THIRD QUARTER, AUGUST 2014 VOLUME 28, NUMBER 8
Newsletter By Dave McCracken General Manager
We have developed a new way to mine surface gold deposits!
This story actually began early this season when we discovered a high-grade gold deposit on the far side of the river along one of our newer mining properties about nine miles downstream from Happy Camp. The property is numbered K-23AA on our Claims Guide. The upper end of this property has a gravel bar that is down closer to the Klamath River. Then there is a gradual slope that rises around 15 feet in elevation to a sizable plateau. We assumed there was an older streambed on the plateau. But since we made our gold discovery on the slope, we didn’t initially invest much time up there. The slope was quite easy to mine because the gold was broadly concentrated in a thin layer of compacted sand on top of shale bedrock. Full pan samples of the compacted sand, and even the decomposing shale bedrock, could produce more than a hundred colors, sometimes more than 200 colors. Most of the colors were fine gold. But they added up nicely when the material was processed in volume. So we organized the first three Weekend Group Mining Projects of this season to sampling and processing pay-dirt on the slope. Those projects produced excellent results. And there still remains a lot of the slope that has not been touched.
All experienced gold prospectors will tell you that there are these occasional moments of important discovery that change everything. That happened when we first located the pay-dirt on the slope. At that very moment, everyone on our sampling team knew we were going to pull one of our big rubber rafts out of mothballs and use it to support our weekend projects this season on K-23AA. It was a magical moment that changed much of what we would do this season.
Important gold discoveries change everything! This happened again during our third weekend project when several participants decided to move a few boulders up on the plateau to see if they could find any gold underneath them. The rocks were rather large, so I lent them a 5-foot pry-bar. What we found under the boulders was a layer of orange original Klamath River streambed. Surprise, surprise! This was hard-packed streambed material that had been left behind by earlier generations of gold miners. Perhaps there was a mining camp or someone’s residence on the plateau during the early days; maybe a recovery system where the old-timers were processing pay-dirt. Who knows? For whatever the reason, they did not mine this area. This was a stroke of luck for us! There have only been a few occasions during my 35 years on the Klamath River where I have uncovered original streambed in the surface deposits alongside the river. Most of the time, the surface deposits are made up of a more recent streambed that was laid down after the old-timers mined the original deposits; perhaps from the 1964 flood. There is plenty of gold in these more recent streambeds. But the original deposits paid much better the few times we found them.
I asked the guys to screen a full pan sample of the orange material from under the boulders as soon as we saw it. Several minutes later, when I uncovered the gold at the bottom of the pan, I knew that everything had changed! We had made an entirely new discovery on top of the plateau! This gold was larger and more flakey than what we were recovering on the slope. Since the discovery was made late in the day, we departed the area without working very much of the original streambed. But I strongly encouraged the guys who moved the boulders to return there and do more work in their discovery. Several days later, those guys came into the office to show me what they were finding up on the plateau. They were really excited. They put the results of just a single pan in a small jar so I could see how rich it was. It was one of the best pan samples I have seen in quite a while! That prompted me to cross the river for another look at what was happening on the plateau. When I got over there, I found out several more sample holes had confirmed that the original streambed covers an extensive area. Check it out on the following video segment:
Gold from a single pan out of the orange material!
Unfortunately for them, those guys were leaving Happy Camp. They had to go back to their normal lives somewhere far away. The next morning, our active sampling team and I started brainstorming on how we could more-effectively mine the high-grade material on top of the plateau. Our hope was to develop a new, more efficient method of mining to support the fourth weekend event of this season. Our first idea was to place a remote feed-hopper in a hole up on the plateau and connect it through a 3-inch hose down to a high-banker on the lower bar. The idea was to pump water into the hole up on top, allow water to overflow into the feed hopper, and let gravity carry water and material down into the high-banker. The system worked really well on our first attempt, though we realized how we could make some improvements. The gold we recovered was quite encouraging. Here is a video sequence that captured our first try at “gravity mining.”
