I have been prospecting and mining for gold both as an interest and as an occupation for pretty much 30 years and i think it’s a crank! From the deep green forests to the rolling sagebrush hills, few people see just as much of America’s spacious spaces as I do. I kick around kooky little old towns in the center of nowhere. I visit historic sites where in fact the pioneers of the west toiled for decades to extract precious metals from the ground. As fun as that’s though, finding your own personal gold, either as a nugget or in solid hard rock is a special experience that’s hard to equal.
School kids in California understand how James Marshall accidentally discovered gold nuggets while constructing a water powered sawmill in the Sierra foothills. The excitement resulting from Marshall’s discovery was a fire that ignited gold and silver rushes all throughout the western US. Popular is the story of O’Reiley and McLaughlin who accidentally discovered the Comstock Lode silver bonanza while working a small deposit of placer gold, tossing away a blue-black waste that later proved to be rich silver ore. A century ago, Jim Butler, while traveling from his ranch in central Nevada, noticed some quartz vein material. Being truly a good prospector, he collected an example, but he thought so little of his find so it sat on his porch for months before it was tested. That sample became the very first of numerous rich discoveries at Tonopah. I really could write a whole book telling the stories of those individual prospectors who, whether intentionally or accidentally, found rich deposits of gold and other valuable ores. These finds have had no small impact on the development of our country – historically millions upon an incredible number of ounces of gold have been recovered from deposits found by individual prospectors.
The gold prospecting world is basically divided in to two halves. They are placer gold and hard rock gold. Hard rock is gold, which remains in the first solid rock where it formed. Northern Nevada is incredibly abundant with gold, mostly as these primary hard rock type deposits. The hard rock, open pit mines of Nevada have produced nearly 100 million ounces since their discovery in 1960. Although several small operations still exist, hard rock mining is normally done on a big scale. The main problem for individuals interested in hard rock gold deposits is high capital costs for the gear to crush and process hard rock ore in order to extract the gold from its solid rock enclosure. Because of this, many prospectors who search for hard rock gold seek to sell their finds to large companies that possess the resources to develop them.
Any gold that’s weathered out of its original rock matrix, be it a quartz vein or another source is called placer gold. Once it’s freed from the vein, any accumulation of this gold is called a placer deposit. There are numerous different varieties of placers depending on how far the gold traveled, its origin, etc. The four most common types of placer deposits are: 1) Residual – where the first vein has weathered, nevertheless the placer gold remains more or less “in position” and still in just a few feet of the first source; 2) Eluvial – where in fact the gold has traveled a quick distance down from the foundation, but hasn’t managed to get into streams and other drainages – they’re often called hillside placers; 3) Alluvial – Where in actuality the gold has managed to get into area streams and rivers mts gold. These placers are sorted by running water and usually the gold lies mostly on or near the bedrock; 4) Beach placers occur where small gold particles allow it to be entirely down river to the ocean. Wave action can concentrate the heavier fraction of the sand, producing black sand layers containing fine gold.
Due to the comparative simple recovering gold from placer deposits, most individual prospectors start off seeking placer gold nuggets and flakes. Some later progress to an interest in hard rock deposits, but many still start off trying to find flakes and nuggets of free placer gold. Once you see your first gold, you won’t have much trouble seeing what kept the old pioneer prospectors going under such rugged conditions. It’s always great when you produce your own personal gold, and the excitement is real. There is undoubtedly in my mind that gold fever is a condition that truly exists. In my own experience, staring too closely at gold nuggets or thinking a lot of concerning the quest to locate them often causes it. Luckily, it’s an enjoyable condition with few, if any, harmful side effects. Prospecting for gold is an interest that’s easy to fall into.
It doesn’t necessarily cost a mint to get into prospecting. It is as simple as buying a gold pan for $10 and grabbing a bucket and the garden spade from the garage. On another hand, there are many great gold saving products available to the modern prospector. Some allow the modern prospector to accomplish things no old timer could ever dream of. From metal detectors, to portable suction dredges, to dry placer machines and other gold recovery devices of most types, many significant improvements have been made in small scale prospecting equipment. There certainly is not a problem finding ways to spend just as much money on good equipment as you would like – lots of great stuff is available. Most individuals start out small and purchase more advanced equipment because they have more involved in the hobby.
So whether its looking for the following million ounce ore deposit or simply finding a small gold nugget you are able to call your own personal, be confident, it’s still possible. For individuals who enjoy hunting, hiking, fishing, off road exploring or some of the other many outdoor hobbies so many folks be involved in, prospecting may be something you would be interested in. For just about any outdoor enthusiast, it’s worthwhile to understand only a little about gold deposits – because the following big find may be yours!