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John prospected for gold in Arizona 8 years. His experience taught him to deal with the terrain, heat, and gold fever. He makes many tools. One of my favorite places to find gold is a culvert. Just in case you are not familiar, a culvert is a metal tube running under the road or used to divert water.
I try to select culverts that may contain placer gold by considering their location. A good spot would be a place near the mountains, especially rocky mineralized mountains containing iron oxide and quartz. Iron oxide is just rust, and it shows up in rock as reddish. Iron and quartz have a similar melting point. Ironic that when looking for gold, you may also be looking for something usually considered less than worthless. Culverts typically have ripples inside which help to slow down water.
These ripples are similar to riffles on a sluice. The valleys are where the heavier material like gold will settle. I outfit myself with a brush in my case, a car-wash brush , bucket, and a narrow trowel. Don't forget to bring water. And while I'm at it, be careful.
Critters have been known to take up residence in these culverts. Inspect them before you leap. Centipedes and scorpions enjoy residence in them, too. In my situation living in Arizona, I have crawled into culverts and begun to clean only to find a spider crawling on the back of my neck.
On inspection there were quite a few web's suspended at the very top. So look above you. Rodents have also been known to take up residence. For this reason it is recommended that you wear a mask.
In some situations, rodent waste can be stirred up, aerosolized, and inhaled resulting in a very nasty infection, possibly even death. In the Four Corners area of Arizona, the presence of hantavirus is publicly advertised when in "season".
This virus is not as common in other Arizona areas. Another tip that can make your prospecting enjoyable is to bring a kneeling pad or board to rest your knees on. Those steel ripples are rough on your body, especially your knees. The riffles are narrow, so your body weight exerting force down on that small raised metal edge can get old in a hurry.
Without a pad, you probably aren't going to want to clean out more than one short culvert. My all time favorite place to find gold is in crevices. I love to go to a club claim where there is bedrock in a stream bed and start to crack open those fissures. A 3 foot post hole digging bar is satisfactory for opening most cracks.
Some people prefer a 6 foot bar, but that is a lot of iron to wield all day. I had a big one and cut it in half. Now I have two diggers. Perhaps I will break one and then have a replacement. But those diggers are tough to break. If I find wide cracks in the bedrock, I usually work those first. Since they are wider, they have a better chance to collect more gold during seasonal storms. Once you have cracked the crack, take a trowel and dig out as much material as possible.
Sometimes using a thin steel rod with a bend at the end for a bit of a hook can make flipping the material out a bit easier.
I make them out of television antenna elements, but you can buy them on the Internet. All of this material should be placed in a miner's pan and set aside.
Your goal is to fill the pan with material. You can also use a bucket to store your dirty treasure, but usually I am too eager to see what is in it.
I wash and pan the material when the pan is pretty full. You should do this in the beginning to make sure there is gold in the crevice. If you're working the crack for quite a while and you don't see any gold it might be time to move to a new crack.
If you find gold, you can fill a bucket with material. I know people who fill buckets of material and go home to pan it. Like I've said, I get a little impatient. Remember as a kid waiting for Christmas and the presents to be opened? Upon discovering the color, I have even been known to shout, "Eureka". Actually, I usually shout something else, but it isn't appropriate for present company.
My experience has actually led me to abandon digging holes in dirt and sand to try and find gold. That doesn't mean you can't find it there, but I have had so much success lately finding placer gold in the crevices that I would rather spend my time doing that. Here is another tip to finding gold that I have had some success at. Bank work can be profitable when prospecting for placer gold. Most folks know that grass grows on the banks of waterways. When in an area known to contain the gold, look for grass.
Bring a bucket, dig up the grass and wash it. Grass roots can make a fine barrier for trapping gold, especially small flood gold. I was once at an outing of gold club prospectors, and some members complained that the claim had been worked over and there was no more gold. I went up on the bank where there was grass, started digging and washing, all the while gently chided for wasting my time.
Guess who found a little gold when there was enough material to pan? If you are in this because you think you are going to get rich, you're in the wrong business.
Food always tastes better outside! Finding color is the cherry on the float. One of the most exciting times I ever had was investigating around an old mine near where I live. I do not advocate going in the mines. In the 30's, a lot of mom and pop operations where one or two men maybe mom worked a small vein of gold a couple hundred feet into a rock formation and played out. The Great Depression saw many men travel west to try to find gold for their families.
Arizona is pock marked by such small operations. Most of the time there is little shoring or none! At times there is old dynamite that has been left behind. It is enticing, but don't. Some will call me chicken cheep cheep , but if you wind up in a collapse, nobody will find you. It is estimated that there are somewhere near , mines in Arizona that have not been sealed off. I am sure other states have mines in similar condition.
