As seen in the July/August 2020 issue of the Gold Prospectors Magazine
First question comes from a relatively new prospector, Ron in Oregon, who asks:
“Just starting to get out on my own and I’m feeling overwhelmed with all of it and I have picked a few not so good spots because of that, any advice?”
Ron, you are not the only one who faces becoming quickly overwhelmed, especially when just getting out on your own. What happens is you try too hard from the start and try to see the end results before knowing the steps on how to get there. This causes many a prospector to miss some of the more subtle identifiers and become frustrated at the end of the day. I know because I was there, exactly where you are now.
After several trips to gold country and finding little to no gold, I began to realize that I was looking at a huge picture and missing a lot of things that got me to there. That is when I started to build compartments in a box — an A-Z of getting on the gold — and I use this same tool today.
To get started now, visualize a box. Now put in at least three dividers. Remember, this is a visualization and you can add and remove compartments as needed. When you start putting this to paper and creating your plan, you can use anything from a drawing to an Excel spreadsheet, you just have to remember to not skip a step.
Decide to go prospecting
pick an area
GPAA Online Mining Guide
Where you have been before
Historical – books, articles, recent reports and reviews, old and current claims in the area.
Mapping, Sat, and Topo — follow the contours and satellite views. Pick the start spots knowing these are dynamic and can change based on boots on the ground
Using all the info from the other steps, pick your gear with CONFIDENCE, never second-guess what you should be taking.
It is called prospecting. In a new spot, prospecting is walking around verifying what you have learned about the area before and marking where to start.
Testing those spots and finding a trend of low to high gold values.
You are on the gold and recovering the highest level possible and still further prospecting to stay on the trend and find others, you have the tools that were not around a decade ago, make time to use them.
Let’s break this down some
- This is one of the most important things you can do for your success. Pick a place to go prospecting and stick to it. Use the GPAA Online Mining Guide to read reports and information shared in those reports. If you see a review from a seasoned prospector that talks about the area that you feel is out of your current ability, do not disregard that as a potential spot. You may find it to be easier than you think if you put all the tools in the box to use.
- Find out all you can about the location. Historical reports, books, stories from around the campfire. It does not matter where you dig it up from, you just have to make commitment to dig.
This is where you start filling in other compartments in your box, and I will assure you that this will take some discipline with the result being gold in the bottle. Here is how this works; I am going to use one of my most successful locations to date.
As I was reading a book on the area that I had chosen to prospect, there were a number of historical mentions of the type of equipment and the ground that was being worked. I took that info and put it into compartments 3 and 4 and forgot about them for the time being. I was accomplishing what I set out to do in 2, which was to verify that gold had been found in the area.
- When I first started, there was only paper topographical mapping, no Internet, no Google Earth, yada yada … really not trying to age myself. Using the info that I gathered from the mining reports and put into compartment 3, I would look for spots that matched what was talked about in the report, or at least where those areas would be on the topo map: slow slopes, wide areas of a water channel, areas where sand bars could be created. These all went on the maps and into my notes. I knew before I ever left the house what I would be looking for and pretty much where.
- Now, based on everything in 2 and 3, I knew what gear to load. But there is something else to this as well. If in a historical report I found that miners were working the stream gravels with a sluice box or pools of water with a rocker box, I knew instantly that I needed to match the time of the year as well. If I am going to work in the Bradshaw Mountains in Arizona in the summer time with a sluice box, I knew that I had to be there around the monsoon season to have water or in the spring when there is the greatest chance of having running water or even puddles. Now if I read in an 1870 report that miners found $4 gold nuggets, I’m loading the detectors. I base my gear on what I can work at that time by knowing what was worked in the past and matching it to the current conditions of the area. I cannot tell you haw many miners miss this one step, and it was a major factor in the GPAA including the weather graph for every claim in the mining guide.
