I have been prospecting and mining for gold both as an interest and being 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 the maximum amount of of America’s spacious spaces as I do. I kick around kooky little old towns in the middle 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 gold, either as a nugget or in solid hard rock is really a special experience that’s hard to equal.
School kids in California learn 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 across the western US. Well known could be 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 an example, but he thought so little of his find that it sat on his porch for months before it had been tested. That sample became the first of many rich discoveries at Tonopah. I possibly could write a whole 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 had 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 into two halves. They are placer gold and hard rock gold. Hard rock is gold, which remains in the initial solid rock by which it formed. Northern Nevada is extremely 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 main problem for individuals enthusiastic about hard rock gold deposits is high capital costs for the equipment to crush and process hard rock ore to be able 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 companies 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 known as placer gold. Once it’s freed from the vein, any accumulation of the gold is known as a placer deposit. There are many different types of placers depending how far the gold traveled, its origin, etc. The four most frequent kinds of placer deposits are: 1) Residual – where the initial vein has weathered, but the placer gold remains more or less “in position” and still inside a few feet of the initial source; 2) Eluvial – where in fact the gold has traveled a brief distance down from the foundation, 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 near the bedrock; 4) Beach placers occur where small gold particles make it 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 begin seeking placer gold nuggets and flakes. Some later progress to a pursuit in hard rock deposits, but many still begin looking for 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 once you produce your own gold, and the excitement is real. There’s without doubt in my own mind that gold fever is really a condition that truly exists. In my own experience, staring too closely at gold nuggets or thinking too much about the quest to find them often causes it. Luckily, it’s a pleasurable 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 often 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 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 most types, many significant improvements have been produced in small scale prospecting equipment. There certainly is not a problem finding ways to pay the maximum amount of money on good equipment as you would like – a lot of great stuff is available. Most individuals begin small and purchase more advanced equipment because they have more mixed up in hobby.
So whether its searching for the following 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 individuals who enjoy hunting, hiking, fishing, off road exploring or any of the other many outdoor hobbies so many folks participate in, prospecting may be something you would be interested in. For almost any outdoor enthusiast, it’s worthwhile to know a little about gold deposits – because the following big find may be yours!