When owning gold was outlawed by Franklin Roosevelt in , many of these smaller mines were abandoned. So where am I heading with this? Outside the mine you will often find an ore pile. For me it came in the form of a highly mineralized red, black, and quartz colored ore piled up. Pick up the quartz-containing ore and bring it home. Crush it up and pan it. Here is another tip. Bring a magnifying glass with you.
Inspect any rock walls you are near for speckles of glistening gold. Even if there isn't any gold, looking at the surface of possible gold ore is an adventure in itself. The amplified surface of many rocks is absolutely beautiful. How such intricate material surfaces could be created is a humbling thing to ponder. Don't forget that many of the older gold mines are 80 or more years old. Those ore piles have been sitting there through wind, rain, and dirty sand storms which degrade the ore.
If a vein was missed, some small bits of gold could've washed out and down to the bottom of the pile. I sometimes dig dirt at the very bottom just to see if I can find oat gold. That is, gold that is in its smallest natural form. In this form it frequently looks white and can even float in a pan./p>
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The miners literally washed away mountains with high pressured water to release the gold within. On a smaller scale, hydraulic mining was used in pretty much all of the gold bearing states in the U.
The practice was eventually banned because of the massive environmental damage that it caused which included serious erosion problems. Huge steel cannons called monitors were used by miners to strip overburden and release gold. The slurry would then be run through a sluice box. Some of thee old hydraulic mines were run by companies who hired crews of men to work around the clock. The amount of gold recovered was incredible, yet they still missed a lot of gold because of the crude mining methods during that time.
The scars will remain on the landscape for thousands of years. You can still find gold at these old hydraulic pits. Sometimes the gold that they were finding was very find and would be difficult to mine profitably without doing it on a large scale.
Other operations did produce gold nuggets which can still be recovered today by metal detecting. Just like all other forms of historic mining, there were inefficiencies with this practice and plenty of gold was missed. Stamp mills were used by hard rock miners to extract gold that was lock up in ores. They were a critical need at mines where the gold was only accessible after the rock was crushed. Most stamp mills are long gone. They would either be moved from the mine once they were done extracting ore and move to another mine.
Stamp mills that were abandoned have mostly been salvaged for scrap metal. The stamps themselves may be gone, but you can usually identify the areas where they were located because there will sometimes be crushed ore piles in the vicinity.
If you are lucky, you might find some ore that was abandoned and never crushed. Searching the old tailings with a metal detector can sometimes produce nice gold in quartz specimens. I have heard more than a few stories about piles of gold ore being found along trails and roadsides, far from any existing gold mine.
The theory is that miners were probably transporting their ore to the nearest stamp mill when their wagon broke down. Being loaded down with heavy ore, the miner unloaded their wagon and limped into the nearest town for repairs, never bothering to come back for the ore pile. You never know what you might find! Sometimes the creeks and gulches below lode mines were not placer mined by the early miners and show little evidence that they were worked historically.
There is a tendency for people to believe that just because the early miners did not work an area it did not have gold, but this is certainly not the case. There were good reasons that these places may have been overlooked. Lots of places just were not rich enough for the old-timers to spend any time at. Some of these areas can be found around old lode mines. The miners found a rich vein of gold in the hillside that was much more valuable to mine than the drainage below. The other reason they may have overlooked the gulches was a lack of water.
While the gulch may accumulate some gold, the lack of water made it uneconomical to mine. Today, a prospector using a metal detector or drywasher can find considerable gold in these dry areas that may have never been mined before. You will notice that most of the mines in a given area are found in a certain rock type, and by exploring in nearby geology that is similar, you are more likely to find an area with gold.
It can definitely take some time and patience to find a completely undiscovered gold deposit. Even when you do everything right, you are going to strike out more often than not. However, with some patience and careful study of the productive geology of a given area, you might just find an undiscovered gold deposit that pays handsomely. Studying geological maps can be a great way to find potential prospecting areas.
Research the geology of known gold mines in your area and you will likely notice some trends regarding general rock type. State and federal government agencies have these maps and you can find them with a bit of research. Some are more general like this one, while others are very detailed and cover specific areas that will be of interest to you as a gold miner. Usually when they were digging, they were following a vein or something that indicated that there would be some gold there. During the early days, a miner needed to find quite a bit of gold to make it worth their time, so even if they were finding a decent amount of gold they might abandon a location.
