No. 78.
Mr. Foulk to Mr. Bayard.

No. 286.]

Sir: I have the honor to forward herewith inclosed a report of notes on mineral products of Corea prepared by myself. Considerable interest is manifested in various ways in the East in regard to the mineral resources of Corea, and that of Western capitalists is likely to be drawn to the subject at some future day.

These considerations have prompted my submitting the inclosed report, which, though deficient in accurate statistics and but a general statement, contains, I feel assured, the bulk of such information as is yet obtainable in Corea.

Several localities are about to be examined for gold and silver by a German chemist in the service of the Corean mint, now being established. His examination will probably give more accurate results than have been heretofore obtained.

I am, &c.,

Ensign U. S. Navy, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim
[Inclosure in No. 286.]

Report on mineral products of Corea.

The only practical effort to work mines in Corea that has been made as yet by Western foreigners was that of Messrs, Jardine, Matheson & Co., a wealthy commercial firm of China, in 1883–’84. This firm, after negotiations with Mr. P. G. von Mölendorff, who then served as general adviser to the Corean Government, sent a [Page 216] well-equipped party of foreigners and Chinese into the country from Seôul in the winter of 1883 to make an examination, with the view of securing mining concessions in case minerals were found in paying quantities. The party established a camp or two and remained in the country, its members making frequent individual visits to Seoul and Chemulpho, until about August of 1884.

Early in the spring of 1884 the firm established a head office at Chemulpho, moored a large hulk in the harbor there, and started a steamer to ply between the port and Shanghai. From this it is to be inferred that the company expected great results.

The party at work in Corea began their examination near Seôul, and continued it thence in a northerly direction until it came to the main chain of the coast mountains to the south of Wonsan (Gensan). It may be said the examination was entirely confined to a narrow belt of territory lying to the north of Seôul, between the northern tributaries of the Seôul River and about 100 miles long.

From first to last the work of examination was attended with great difficulties. The poor accommodations for living in the interior of Corea, the severity of the winter, the wretched roads, and wild, mountainous character of the district, ignorance of the language and customs of the people, distrust of the natives, most of whom had never seen or heard of Western foreigners—such were natural enough obstructions. But in addition to these it is quite evident that the company did not have the support and assistance of the Government in its work, and that Mr. von Mölendorff alone conducted the examination for Corea, without the Government’s having much, if any, voice or interest favorable to the success of the examination. The geographical, social, and political conditions of Corea are such, that without earnest governmental encouragement and direct assistance success cannot attend any great venture in the country.

It is significant to note that the district examined by Messrs. Jardine, Matheson & Co. is one of the very few not generally described by Coreans as rich in minerals.

In March, 1884, it was made known that galena had been discovered by the party in Yong Phyöng prefecture, but the silver was so small in amount that work would only pay by using extensive reducing machinery. But no traces of coal were discovered. Full reports of the work were not published, yet it is generally believed the results of the examination are known. The following notes are taken from an English Blue Book, containing a translation of an article written by a Chinese who was with the party.

location of deposit.

Gold is reported to be found at Hakwa-U and San-Kwa-U, two places about 3 miles apart, the first 1½ miles from Yang-tök prefecture, and gold was obtained from these places in 1833.

Silver was found in Yöng Phyöng prefecture, about 40 milea from Seôul, in small quantities (in galena). Lead was plentiful. Absence of coal, remoteness from the coast, and bad transportation, &c, preclude working these mines at present.

Copper mines which have been worked by Coreans were found at Ni-shil-tong, in Yang-tok valley, and also at a place about 8 miles eastward of Kinewha prefecture. Copper is mined also at Chong-no, near the boundary of Kum Soüg prefecture, and the yield is reported as fair.

At Sokok, some 20 miles beyond Kum Soüg, a copper mine in a deep gorge is reported.

Lead was being mined by Coreans in two mines 800 and 500 feet deep, near Sokok, some 50 to 60 pounds only per day being produced; the yield is sold at Sokok.

Silver is found in the lead ore of Tang Hyong. It is reported that there are iron and copper mines at Chilhimto, Yong Phyöng, Kim-wha, and Kum Soüg which will bear working for thirty or forty years and produce paying quantities. No traces of coal were found.

In June, 1884, Messrs. Jardine, Matheson & Co. sent an expert mining engineer to join the party in Corea. He made several visits of inspection along the line from Seôul to Wonsan and visited some districts outside of the belt in which the party had been working.

His examinations were very superficial, and he returned to Seôul unable to show any very satisfactory results. During the summer of 1884 gold dust and nuggets were very plentiful in Seôul, and I am certain that this engineer endeavored to buy specimens of Corean gold in Seôul, that he might take them to the head office of his employers in lieu of those he had not been able to find himself.

