streams near which they are located, are easily mined from horizontal tunnels, and the coal loaded upon surface cars, - thus avoiding the expense of pumping and lifting appliances. The quality of this coal is reasonably good; it ignites readily, and is well adapted for purposes of steam-power. In the mining and transportation, it loses about 25 per cent in dust; but this waste is easily recovered and utilized by the recently adopted process of manufacturing “block coal,” or “patent fuel,” as it is called, out of the dust refuse.

Rich mines of rock salt were discovered on the peninsula of Aroya as early as 1500. The mines have been worked at intervals ever since, and generally with great success. At present the government of Venezuela derives from them an annual income of nearly two million dollars. The deposit is almost pure salt, and is mined at comparatively small expense.

Near the little city of Merida, in the western part of the Republic, is a lake of singular conformation, the bottom of which is a thick crust of sesqui-carbonate of soda. In the vicinity of Coro, a little to the northward, as also at Cumaná and Barcelona, are extensive but as yet imperfectly developed mines of almost pure sulphur. Mines of jet, and also deposits of porcelain clay, have been discovered near Caracas and in the vicinity of Cumaná. The base and foot-hills of Mounts Silla and Naiguate, near the national capital, abound with white granite of very superior quality, but as yet very little utilized.


« ZurückWeiter »