I have been prospecting and mining for gold both as a hobby and being an occupation for nearly 30 years and for me it’s a blast! From the deep green forests to the rolling sagebrush hills, few people see as much of America’s wide open spaces as I do. I kick around kooky little old towns in the center of nowhere. I visit historic sites where in actuality the pioneers of the west toiled for years to extract precious metals from the ground. As fun as that’s though, finding your 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 across 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 a good prospector, he collected an example, but he thought so little of his find that it sat on his porch for months before it was tested. That sample became the initial of numerous rich discoveries at Tonopah. I really could write an entire book telling the stories of these individual prospectors who, whether intentionally or accidentally, found rich deposits of gold and other valuable ores. These finds have experienced no small effect on the development of our country – historically millions upon millions 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’re placer gold and hard rock gold. Hard rock is gold, which remains in the original solid rock in which it formed. Northern Nevada is very full of 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 usually done on a sizable scale. The main problem for individuals thinking about hard rock gold deposits is high capital costs for the apparatus to crush and process hard rock ore in order to extract the gold from its solid rock enclosure. Due to this, many prospectors who try to find hard rock gold seek to sell their finds to large firms that possess the resources to develop them.
Any gold that has weathered out of its original rock matrix, be it a quartz vein or another source is called placer gold. Once it is freed from the vein, any accumulation of that gold is called a placer deposit. There are numerous different kinds of placers depending how far the gold traveled, its origin, etc. The four most typical kinds of placer deposits are: 1) Residual – where the original vein has weathered, but the placer gold remains just about “in place” and still within a few feet of the original source; 2) Eluvial – where in actuality the gold has traveled a brief distance down from the source, but hasn’t caused it to be into streams and other drainages – they’re often called hillside placers; 3) Alluvial – Where in actuality the gold has caused it to be into area streams and rivers mts gold. These placers are sorted by running water and usually the gold lies mostly on or close to the bedrock; 4) Beach placers occur where small gold particles ensure it is all the way down river to the ocean. Wave action can concentrate the heavier fraction of the sand, producing black sand layers containing fine gold.
Because of the comparative simple recovering gold from placer deposits, most individual prospectors start out seeking placer gold nuggets and flakes. Some later progress to a pastime in hard rock deposits, but most still start out looking for flakes and nuggets of free placer gold. Once you find 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 personal gold, and the excitement is real. There’s no doubt in my mind that gold fever is a condition that really exists. In my own experience, staring too closely at gold nuggets or thinking too much concerning the quest to locate them often causes it. Luckily, it’s a satisfying condition with few, if any, harmful side effects. Prospecting for gold is a hobby that’s simple to fall into.
It doesn’t necessarily cost a mint to get involved with prospecting. It is as simple as purchasing a gold pan for $10 and grabbing a bucket and the garden spade from the garage. On one other hand, there are numerous great gold saving products offered to the current prospector. Some allow the current 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 types, many significant improvements have been made in small scale prospecting equipment. There certainly is no issue finding ways to pay as much money on good equipment as you would like – a lot of great stuff is available. Most individuals start off small and purchase more advanced equipment because they get more involved in the hobby.
So whether its trying to find another million ounce ore deposit or perhaps finding a small gold nugget you can call your personal, rest assured, it is still possible. For people who enjoy hunting, hiking, fishing, off road exploring or the other many outdoor hobbies so many folks be involved in, prospecting might be something you would be interested in. For more or less any outdoor enthusiast, it’s worthwhile to understand only a little about gold deposits – because another big find might be yours!