dry digging, verbal noun phrase

U.S. EnglishShow more Transferred use of U.S. English dry-digging, a gold-mining term.
historical, Diamond-mining
Usually in the plural : a. A mining operation in which diamonds were extracted from weathered ground. b. The locality or mining camp associated with such a mining operation. Cf. river digging.
1872 C.A. Payton Diamond Diggings 7The ‘dry diggings’, lying about twenty-five miles away from the Vaal River, have been found, during the year 1871, to be so much more uniformly remunerative than those on the banks of the river.
1872 J.L. Babe S. Afr. Diamond Fields 69The manner of mining at the dry diggings is as follows...It takes the four natives all their time to dig and sift out enough dirt to keep the two white men sorting.
1887 J.W. Matthews Incwadi Yami 266The rush from the river to what were called ‘the dry diggings’ was one of the most remarkable ever recorded.
1896 Purvis & Biggs S. Afr. 143At first it was thought that any diamonds found would be obtained from the river...But at length the ‘dry’ diggings were discovered, and the foundations of what have since become widely known as ‘The Diamond Fields’ were definitely laid.
1899 G. Lacy Pictures of Trav., Sport & Adventure 173The ‘dry diggings’ are thirty miles to the south-east of Pniel. They are so called because the gems are not found in river-wash, but in dry tufa, which has apparently never been in contact with water.
1904 H.A. Bryden Hist. of S. Afr. 131Presently, upon certain Boer farms, the ‘dry diggings’, as they were called, were discovered, and the mines of Kimberley, Dutoit’s Pan and De Beers sprang into existence.
1936 Cambridge Hist. of Brit. Empire VIII. 450In 1870, to the ‘river diggings’ along the courses of the Vaal and Orange were added the ‘dry diggings’ in the long hill between the Vaal and Modder Rivers.
1963 O. Doughty Early Diamond Days 46The Dry Diggings..was in all a tract of some sixty square miles of chiefly arid, barren country.
1983 D.E. Schaefer in Optima Vol.31 No.2, 81A centrifugal washing machine..required much less water and was therefore particularly popular for working the diamondiferous volcanic pipes (known as the ‘Dry Diggings’ as opposed to the ‘River Diggings’).
1985 A.J.A. Janse in Glover & Harris Kimberlite Occurrence & Origin 22Diamonds were plentiful in this dry digging, so it caused a rush, and the digging was called De Beers Rush.
1987 S. Afr. Holidays Guide (brochure) 46In 1869, a rich deposit of diamonds was found on a Griqualand West farm, Bultfontein, far from the nearest river. Diggers rushed to the farm and soon established ‘dry’ diggings there.
A mining operation in which diamonds were extracted from weathered ground.
The locality or mining camp associated with such a mining operation.
Hence dry dig intransitive verb ?nonce, to extract diamonds from weathered material.
1968 J.T. McNish Rd to El Dorado 200His first attempt, late in 1869, at what was to become known as ‘dry digging’ as against ‘river digging’ was where the Du Toits Pan and Bultfontein diggings later emerged.

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