In the desert you will see old drywasher tailing piles scattered around in lots of places. Some of these old piles are still visible and are spotted because of their lack of vegetation. Drywashers are notoriously poor at recovering gold sometimes.
Even in the best of circumstances you will lose some gold with them. This is especially true with the old drywashers that were used by the depression era miners. If they were drywashing then they were likely finding some gold, so it might be worth setting up and reworking some of these old piles. You might be surprised how much gold that they lost. You can also give them a quick scan with a metal detector and recover gold nuggets.
Scan the top of the pile. Mining relics are another great indicator that miners were in an area. If they were there to mine for gold, then take time and explore the area yourself.
Gold is deposited in a variety of different ways. Taking the time to learn about the different processes that result in concentrations of gold will help you understand where to find it! Sometimes the richest concentrations of gold are found in bench deposits that are nowhere near the current river. One of the best things about bench deposits is that they are sometimes completely ignored by other prospectors. Everybody thinks that they will find the most gold at the edge of the water so they completely overlook the benches behind them.
Those old channels might be way richer than the river itself. Ancient rivers are a lot like bench deposits. They are places where the river once was, but has since eroded and cut its way downward to its present location.
I generally think of bench deposits being in the nearby vicinity of an existing river channel, whereas an ancient river can be miles away from an existing river. The principle differences are the same; it is the timeline that is different. Bench deposits might be a few million years old, or they may be as recently exposed as last season after a large snow melt left an existing bench high-and-dry.
Ancient rivers that are gold bearing are often from the Tertiary time period, and could be several hundred million years old! Ancient river channels are sometimes found hundred or even thousands of feet above the closest existing river. See those round rocks? This is an old river channel. It is now about 80 feet above the current water line. The easiest way to spot an old river channel is to look for smooth, water-worn rocks. Study the old mining reports and you will often see that many profitable mines were actually working old channel.
Most of the hydraulic mines in the California Mother Lode were breaking apart old river channels to release gold. Many are actually surprised to learn that gold is found in the Midwest and Northeast. The source of the gold is different through. Instead, the source of the gold actually comes from Canada and is brought down by glaciers. Yes, glacial gold deposits are actually found in pretty much all the states in the northern half of the U.
As various ice ages occurred over the millennia, glaciers moved southward, pushing down rocks and ore from Canada. As the glaciers would recede these rocks would be deposited in random locations of glacial outwash. Glaciers brought gold-bearing ores south from Canada.
As the glaciers receded, these ores were deposited. This is the source of most of the gold found in the Midwest and Northeastern U. Glacial action usually pulverized the ores and left only fine gold dust. It is possible that large rocks and ore could have been brought down, but the violent action of ice pushing south actually pulverized the rocks. Any ore that did contain gold was obliterated into the tiniest of pieces.
The glaciers would recede and the pulverized bits of gold were left behind, being concentrated in waters by natural erosion. The result is small concentrations of tiny gold dust particles that can be found all over in parts of the U. These gold deposits are usually sporadic and limited. There are several locations where gold can be found in beach sands. The richest beach placers on Earth were found in Alaska. Others rich discoveries have been made in Oregon and Washington.
These are tiny, almost microscopic bits of gold that are found within fine textured sand. The gold may be small, but there are large quantities of it in some places and it has actually been mined profitably. The most famous locations are the beaches of Nome, Alaska. Finding beach gold can be challenging. The best indicator to look for is black sands. The gold will be most highly concentrated within the streaks of black sand.
The tricky thing is that the streaks of black sand will move around with the tides, so a place that is very productive one day might be poor the next. The gold found on beaches is always small, so specialized equipment will help you recover more gold. Even gold panning can be challenging and you will probably lose some gold unless you are an extremely skilled panner. The Gold Cube has become one of the favorites to use by beach miners. Sand can be fed directly into the head of the cube and you will get good gold recovery if you set it up properly.
Running larger material through the Gold Cube will increase losses of gold considerably. Most ocean beaches also have some gold deposits that are above the existing water line.
These were ancient placers that are sometimes will above the high tide line. These ancient beach deposits were mined quickly in most areas, and the profitable deposits have mostly been worked out. The old-timers missed quite a bit of gold though, and you can still recover some decent gold if you find a good spot.
Just remember, the gold is going to be tiny, so I highly recommend you use specialized equipment if you want to be successful. Mercury Amalgamation and Fine Gold Recovery. What the gold you are finding looks like can be an indicator for where it comes from and how far it has traveled.
If you are panning smooth, water-worn nuggets, there is a good chance that it has traveled a good distance. Move upstream and try to pinpoint where to gold is originating from… there is a good chance that you may find a very rich concentration of gold. This was part of an eroded gold vein that produced several ounces of gold for one lucky prospector!