At about this time the company sent to its camp in the neighborhood of Yang-tök an American named James Graham, a seaman by profession, who had mined in California. This man kindly treated the natives, and set his few coolies to work at pan-washing in some rice-fields. He at once produced gold in considerable specimen quantities in dust and large rounded nuggets. He returned to Seôul very soon and made his report. Graham, who had once served with me on board the United States [Page 217] steamer Monocacy, exhibited his find to me—a packet of dust and nuggets worth about $400. He described to me the locality in which he had been working as very rich in gold, and stated that pumps only would be needed to make the yield of washing in the Yang-tök valleys very valuable.

While he was at work in the rice-fields an officer came to complain that he was drawing water from the fields and otherwise injuring them. Upon this he stopped work at once.

Promptly upon the receipt of Graham’s report Messrs. Jardine, Matheson & Co. began negotiations with Mr. von Mölendorff to get a franchise of mining rights. He failed, however, to produce it, and the Government now began to show much interest, perhaps surprise, in Messrs. Jardine, Matheson & Co.’s venture. The firm endeavored to secure rights by other means, but failed in every instance. It finally abandoned its intentions to work mines in Corea, and removed its office, the cargo, hulk, and mining party from Corea towards the close of 1884. In, the following spring Graham endeavored to secure a position under the Corean Government to enable hi in to work gold washings for it.

mining privileges.

There is no doubt whatever that in China and Japan it is believed that Corea is rich in minerals, and more particularly gold. Yet it has been the rule heretofore for the natives of those countries to present the most disparaging reports of Corea. At the same time it will be observed that Japanese and Chinese are crowding into Corea with all dispatch, and forming colonies where permitted. Their trade is always increasing, and inasmuch as the exports of Corea are few and poor, while Chinese and and Japanese imports are considerable, and that Corea has no coinage or currency acceptable abroad, it follows that there must be a constant and considerable flow of the crude precious metals of Corea into Japan and China.

In the autumn of 1885 the Chinese commissioner in Seôul and his assistant made application for mining rights in Corea to the King.

They proposed sending to the gold districts of the country gangs of thirty to forty Cantonese Chinamen who had mined in the United States. Twenty per centum of the net profits in gold was to be the share of the Corean Government.

The application failed abruptly, and was regarded as being very extraordinary in the terms. At about the same time certain Germans made application for mining rights, but were asked to wait until “next year” for its consideration. It has been several times stated by the Corean Government that it is not prepared to consider propositions in regard to mining, but will do so when it shall have secured competent foreign advisers for its service. The disposition of the Government is to guard its mines jealously, and to be the actual proprietor of them in case they are to be developed after the” Western methods of working.

position of mines.

All Coreans proclaim here that there is much gold and other mineral wealth in the country. From very ancient times gold and other mines have been worked in Corea, and their localities are widely known. It is a great mistake to suppose that Coreans are ignorant of the localities of mineral products of their country. There is probably no country in the world where the mass of the people are better acquainted with the geography of their own land than Coreans.

The excellence and great number of maps to be found is very remarkable. There are, in even the smallest village, maps on large scales and showing minute details of their localities. The localities of all the principal products, natural or manufactured, are well known to even the children of ordinary intelligence.

Phyöng-an province is generally spoken of as richest in gold, the chief locality being Yong-won, a remote inland town, where gold has been produced from very ancient times.

In Ham-Kyöng province (N. E.) at Yöng-hung there are from twelve to twenty washings, which are now the most productive in the country. This place, Yong-hung, is but a few miles north of the treaty port of Wonsan (Gensan), whence the largest part of Corean exported gold is carried in Japanese steamers. The Japanese evince a very hearty interest in these mines.

The following nine places are noted from ancient times as gold mines:

Province. Prefecture. Province. Prefecture.
Kyöng-sung (southeast) Kynng-chü. Whanghai (west) Chang-yöun.
Söng-clü. Söng-wha.
Wi-söng. Phyöng-an (northwest) Yöng-won.
Ham-Kyöng (northeast). Yöng-hung. Chöula (southwest) Kumku.

[Page 218]

During the fall of 1885 the Government sold permits to private individuals to work at these places for a period of five months, a small percentage of the gold to he presented to the Government. It would appear that the Government has never worked for itself continuously any gold mines. Referring to the mines at Yong-hung, which are often visited by Japanese, the director of the engineering association of Japan, Mr. Ito Yajiro, writes as follows:* “Yong-hung, in Ham-Kyöng Do, has 12 gold mines (one of which, however, is closed, owing to its proximity to a royal tomb), and in these 5,600 laborers are (now) employed.

“The exact amount of the output of these mines cannot be ascertained owing to the defectiveness of official regulations. It is Known for certain that the miners present to the Government, and to some of the public officials, gold obtained, at the rate of 60 per cent, for the former and 30 per cent, for the latter, amounting to 50,400 pounds a year, but any quantity obtained beyond that weight is sold secretly by the laborers.” It has been stated to me that at present (March, 1886) the Government receives about 30 nyang of gold per month from the Yöng-hung mines.

