By Dave McCracken

Part Three – Sampling is a never-ending process

Dave McCracken

 

You would think that sampling could end once you’ve found a pay-streak. Because, once you’ve found a pay-streak, you start your production operation to recover the gold. However, sampling continues on, possibly even to a greater degree, even after you’ve located a rich deposit.

When you locate a deposit that you have determined is good enough to work, your next step is to define your deposit’s boundaries. This takes more sampling. It is generally done by dredging or digging more sample holes. The first and most important boundary you should find, especially if you are dredging, is the lower-end, meaning the downstream-end of the pay-streak. This is because you need to find a place to drop your tailings where they will not end up on top of your gold deposit.

In mining activities of any kind, tailings placement is of primary concern right from the beginning of the operation. You generally do not worry about it too much during sampling, because you have not determined there is a deposit in the immediate location as yet. But as soon as you are certain there is a deposit worth developing, where you place your tailings becomes very important!

In dredging, providing you are going to have the time to develop the entire deposit, you usually back your dredge further down river, dredging sample holes as you go, to locate where the deposit plays out. It is then smart to dredge a few more sample holes below this point to make sure the deposit really did play out where you will put your tailings. Then, start dredging from the tail-end of the deposit, dropping your tailings over the area that you have already worked.

As you work the deposit forward, you also must locate the left and right boundaries of the deposit. This also requires your sampling attention, only in a different way. Rather than dredge or dig sample holes, pay close attention to how much gold you are recovering while continuing to move your production hole in the direction of each side of the deposit. In dredging, if you are into a healthy deposit, you will see gold when you uncover the strata of streambed material where it is located.

As I mentioned in the earlier parts of this series, when you find gold in a sample hole, the first thing to do is establish where it is coming from. Is it from the contact zones between streambed layers or is it coming off the bedrock? This also applies to production mining. You need to know where the gold is coming from so you can watch that particular strata of streambed material closely to make sure it is still paying as you move your production hole forward and toward the left and right side boundaries of the deposit.

In dredging, if it is a good pay-streak, when the paying strata is uncovered, you can actually see the gold if you slow down and look. You will also see the gold disappear once you extend beyond the boundaries of your pay-streak. It is standard practice to slow down and watch your pay strata closely when production dredging. By following this procedure, you will continue to dredge up pay-dirt with a minimum of non-paying material. This means that the job of sampling never really ends, even when you are mining a good pay-streak; especially when mining a good pay-streak!

When digging, as in high-banking, you cannot depend as much on seeing your gold as you dig in the pay strata, so it can be necessary to clean-up your recovery system more frequently to make sure you are still mining in a section of the gold deposit. You can also sample the pay strata with a gold pan on a regular basis to make sure it is still paying in sufficient quantities.

The idea behind a production operation is to mine all of the deposit, while mining as little of the non-paying material outside the deposit as possible. However, you cannot always directly see where the deposit plays out. So you must be constantly watching how well the deposit is paying and where it seems to play out. This can sometimes be difficult to do; because some pay-streaks are not entirely consistent. For example, a non-visible obstruction or change in the bedrock upstream can cause an entire section of pay-streak deposit to boil out and give you the false impression of a boundary–when there might be an even richer section of the pay-streak several feet beyond where it apparently plays out! This has happened to me a number of times when I discovered further upstream that the pay-streak was wider than I thought. Then I had to drop back and pick up what I had missed on my first pass.

Keeping these thoughts in mind, just do your best to figure out what the deposit is doing as you follow it. Every once in a while, it is important to devote some time and energy continuing to sample beyond the apparent boundaries of the pay-streak to make sure you are not missing anything important.

Short of actually finding a rich pay-streak, finding an increase in the amount of gold in a sample hole is the best sign to look for while testing. Finding an increase in gold means more sampling is a good idea in the immediate area.

In the same way, finding a rich pay-streak means much more sampling is justified in that immediate area–especially beyond the apparent boundaries of the pay-streak you are working. This sampling is best done as you move forward, before you start dumping your tailings in that location.

Another important thing is to determine for yourself how much gold you actually need to recover on a daily basis to make it worth your while to work the deposit. Sometimes there is a big difference between what a person says he or she must recover and what a person will accept in order to remain in a deposit. You should be honest with yourself about this. If you need to recover five pennyweight a day, then you should not be production mining in a deposit which is paying only one pennyweight a day, unless you have some reason to believe it is going to improve right away. Also, if five pennyweight a day is your acceptable level, you should discipline yourself to mine the lower-grade gravel on the boundary-edge of a pay-streak if it is paying this much or more, no matter how much more the higher-grade section of the gold deposit is paying.

