I have already been prospecting and mining for gold both as an interest 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 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 years 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 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 resulting from Marshall’s discovery was a fire that ignited gold and silver rushes all across the western US. Well-known may 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 a sample, 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 many rich discoveries at Tonopah. I could write an entire book telling the stories of the individual prospectors who, whether intentionally or unintentionally, found rich deposits of gold and other valuable ores. These finds have had no small effect on the development of our country – historically millions upon an incredible number of ounces of gold have already been recovered from deposits found by individual prospectors.
The gold prospecting world is simply split into two halves. They’re placer gold and hard rock gold. Hard rock is gold, which remains in the first 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 big scale. The key problem for individuals interested in hard rock gold deposits is high capital costs for the equipment to crush and process hard rock ore in order to extract the gold from its solid rock enclosure. Due to this, many prospectors who look for hard rock gold seek to offer 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 known as placer gold. Once it’s freed from the vein, any accumulation of this gold is known as a placer deposit. There are many different kinds of placers depending on what far the gold traveled, its origin, etc. The four most frequent forms of placer deposits are: 1) Residual – where the first vein has weathered, however the placer gold remains pretty much “set up” and still inside a few feet of the first source; 2) Eluvial – where in fact the gold has traveled a short distance down from the origin, but hasn’t made it into streams and other drainages – these are often called hillside placers; 3) Alluvial – Where 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 near the bedrock; 4) Beach placers occur where small gold particles make it 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 off seeking placer gold nuggets and flakes. Some later progress to a pursuit in hard rock deposits, but most still start off 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 when you produce your own gold, and the excitement is real. There is without doubt within my mind that gold fever is really a condition that truly exists. Within my experience, staring too closely at gold nuggets or thinking too much about 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 an easy task to fall into.
It doesn’t necessarily cost a mint to find yourself in prospecting. It is often 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 open to the modern prospector. Some allow the modern prospector to perform 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 already been made in small scale prospecting equipment. There certainly is no problem finding ways to invest just 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 while they have more involved in the hobby.
So whether its searching for the following million ounce ore deposit or just finding a small gold nugget you are able to call your own, be assured, it’s still possible. For many who enjoy hunting, hiking, fishing, off road exploring or any of the other many outdoor hobbies so many folks take part in, prospecting might be something you would be interested in. For nearly any outdoor enthusiast, it’s worthwhile to know a little about gold deposits – because the following big find might be yours!