This story gets better. But only because of the loyal support and enthusiastic participation of longtime New 49’er members, Rich Krimm, John Rose, Ray Derek, Derek Eimer, Mark Turner and Diane Helgesen. The bunch of us went across the river on three separate occasions to set up this gear and get it dialed in. I especially want to acknowledge longtime member, Gary Wright, who devoted numerous late hours in our workshop helping to fabricate, and refabricate, the components which made this all possible. Prototyping new ideas requires a lot of time and effort! The components have actually turned out to be quite simple now that we have worked it out.
Our second try at gravity mining involved two motorized pumps down on the river supplying water to our excavation up on the plateau. We set up two high-bankers on the lower bar, both being fed through 3-inch hoses from the plateau. We were using our original modified remote hopper to supply pay-dirt to one of the recovery systems. We had also come up with a new idea to modify a conventional high-banker nozzle into the second feeder. It occurred to us that a nozzle would serve the same purpose as a hopper, but allow more flexible mobility. Motorized suction mining is prohibited in California for the moment; so we capped off the threaded input where high-pressure water from a pump would normally provide suction power to the nozzle. Said another way, we basically turned the nozzle into a drain for our water-filled hole. Rather than allow the water from our pumps to overflow out of our hole as it normally would, the water drained out through our hose while supplying excavated gravel to our high-bankers. Wow; what an idea! Here it is on video:
Just as we thought, the modified nozzle was easier to manage. So that’s what we decided to use for our Weekend Project the following weekend.
We split all the gold we recover evenly amongst all the participants during our group mining projects. Therefore we were a bit alarmed when the signups jumped from 40 to 76 people in just the day or so before the project started. Normally, for that many people, we would set up four high-bankers to process pay-dirt. But it was too late for us to set up any more of these gravity mining systems. It takes a lot of gold to satisfy 70 people! What to do; what to do? We finally decided to move ahead with our two gravity mining systems hoping that the richer material on the plateau in combination with our new, more efficient, method of mining would save the day.
I am the one who splits the gold into shares at the end of our projects. Since I prefer to make people happy, I don’t think there has ever been one of these events that I was not nervous about recovering enough gold, or perhaps getting skunked altogether. This brings to mind projects during earlier years when the individual shares were so small; you had to look close just to see the gold each person got. Members were always nice about it, agreeing that the learning and experience were worth more than the gold. And that’s true! But when you go out there in the mud and the dirt, sweating under the hot sun, it’s a heck of a lot better if you walk away with something valuable to show for it!
To get ahead of what was supposed to be a very hot Sunday, we all agreed to meet out at K-23AA at 6:30 AM. The sun was still below the tree line when I started ferrying about ten people at a time across the river in our rubber raft. By the time I got everyone over there, Rich and our team helpers already had everything up and running. There was a heck of a lot of productive activity going on! We had briefed everyone at our weekly potluck the night before that we were really going to have to pour on the steam if we wanted to make the project pay off. The following video segments captured some of the action:
Through a little trial and error, the guys in the hole worked out a system of using the pumped water to help wash streambed material around in the hole. We have talked about this method of “blow mining” in an earlier newsletter. Others were using the syphon nozzles to drain water and material out of the hole. Their biggest challenge was mainly removing rocks that were too large to pass through the nozzles.