The winter has been very severe, and the work could not be carried on at the eight other places stated above to have been farmed out by the Government in the autumn of 1885.

At Unsan, in Phyöng-an Province, there is said to be large deposits of gold dust some five or ten feet under the surface of the ground, but the quantity of metal to be obtained is too small to make the work of the Coreans profitable.

“Silver is found in Kyöng kui, Chhung-Chhöng, Chöula, and other divisions, but is not commonly worked. Whenever officials travel to Peking a quantity of silver is dug from the mines, one-half of which is worked into bars and the remainder retained as treasury reserve, and 2,000 pounds are given to each ambassador to the Chinese capital.

other minerals.

“Copper mines, though found here and there in Kyöng kui and Kyöng-sung provinces, are only occasionally worked, when there is a demand for copper coins or when the ore is in demand for commerce. The annual output is estimated at five or six thousand pounds.

Two or three good veins were discovered in Phyöng-an Province many years ago. Iron of a superior quality is obtained in all but the two northern provinces.

Coal is found in large quantities between Hamhung and On-Söung in Ham-Kyöng Province, and one or two veins are exposed in Kyöng-sung Province. Nothing is yet known as to the continuity of these veins, but the outcrop bears a slight resemblance to those of Chikuzen (Japan). The total amount of gold and silver exported from 1881 to 1884 from the treaty ports is as follows:

[One yen is about $1 silver.]

Port. Gold. Silver.
Weight. Value. Weight. Value.
Pounds. Yen. Pounds. Yen.
Pusan 979.7273 245,019.203 2,953.7605 50,914.703
Wonsan. 4,468.7737 1,355,258.218 1,702.8550 39,898.889
Chemulpho 1,091.1610 284,755.770 14,023.6280 296,955.852

The number of mines is as follows:

Province. Gold. Silver. Copper. Iron. Coal. Lead. Precious stones.
Kyöng Kui 3 1 2 2
Chhung-Chhöng 4 1 6 2
Ham-Kyöng 10 2 4 4 7 1 1
Whanghai 9 5 1
Kangwön 14 3 6 4 2
Chöula 9 4 1
Kyöng-sung 17 7 10 2 1 3
Phyöng-an 19 3 3 1 1

[Page 219]

From Mr. Ito’s report it would appear that the exports of crude gold arid silver from Corea are as follows from 1881 to 1884: Gold, 3,785,033.191 yen; silver, 387,769.444 yen; making an average in round numbers of $1,200,000 worth of each metal per year.

mining method.

Corean methods of working goldmines are very primitive. The tools employed are of the simplest kind, and ate only those for washing out the gold from the soft earth of the valleys. Quarts has probably never been worked.

Quicksilver is somewhat used in collecting gold after washing. It maybe, however, that gold will for many years be best obtained by washing in the valley.

The country presents the evidences of very great geological age, and the hills are very generally in great areas, made up of decomposed granite and other rocks washed down into long, low foot-hills.

Tunnel mines are known to be in existence, more particularly in the northern provinces. Some are said to be very deep, and their ventilation so bad that miners cannot remain in them any length of time.

Mining laborers are said to number 60,000.

Iron is said to be very abundant at Chai-ryöng, in Whanghai Province.

Coal has been found recently in large quantities and in fair quality in Phyöng-an Province, near the capital city, Peng-yang, and on the banks of the Tatong River. This locality, which may be described as that of the mouth of the Tatong River, would seem to present some valuable features as a field for western enterprise.

The river is navigable for quite a distance. Near it are the two celebrated gold districts of Whanghun Province, and on it not far from these mines is the large coal deposit above referred to. The neighborhood is well populated, and is reported to be thrifty in many ways.

future prospects.

As yet no competent mining engineer, geologist, or mineralogist has made examinations in Corea, either privately, or under the patronage of the Corean Government, from whom statistics as to mineral riches may be obtained. While the question is an open one, as measured by the absense of statistics, the evidences we have, such as they are, go to show that Corea as a field for mining enterprises will attract much attention in the future, and may prove to be much richer in mineral products than she has been represented by her neighbors.

It is very possible that belief in Corea’s great mineral riches is a factor in the cause of the embarrassing political situation the peninsula is placed in between China and Japan, and this embarrassment may be very greatly augmented should such a belief take root in the European nations whose interests have already been drawn politically towards Corea.

Ensign, U. S. Navy, Charge d’Affaires ad interim.

  1. Taken from a published collection of notes in a report.
  2. A nyang is a weight equal to 1.2 ounces. One nyang of crude gold dust of average quality is now worth about $21 Mex.
  3. From here to end of table of mines is culled from Mr. Ito Yajiro’s report.