Most small scale prospectors try to find their gold in streams that have a history of having it found in them. The age old technique of panning for gold is still the most common method of prospecting done but there are also those that use larger equipment such as sluices, dredges and drywashers. If the equipment is laid out correctly and then used properly, then these methods are great at separating the lighter materials out and capturing some gold if it is present in the gravel you are running.
These captured gold particles are generally very small in nature and usually will consist of gold flakes or gold dust. Black sand has been a challenge for prospectors for as long as man has been looking for gold. Luckily, we have some tools today that make it much easier to separate it from the gold.
Specifically, we have some equipment that was designed specifically to deal with this challenge. Some of this equipment is mostly designed for final separation of gold from concentrates, while some can have material the material that you are digging added directly to them.
I will say again, classifying the material you feed into any type of equipment is going to increase your fine gold recovery rates. Most prospectors today spend most of their efforts searching for placer gold, but some prospectors specialize in hard rock mining and searching for valuable gold ores. The first thing to understand is that it takes a trained eye to identify actual gold ore.
If you seriously want to figure it out then you need to crush up your ore and pan it out to see if there is any gold in it! Most small-scale prospectors should focus their interests on free-milling gold. Some of the richest gold mines in the world mine this type of gold, but they have the proper equipment needed to extract it. This type of gold ore is generally not profitable for the average prospector to focus on.
Focusing on high-grade, free-milling gold is the best bet for most prospectors. You can get a good quality mortar and pestle to crush up small specimens and examine them for gold. These are small and can easily be put in a backpack, or you can bring home small ore samples and crush them at home.
Just make sure that you take careful records of where you collected your samples. If you do happen to find a large amount of ore that is auriferous then there are larger commercial rock crushers that you can use. After your ores are crushed into a fine dust, then you can use any sort of gravity separation method to capture the gold.
A simple gold pan will work just fine to check small samples. Processing ore and extracting gold is much more labor intensive than placer mining. It is pretty common knowledge that gold is sometimes associated with quartz. They are most often found by prospectors using metal detectors. While quartz and gold definitely have a common association, sometimes people give it more attention than it actually deserves to get.
Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. There are thousands of places where quartz is found that no gold has ever been found. If I am in gold country, I will still pay some attention to quartz because I already know that gold occurs in the area. I have found that very clean, white colored quartz is generally less productive than dirty, iron-stained quartz.
I find a lot more gold in the dirty looking quartz than I do in clean, white quartz. I find more specimens like this one dark with iron staining and other matrix than I do with just gold and white quartz.
One of the most famous gold mines in California is the Original Sixteen to One Mine , which mines rich gold veins that run through pure white quartz. Remember, if you happen to find a specimen of quartz with visible gold veins running through it, it is usually a good idea to keep it as-is rather than crushing it. Collectors will usually pay a nice premium for these pieces. For most prospectors, a good quality VLF metal detector is the best tool to use if you want to find a gold in quartz specimen.
You want a good quality detector that is designed for finding small gold, since gold veins are usually very thin it takes a specialized detector to find them. Scanning old mine tailing piles can produce some amazing results. Gold deposits in creeks and rivers are replenished after large storms. Heavy rains cause erosion of soils along the hillsides, which move gold down into the river. This type of replenishment occurs every spring in most areas.
Normal snowmelt and spring runoff is a natural even that releases gold. It was millions of years of this process that made the tales of riches so impressive during the early gold rushes. Even one large storm can make a noticeable difference in the amount of gold found though. Flash flooding in the desert is a good example of this. While a dry wash might go relatively undisturbed for years and years, one massive flash flood can cause considerable changes to a wash.
Not only does it add gold from the surrounding hillsides, but it also exposes fresh bedrock and will release gold that has been hidden under overburden. There are dozens of minerals on Earth that are shiny and have a silvery-gold color. Most of them are worthless. There are a some very simple ways to tell the difference based on specific gravity and hardness of the minerals, but you should also learn to identify what real gold looks like.
Pyrite and micas are very light. The color is also very different. If you take it out of direct sunlight the gold color will go away. Gold is a very soft metal. A pocket knife will scratch it. A large piece can be flattened out. This is not the case with mica and pyrite. They are brittle, and will fracture into smaller pieces. It is surprising that marketing gold is actually difficult for many gold prospectors.