- Geared up, on the site, ready to make gold? Not yet, you aren’t. Dedicate some time walking around looking at or for the areas that you read in 2, saw in 3, and geared up for in 4. This is visual prospecting and you must do this to be successful. If you have followed to the letter 1-4 and you jump out of the truck and go at it, you are more than likely to fail. Now that doesn’t mean you might go home emptyhanded, but there is a difference in a few specks of gold over covering the bottom of a 2oz. vial and more. Mark your spots knowing that you will be testing to find the highest values and that is where you will mine. I have walked areas that in one hour of time led me to a great deal of gold over just a bit of gold.
- Spot located with confidence, now grab your gear and begin prospecting only the spots you choose. Put on the blinders and stick with it, meaning that when you are testing, you are testing the spots you pick and nothing more. Don’t start thinking about the grass on the other side of the fence. You have gathered, processed and compartmentalized all the information that you need to succeed from every step that you took that got you to this point.
- Pick your best spot from your prospecting — testing — and go to work on recovering your highest values. You are no longer a prospector; you are a miner.
For a more in-depth explanation of these steps and using compartments to be successful, listen to the On the Gold podcast at onthegold.buzzsprout.com or watch on the Gold Trails YouTube channel, goldtrailstv.
Rich L. asked,
“Kevin, in your podcast you talk a lot about trending, what exactly does that mean?”
Thanks for the question Rich, trending is expanding your prospecting and staying on the highest return values in any area.
If you show up to a spot and do a little prospecting and get onto the gold, trending is the next step and is nothing more than following the trend (flow pattern) of the gold.
You accomplish this by additional testing and sampling, and if you are with a mining partner, it gets even easier. I think I will use a sandbar for this example.
When a sandbar is created and gold is laid out within the sandbar, there is going to be an area that holds higher values than others because of the water flow. It is up to you to test and find the trend left to right and upstream to downstream.
I have a fairly simple process for this and it has served me very well over the years. The process allows me to recover high-grade material then make a decision on whether to work the outlining area or strike out and find another high-value location.
Here are my steps:
I will establish that there is gold on the site.
Then I will move across the sandbar sideways (shore to water) testing down to at least to the depth of my establishing spot and compare the gold in each test. Now the question comes up on how often do I dig a test hole? That depends on the material. If it is all flow sand and compacted, then I do a test every couple of feet. If there are sandy gravels packed in with cobbles, I tend to test every foot and I will dig deeper.
As I find the highest values, I mark those and move on to the water edge then repeat moving from my first hole to the shore. Please know that I am using water to shore as an easy way to describe the process. Look at the sandbar closely before you start testing and if you can see a flow pattern of the water, go that way but do not just pick a singular direction. Sandbars are built up of a lot of material, and that material may have laid down in a number of different flow patterns. Picking the one that you see clearly does not mean that on the opposite side of the bar there isn’t one that holds higher values. Mostly just working the most visible flow will mean that you are getting a bit of current flood gold and there is a high probability that there is a lot more gold on a different layer that could be just a foot away and three inches deeper.
After testing and identifying the highest values in the side to side, for this I am going to say that three feet off my establishing hole to five feet contains the highest values. I know that I have a two-foot-wide trend. Now I have to find the up- to downstream trend.
Starting in the middle of my side to side I will start testing from up to down, only this time I will do only a few tests moving upstream then only a few going downstream, moving a bit left to right as needed to stay in the highest values.
When I am done, I have a perfect layout of the highest values and it is time to move from prospecting to mining.
This is where having a prospecting partner makes all the difference in your end-of-day gold weight. Both of you start prepping the material to run, let’s say, through a sluice. You will team up to get rid of the overburden and then classify pay material only down to your largest gold and get a good pile of material ready to run. One of you will start running material while the other preps more of the high-grade material and additional prospecting to follow the trend and prep more trend material. Then you switch off the duties and keep running all day long on the high values, which simply means more gold at the end of the day.
I hope this answers your question from the high level. Remember, gold is where it is, and you have to follow it where it decides to lay out. Nature is fickle and even though a trend may look strange from one perspective, it is where the gold is.
Kevin Hoagland is the Executive Director of Development at the Gold Prospectors Association of America and the Lost Dutchman's Association of America.
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