The NSS Bulletin - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 43 Number 4: 103-105 - October 1981

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Saltpeter Mining Features and Techniques
Duane DePaepe


Early saltpeter miners developed reliable methods for determining the amount of recoverable niter in individual deposits and sophisticated techniques for recovering the mineral. Process, technology, and tools were somewhat standard in all cave saltpeter operations. Specialized iron mattocks and wooden paddles were the basic mining implements. Leaching hoppers were of two basic types, V-vats and box vats. Heaps and walls of broken rock left by the miners are conspicuous features of many saltpeter caves. Glauber and epsom salts were sometimes collected as by-products of niter recovery.

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