I have been prospecting and mining for gold both as a spare time activity and being an occupation for nearly 30 years and in my opinion 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 actuality the pioneers of the west toiled for decades to extract precious metals from the ground. As fun as that is though, finding your own gold, either as a nugget or in solid hard rock is 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 over the western US. Popular could be 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 had been tested. That sample became the first of several rich discoveries at Tonopah. I possibly 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 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 actually divided into 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 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 usually done on a large scale. The key problem for individuals interested in hard rock gold deposits is high capital costs for the apparatus 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 look for hard rock gold seek to market their finds to large firms that possess the resources to produce 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 is freed from the vein, any accumulation of that gold is known as a placer deposit. There are many different kinds 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 original vein has weathered, nevertheless the placer gold remains pretty much “in position” and still within a few feet of the original source; 2) Eluvial – where in actuality the gold has traveled a short distance down from the foundation, but has not made it into streams and other drainages – these are often called hillside placers; 3) Alluvial – Where in fact the gold has made it into area streams and rivers mts gold. These placers are sorted by running water and usually the gold lies mostly on or nearby the bedrock; 4) Beach placers occur where small gold particles allow it to be 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 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 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 whenever you develop your own gold, and the excitement is real. There is without doubt in my mind that gold fever is a condition which in fact exists. Within my experience, staring too closely at gold nuggets or thinking an excessive amount of concerning the quest to see them often causes it. Luckily, it’s an enjoyable condition with few, if any, harmful side effects. Prospecting for gold is a spare time activity that’s an easy task to fall into.
It doesn’t necessarily cost a mint to get into prospecting. It can be as simple as purchasing a gold pan for $10 and grabbing a bucket and the garden spade from the garage. On the other hand, there are lots of 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 manufactured in small scale prospecting equipment. There certainly is no problem finding ways to pay the maximum amount of money on good equipment as you would like – plenty of great stuff is available. Most individuals start small and purchase heightened equipment while they get more mixed up in hobby.
So whether its looking for the following million ounce ore deposit or perhaps finding a small gold nugget you can call your own, rest assured, it is still possible. For many who enjoy hunting, hiking, fishing, off road exploring or the other many outdoor hobbies so many folks participate in, prospecting might be something you would be interested in. For pretty much any outdoor enthusiast, it’s worthwhile to understand a little about gold deposits – because the following big find might be yours!