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When it comes to gold mining, most of us will get our yellow metal by sifting through sands and gravels along rivers and streams. This is called placer mining. It is due to the geological age of the earth that this is even possible. All gold deposits started as hardrock formations...and stayed that way until there were earthquakes, rivers, glaciers, tidal waves and a lot of earth movement which eroded mountains and ground down the rock into it's smallest form; dust. Trapped in all this rock were veins of gold, typically in quartz. These veins were also pulverized down into small pieces in nugget, flake and flour size. Because gold is so heavy, it settles to the bottom of our rivers, streams and any deep depression or crevice. This is where placer mining comes in. When we sift through all this sand and gravel to separate the gold, we are actually looking back at the earth's history. I know, I know, that's nice; now show us a faster way to get at this gold.
The quickest way to reach this heavy mineral is to go deep and that is the hardest thing we could possibly do. Most placer gold is found within 50 feet of the surface of the ground. That's the "easy pickens". It is all the piles of gravels and sand we have to move first before we can reach the heavy nuggets. All this unwanted material is called "over burden" and it is the over burden that will make or break a mine. There are some very rich areas containing coarse gold that travels for miles following the bedrock of the earth, but there are just too many feet of rock and assorted mineral debris sitting on top of it to make it worthwhile to mine. This is just one of the reasons I am developing the deep gold drill to reach these zones of wealth that no one else can reach.
These golden rich layers vary in thickness from 18" down to a thin hair like trace. If we were to trace back to where these layers started from, it would be an intrusive outcropping of very rich veins that have been crudely eroded and strewn across bare rock or been given enough time to settle to bedrock. Glaciers and tremendous earth movements have left these rich zones buried deeply with over burden. California has one of these very rich areas. The surface of which has been the ancient streambeds that were worked in the gold rush of 1848 to 1855 (1849 being the height of this rush). These semi-surface ancient streams were often mined with hydraulic mining techniques. Please keep in mind that these mined areas often had 40 feet of unwanted rock sitting on top of them and were up a mountain side nowhere near water. That is one view of where gold was. The other is the heavy rich layer that sits on bedrock down deep under the earth. Some of these bedrock areas were accessible by miners usually by diverting rivers and digging down to the heavy layer.
Every method was employed to extract the wealth. Gold panning, sluicing, dredging and hydraulic mining were all used to good effect. Some outcroppings of hardrock gold were also found. At the time, crude attempts at crushing this mostly quartz rock were used to try to free the yellow treasure from the parent rock formations.
This crushed slurry was washed into massive sluice boxes and a lot of gold was captured. Using this early method only captured about 70% of this mineral wealth. The rest ended up in huge tailing piles left behind by these stamping mills. Early "worked areas" can be successfully re-mined using the cyanide process for complete removal of all gold still held in the waste rock.
Normally I would encourage a person to pursue these bedrock zones, but not at the cost of your life. Miners in the gold rush of 1858 in Barkerville, British Columbia often "drifted" down to bedrock, extracting huge quantities of coarse gold by tunneling along these rich placer deposits and simply follow the golden highway wherever it went. What isn't talked about too much is the loss of life that happened all too often. Miners were buried by cave ins in their frenzy to get more nuggets. These drifts were only 40 feet down, the depth of gravel sitting on top of most rich bedrock areas starts at 40 feet and goes to several thousand feet.;
You sometimes hear in the news when construction crews drill down on the bank of a river to set pilings for a new bridge and they hit coarse gold just as they hit bedrock. The layer is only 1 - 3 inched thick and can vary in depth down as I already mentioned. This is an all too common occurrence. Sometimes you hear about it but most times it isn't even mentioned in the news.
Other finds are discovered by water well drillers. It is their job to drill holes - everywhere - and they often find gold seams or rich layers as they drill down in search of water. Of course finding it is nice, mining it is another story. When you have 100 feet of mixed rock and sand on a one inch thick gold deposit, normal extraction techniques aren't going to cut it. These rich accumulations are somewhat spread out and do gather in depressions, cracks and crevices. That is why Billy Barker used a technique called drifting and tunneling to follow the paths of gold 40 feet underground. You have to be strong and determined to move that much earth for the narrow band or wealth that lay waiting on bedrock for thousands of years.
When I finish the deep gold drill I don't know if it will be a new method of mining or not. Early results of my prototype are promising. A brief description of the new type of drill is in the Future Gold Mining Projects.
There have only been a few REAL innovations in the gold mining community in the past two hundred years.
1) Suction Dredges:
1) High processing capacity.
2) Much easier than using a shovel.
3) Works under water.
4) Cleans to bare rock.
1) Illegal in many States.
2) It can wreck the environment if used irresponsibly (lay waste to fish spawning area) although most miners use dredges responsibly.
3) You must have a driver at the nozzle end.
4) You can only use it under water.
5) You can't work some rich waterways due to the current and other hazards.
There are many scenarios where one of these pumps can multiply the amount of gold you will take home. This type of gold pump has changed the way placer mining is done. It has also changed the volume of yellow wealth you can easily recover in a short time.
Lastly, the other major improvement in discovery and removal of coarse gold has been:
1) Relatively fast.
2) Good at finding heavy large nuggets.
3) Works wet or dry.
4) Don't need a lot of extra equipment.
1) Always seem to need more batteries.
2) Can't easily "look" under water and pockets between rocks.
3) Relatively fragile.
4) Will only detect nuggets on the larger size at any distance of depth.
I am not trashing metal detectors as they definitely have their place, but, as an additional tool in the miners bag and not a main stay unless you are walking in a dry desert streambed for miles. Old water worn gullies and low ancient water ways can contain some real surprises. if you can imagine how much gold is in the centre of a large river, well, picture that same high flow rate on an ancient river that has totally dried up. hence the incredible finds in what appears to be "dry ground".
Whatever your preference for finding and extracting gold, whether it is sluicing, panning, dredging or using a metal detector, there is still a lot of gold to be found out there. Read my write ups like Ancient Riverbeds and High Benches or Gold Mining Northern Rivers and you will see I do my best to reveal new methods to gold mine as well as new areas and places to search for our heavy yellow friend.
Understanding how nature behaves through time and a little geology (in layman's terms) will make our hobby or business an amazing success. before you try to mine anything be a discoverer first. Go where others usually don't (safely). Check for black sand and iron pyrite (bring a magnet). Find a new gold location and stake a claim. Most of all; don't be afraid of checking out new spots.
A Brief Background
Gold can be found free in nature, but, is usually associated with silver, quartz, calcite, lead, tellurium, zinc and copper. Sea water contains approximately one milligram of gold per ton of water.
Gold is the most malleable and ductile of all known metals. One ounce of gold can be worked into a sheet measuring five meters flat. Gold can be flattened as thin as .000127 millimeters or about 400 times thinner than a human hair.
Pure gold is soft and usually mixed with other metals like:
- and palladium
to increase its strength.
The amount of gold in the mix is measured with a unit called a carat. A carat is equal to one part in 24, so a 14 carat gold ring contains 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts other metals.
Gold is a good conductor of heat and electricity as well as being very corrosion resistant. Gold can be used for a multitude of uses such as:
- electroplating conductors
- reflective telescope mirrors
- reflective coating on skyscraper windows
- along with many many more uses.
It has been said that gold is where you find it! Found gold is welcomed by all races and stands the test of time as rarified wealth by all who possess it.
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