Some pay-streaks have a richer portion in the center or along one edge, and a lower-grade section throughout the remainder, which still may be high-grade enough to work by your own standards. Yet, you will find yourself much more interested in recovering the gold out of the rich section, because it is more exciting as you uncover all that gold. It takes personal discipline to work all of the acceptable portions of the pay-streak, when only one portion is extremely high-grade. I have seen many deposits (some of them my own) wasted by miners moving forward, dredging only the high-grade, while dumping tailings on the lower grade–but still acceptable–portions of the pay-streak. We all learn through hard-won experience just how valuable pay-streaks are once they are located, and how important it is to production-mine them in a disciplined and orderly manner, wasting as little as possible

There is an old maxim which always seems to be true: If you are looking for easy gold, go where others have already found it, and look beneath the area in which they started laying down their tailings! People get so excited when first discovering a deposit, they usually don’t think much about what they are dumping their tailings on top of until it is far too late!

The main point I have been trying to make here is that sampling really never ends. When you are not in a deposit, you will find yourself sampling to find one. When you find one, if you are wise, you will constantly sample to keep yourself within the boundaries of the deposit. Then, you’ll need to sample again to find another pay-streak in the immediate area once the first one runs out. Sampling basically is your procedure to acquire the necessary perception of where the gold is so you can recover as much as possible for your efforts. This is why you want to be good at it.

Don’t quit!

 

By Dave McCracken

Part One – The Fundamentals

Dave Mack

 

During the Group Mining Projects we conduct each season, I always like to start by discussing the most important and fundamental ingredient in successful gold mining. That basic ingredient is you, yourself!

You are the one who makes decisions for yourself. You decided to get into mining in the first place. You also make the decisions on how you are going to approach gold mining, and how you are going to deal with all of the problems and the barriers to your success. Regardless of suggestions or input you receive from others, you make the final decisions on what you are going to do-no matter what they are.

The main problem in gold mining is in overcoming unknowns. Until you find them, you do not usually know where the good gold deposits are located. If it were really easy, all the gold would already be gone. The fact that so much gold is being recovered by small-scale miners today proves it was not easy to find in the first place. Otherwise, the old-timers would have found it all!

True, it is much easier for us now than it was for them. We have low-cost modern equipment they never even dreamed of! Accessibility to gold-bearing areas is excellent. We have new technology as well as the benefit of the technology developed by the old-timers. We also have historical information that directs us to the proven gold-bearing locations. The old-timers had it much more difficult than we do. But, it is still not that easy. When you get out into the field, you are mainly faced with not knowing where the gold is! And, this is where it comes down to you and your ability to overcome problems and the unknown.

Gold mining procedure is very simple. And there is an enormous amount of gold still accessible to the small-scale miner. The problem you face is not knowing exactly where it is. It can be six inches beneath where you’re standing or where you are digging, and you will have no idea it is there for sure until you find it!

You live by every decision you make. If you decide in your own mind there is no gold in an area or on a claim, you are probably not going to prospect that area, unless you change your mind. It is important to avoid making decisions that are not based upon solid observation. A miner on any scale must be an investigator, a hound dog on a tricky trail. Good investigators never rule out possibilities before their time.

Successful gold mining is generally done in two steps: First is sampling or prospecting, and then, production.

While some gold-bearing creeks and rivers tend to have gold values dispersed throughout their entire streambeds, there is generally not enough gold to make a small-scale mining operation payoff very well. Because we are limited as to how much gravel we can process as small-scale miners, we need to find higher-grade deposits. This means we need to look for them, and this is where sampling comes in.

When my partners and I first started gold dredging, we made the mistake of putting our dredge into a likely spot and dredging in that same location for about 30 days, even though we were not getting very much gold. We had in our minds that we had to keep going because we just might uncover a bonanza at any time. While that may have been possible, we would have had to be very lucky to find a rich deposit this way.

Because gold is so heavy — about six times heavier than other average materials found in a streambed, such as rock, sand and silt –it tends to follow a certain path when being moved in a river. This path generally runs from inside bend to inside bend (when the waterway is running at flood stage), and in a meandering line between the bends. Gold deposits are sometimes found elsewhere, but the statistics of history show that most recovered deposits have been located along these paths.

This is a very important bit of information; it provides you with a good idea of where to start your sampling. You can rule out about 90% of the riverbed at the start, and concentrate your sampling efforts along the path where you are most likely to locate an acceptable gold deposit.

