A Prussian engineer, Jacob Brache was the first to think that quartz reefs might have even more gold than alluvial fields. The new mining companies had to sink very deep shafts to get quartz from the reefs deep underground. Horizontal tunnels called drives were dug out from the shaft at different levels to find the gold-bearing rock.
On the surface above the shaft stands a building known as the poppet head or pit head. The poppet head contained a wheel called a gin wheel which lifted buckets of rock up to a raised platform called a Brace. Wheeled buckets then carried the rock along elevated tracks to waste dumps or processing works. The steel cable that hoisted the bucket passed over the gin wheel.
The gold was brought to the surface as small particles embedded in lumps of quartz. The quartz was then crushed into a fine dust by stamping batteries.
A battery contained a row of stampers. There was a heavy piece of steel on the bottom of each stamper. Each stamper was connected to the cam shaft which was turned by a water wheel. The steel shoes went up and down between wooden guides and pounded the quartz which had been fed into steel boxes underneath the stampers. Many of the stamping batteries worked 24 hours a day.
After crushing, the quartz dust was mixed with water to make sloppy mud which then ran down sloping tables, called Wilfey tables. On top of these tables were copper sheets coated with mercury, which attracts gold. The gold particles stuck to the mercury, and could be collected from there.