Your options of where to sell will vary depending on where you live. In some countries, you are legally required to sell to the government and they will only offer you a fixed price for your gold. First you need to set your expectations. It is likely somewhere between 18k and 22k in purity. Also consider that whoever you are selling to needs to make a profit. Here is where the buyers will vary considerably. If you sell to a pawn shop or cash-for-gold type business then you should expect to get just a fraction of the value.
Unless you are absolutely desperate, these should be your last option. Refineries are a good option if you have a decent amount of placer gold to sell.
They will almost always pay better than pawn shops or other buyers. However, they have lots of fees to consider, so do your research. Payouts will vary and not everyone trust refineries to be honest about their payouts or results from their assays. Selling to a collector is a good option for most miners.
Placer gold, gold nuggets and gold specimens have collectable value that will actually bring a better price than just the gold content. Jewelers might be interested in buying your gold nuggets, but they are going to be selective. If you find a nice specimen of gold in quartz, you need to find out how much actual gold is in the piece. If it is good sized and attractive, then there is a good chance that it is worth more to a collector than if you were to crush it and melt it, but it is still a good idea to figure out exactly how much gold is in it.
To do this, you need to do a specific gravity test. With this information, you can determine the gold content within your specimen. The calculations to do this are fairly straight forward, and if done correctly you can get a fairly accurate assessment of the gold content. There are some pretty handy calculators online that will help you do this.
Sometimes gold nuggets come out of the ground dirty and grimy. They can have caliche and other material covering the outside of them which covers up the natural beauty of the gold. They are going to be much nicer for display if you clean them up. Plus, you will need to clean them up if you want to sell them. Gold that you pan out of a river is usually nice and polished. The natural erosion that occurs in the river cleans up the nuggets. The gold nuggets that you find with metal detectors and drywashers are a different story.
The can come out of the ground very dirty and grimy. They usually need to be cleaned up. Cleaning gold nuggets is actually pretty simple. I recommend that you do the minimum amount of cleaning needed to expose the gold and no more. Too much cleaning can actually detract from the nugget, making it too shiny. Often, just a light soak in some dish soap and water and a scrub with an old toothbrush will do the trick.
Another tip is to soak the nuggets in a bottle of white vinegar and salt. Add enough salt so that it accumulates in the bottle. Soak the nuggets for a few days, occasionally shaking the bottle. The salt will act as an abrasive that will scrub the nuggets, and the vinegar help to break down any grime. A simple ultrasonic cleaner used for cleaning jewelry can work really well also. Sometimes a nugget will just be too grimy and dirty to clean using the above methods, and an acid is needed.
In these cases, I recommend a product called Whink. It is a household cleaning product with some acid in it that will break up even the heaviest stains. Wear glove if you use it because its some pretty nasty stuff. It will definitely do the job though. Sometimes you find a nugget that just seems perfect to be made into a pendant or some other type of jewelry.
In many cases, you can make a bit more money from your nuggets by using them in jewelry. This was especially true back when gold was only a few hundred dollars per ounce. Now that the price of gold is high, turning your nuggets into jewelry may not increase the value as much as it once did. Some nice pieces are better left as-is and sold to collectors rather than turning them to jewelry. Still, if you do a good job and select the right pieces, turning your gold nuggets into jewelry can increase their value significantly.
There are very few prospectors even very successful ones who have been able to make a full-time living from gold mining.
Mining is a very challenging business to get into. Particularly if you decide to scale-up your mining operation, you will have to deal with added regulations and costs. There are certainly some people that have made it work.
Some who have been successful at making a living are seasonal prospectors. Some prospectors travel with the weather. Then when the winter hits they head south to Arizona.
I only know a couple guys that have actually been able to make it work. Very few people are able to do it. Plus, needing to pay the bills with your gold finds really takes the fun out of it.
I recommend that you consider gold prospecting as a part-time endeavor. The increase in gold price over the past decade has meant that there are a lot of people out there selling mining claims. Yet people do it every day. They equate a gold claim with finding gold, and assume that any claim will have gold.
They are simply acting as a broker and collecting your money in the process. A much better idea especially if you are a beginner is to join a prospecting club in your area. They often have club claims that you can prospect on once you are a member. There are thousands of acres in nearly every western state that is open to prospecting. Is this news to you? Then you definitely need to learn more about prospecting and mining claims before you even think about buying one.
There are certainly some valid claims out there for sale. Some of them could undoubtedly be mined profitably and are worth the purchase price, but you need to learn how to recognize them among the sea of worthless claims out there. If you find a rich gold deposit, it may be in your best interest to stake a claim on it. A claim will give you exclusive mineral rights to the area, meaning that you are the only one who can mine there as long as you keep it active.
There are a lot of misconceptions about mining claims.
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