Nearly everyone else was screening orange hard-pack into buckets. The buckets were being dumped into the water hole. The water from the pumps was being used to wash (blow) the pay-dirt into our syphon nozzles. That material was being transferred through 3-inch hoses and directed across our recovery systems about eighty feet away down on the gravel bar. It was all running like a well-oiled machine! Check it out right here:
Said another way, this new system of gravity mining allows you to extend the feed of your high-banker directly to your dig site. It’s really cool! After about two hours, we shut down one of the systems just long enough to clean out the high-grade portion of its recovery system. It was only a few moments before that system was up and running, again. Rich panned down the high-grade material to see what we recovered. We always do this for two important reasons. The first is for confirmation that what we are doing is going to produce enough gold to make the project come out well. There have been times in the past where we were not happy with the results, and then switched gears into a different production plan for the second half of the day. But we were doing really well with this new process! Check it out in the following video sequence:
The second reason we do a partial clean-up at mid-day is to show some gold around to all the participants to help keep them motivated. More often than not, by the time we get half way through the day, the sun is beating down pretty hard, and people start slowing down. The idea is to strike the balance between processing as much pay-dirt as possible without making the experience so miserable that most of the participants will never return to Happy Camp! This was a very enthusiastic crew. Nobody stopped working even for a moment until Rich started bringing the gold around for everyone to see. It was quite good! This original streambed up on the plateau was producing bigger gold than we had been recovering down on the slope during previous projects. There were even some small nuggets. It all looked very impressive in the gold pan. Showing the gold around got everyone even more excited. Here it is on video:
Visibility was rather poor the day before because of several wildfires in the area. But air quality was pretty good on Sunday. It looked like the smoke created some cloud-level haze that was shielding us from the hot sun; a bit of luck! Everybody went right back to work after seeing the gold from our mid-day clean-up. The guys in the water were having a blast! They were actually seeing gold wash across the bedrock on one side of the hole. But that was not slowing down production even a little bit. Here it is on video:
We normally start shutting things down at 11 AM on these Sunday projects. This is because that’s about the time when most people have had enough. This bunch was still going strong at 12 noon! I had to go around and order everyone to stop digging and fill in their holes. Otherwise, they might still be out there! This bunch was so intent on continuing, I ultimately had to jump in the water and wrestle one of the siphon nozzles away from Mark Turner! He kept saying, “Let me just do a little more…”
Several hours later, we were all back across the river and at the Grange Hall in Happy Camp doing our final gold clean-up and gold split. There was so much excitement and chatter going on; Rich had to keep reminding everyone that I was still in the teaching mode. It’s valuable to know how to do the final gold clean-up steps! A bunch of the participants were just too jacked-up to watch.
In the end, we recovered 10.4 pennyweights of beautiful gold from about four hours of hard work up there on the plateau. That’s a little more than a half ounce; a seasonal record for this year. There were 21 nice nuggets, the largest being 8 grains. That’s pretty big! We split the gold amongst 64 very happy members. All of our team helpers agreed this was the most successful and fun project we have done in years. In addition to having a good day, we accomplished two important things: We have developed a whole new way of surface mining that allows us to get more accomplished for our effort. This is being called, “gravity mining.” Through all the effort we invested up on the plateau on upper K-23AA, we have also discovered that the original Klamath River streambed (orange hard-packed material) is quite extensive up there. Like I said, that discovery changed everything. It means we will be going back for more!
Join us for our Final Weekend Group Mining Project of This Season!
There is a learning curve to successful gold prospecting. One of the most effective methods of progressing through the learning curve is to go on prospecting adventures with others who more experienced than you are. Our 2-day Group Mining Projects are one of the primary benefits of New 49’er membership which set us apart from other mining associations. The remaining weekend event for the 2014 season will take place on August 23 & 24. These events are free to all members. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend. We appreciate it if you contact our office in advance to let you know that you will attend: 530 493-2012.
California Legal Update
Please refer to last month’s newsletter for a comprehensive update on our efforts to get suction dredging opened back up in California. We have strong hopes that it will happen in time for the 2015 season. Rich Krimm and I are scheduled to accompany our attorney to San Bernardino to participate in Mandatory Settlement Discussions on the fourth and fifth of September. Superior Court Judge Ochoa has made it clear that he believes there is a chance he can help resolve the outstanding issues between all the parties and settle on reasonable suction dredge regulations for California. Please watch for an update in our September newsletter.
On the subject of legal, to encourage more participation in legal fund-raising, I have authorized three ounces of my own gold nuggets to be split up into 25 prizes that will be drawn on the 31st of October (Halloween). Check out the gold by clicking here!
2014 Annual Dues are Being Billed this Month
We bill $50 for annual dues to all Full Members in August. This is because most of the costs, especially property taxes, that are associated with maintaining our extensive mining properties come due before September. The Bureau of Land Management in recent years has substantially increased annual filing fees to hold mining properties. We thank you in advance for your support on this!
Part Time Position Filled in our Office
Thank you very much to those of you who sent in applications for this position. This is to let you know that we have hired someone. I have placed all of the applications on file in case another position becomes available.
We Found a Caretaker
Thanks also to those of you who expressed interest in our caretaker opening. This position has also been filled.
Thanks to Our Volunteers!
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The New 49’ers Prospecting Association, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012 www.goldgold.com