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 blast! From the deep green forests to the rolling sagebrush hills, few people see the maximum amount of of America’s wide open spaces as I do. I kick around kooky little old towns in the midst of nowhere. I visit historic sites where in fact the pioneers of the west toiled for years to extract precious metals from the ground. As fun as that’s though, finding your own gold, either as a nugget or in solid hard rock is really a special experience that’s hard to equal.
School kids in California find out how James Marshall accidentally discovered gold nuggets while constructing a water powered sawmill in the Sierra foothills. The excitement caused by Marshall’s discovery was a fire that ignited gold and silver rushes all throughout the western US. Well-known is the story of O’Reiley and McLaughlin who accidentally discovered the Comstock Lode silver bonanza while working a tiny deposit of placer gold, tossing away a blue-black waste that later turned out 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 a sample, but he thought so little of his find that 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 an entire book telling the stories of the individual prospectors who, whether intentionally or accidentally, found rich deposits of gold and other valuable ores. These finds have experienced no small affect 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 actually divided in to two halves. They’re placer gold and hard rock gold. Hard rock is gold, which remains in the first solid rock by which it formed. Northern Nevada is incredibly rich in 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 a few small operations still exist, hard rock mining is usually done on a large scale. The key problem for individuals enthusiastic 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. Because of this, many prospectors who try to find hard rock gold seek to market 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 named placer gold. Once it’s freed from the vein, any accumulation of this gold is named a placer deposit. There are several different types of placers depending on how far the gold traveled, its origin, etc. The four most typical types of placer deposits are: 1) Residual – where the first vein has weathered, however the placer gold remains pretty much “in place” and still inside a few feet of the first source; 2) Eluvial – where in fact the gold has traveled a brief 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 close to the bedrock; 4) Beach placers occur where small gold particles ensure it is completely 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 ease of recovering gold from placer deposits, most individual prospectors start off seeking placer gold nuggets and flakes. Some later progress to a pursuit in hard rock deposits, but many still start off 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 come up with your own gold, and the excitement is real. There is undoubtedly within my mind that gold fever is really a condition that really exists. In my own experience, staring too closely at gold nuggets or thinking a lot of about the quest to find 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 an easy task to fall into.
It doesn’t necessarily cost a mint to find yourself in prospecting. It is as simple as investing in a gold pan for $10 and grabbing a bucket and the garden spade from the garage. On the other hand, there are many great gold saving products available to the modern prospector. Some allow the modern prospector to complete 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 all types, many significant improvements have been made in small scale prospecting equipment. There certainly is no problem finding ways to spend the maximum amount of money on good equipment as you would like – plenty of great stuff is available. Most individuals begin small and purchase heightened equipment because they get more mixed up in hobby.
So whether its trying to find another million ounce ore deposit or just finding a tiny gold nugget you are able to call your own, rest assured, it’s still possible. For those who enjoy hunting, hiking, fishing, off road exploring or any of the other many outdoor hobbies so many folks be involved in, prospecting might be something you would be interested in. For just about any outdoor enthusiast, it’s worthwhile to learn a little about gold deposits – because another big find might be yours!