Let’s define a few basics: “Bedrock” is the solid hard rock of the earth’s crust–like a cliff or like the solid rock you see in highway road-cuts through the mountains. “Streambed” consists of all of the rocks, sand, silt, gold, and other sediments that end up in the bottom of a creek or river. Streambed always lies on top of bedrock. A “lode” gold deposit is gold that is still locked up in solid rock, often contained in quartz veins. “Placer” gold deposits are created after erosion has broken the gold away from the lode and deposited it elsewhere. There are different kinds of placer deposits. The difference primarily has to do with how far away from the original lode the gold has traveled.

Hidden irregularities on the bedrock channel of a river can change where the gold path runs. So, until you locate the gold path, you are never certain where it is going to be. But inside bend to inside bend (during flood stage), and a meandering line between inside bends, is a good place to start your sampling. I have seen some gold paths located off this line, so you have to be flexible. But this is what sampling is all about. Sampling is done by digging or dredging test holes in different locations, comparing one against the next, establishing where the better results are coming from, and following those positive signs until you locate an acceptable deposit.

Most gold-bearing rivers have a certain amount of low-grade gold values dispersed throughout the gravel. The general gold path tends to have more gold along it than the average gravel throughout the rest of the river. You also generally find more iron and other heavy elements along the gold path.

When making test holes, keep track of the amount of iron, iron objects, and gold that you recover from each hole. After you have completed a number of holes, you will start to get an idea of the average gold values and other heavy materials in the riverbed. Then, when you turn up more than the average amount in a test hole, it is a sign that you have located the gold path. Sometimes, there is little visible increase in gold, but there is a visible increase in the amount of iron rocks, pieces of lead, and old rusty objects.

There is a certain amount of microscopic-sized gold moving downstream in some rivers at all times. However, gold that is large enough for us to recover with our small-scale mining equipment generally does not move in a riverbed to a large extent, except during major flood storms. Storms of this magnitude are able to generate enough water force and turbulence to get all or most of the streambed material flowing down the riverbed along with the water.

Because gold is so heavy, when being washed downstream, it quickly works its way to the bottom of the other materials being washed along with it. The gold also moves more slowly. Cracks, crevices, holes and barriers in the bedrock can trap the gold out of the flow of water and material. And of course, this happens much more along the general gold path than off of it.

Gold deposits along the general gold path can be small or large, depending upon the size of the gold trap. The most important type of gold trap in river mining is called the “pay-streak”. Pay-streaks always form along the gold path where the river’s flow slows down on a large scale during a major flood storm. One example is the tail end of an inside bend in a river. Centrifugal force places most of the water pressure to the outside of the bend, leaving a low-pressure (low-velocity) area at the tail end of the inside bend. This is a very common location in gold-bearing rivers to find pay-streaks.

Another example is where the river slows down after a long stretch of faster water. Anywhere along the general gold path where the river slows down on a large scale during a major flood storm is a likely spot to find pay-streaks.

Pay-streaks are important because they are large deposits as opposed to smaller, single-type deposits–like what you might find in a bedrock crevice along the general gold path. The size and richness of a pay-streak depends upon the size of the low-pressure (low-velocity) area created in the river, and on how much gold traveled through that section of the river during the flood storms which formed the deposit.

Most pay-streaks have definite left and right outside boundaries, meaning the gold tends to run out quickly once you get outside the pay-streak. Sometimes upstream and downstream boundaries are not so easy to distinguish. Varying water flow turbulence during major storms can sometimes make a pay-streak somewhat inconsistent. It may appear to be good for a while, bad for a while, and then good again, but the outside left and right boundaries tend to hold true most of the time.

Because pay-streaks have some size to them, they are much easier to find than single-type deposits while sampling. Most successful river miners use the following technique to locate and recover pay-streaks: First, locate a proven gold producing section of the river. By digging or dredging sample holes, locate the main gold path. More sample holes are continued along the path until a pay-streak is located.

This method is generally used whether the operation uses gold dredges in the river, sluices, or even heavy equipment up on the bank. Since the bank consists of older streambeds left high and dry, you are just as likely to find pay-streaks on the bank, or in the ancient streambeds further away, as you are in the river itself. If you are able to find acceptable amounts of gold in a riverbed and you want to find more, look upstream and downstream along the same line of flow in the riverbed. Keep in mind the direction water and material would be moving in a major storm. Gold generally will have moved in the same direction as the water flow.

The point about locating a proven gold-producing section of river is really important! You can save yourself a lot of time and energy by finding out where other miners are already doing well. If somebody has located a pay-streak, there will almost always be more pay-streaks in that general area of the river.

Investigation to locate proven areas, and communication with local successful miners to find out where deposits have been located, can save a great deal of sampling time. All of the really successful small-scale miners I know make it their business to stay updated on who is finding deposits and where.

The overall process of successful mining is quite simple. We have it down to a science, having taken most of the chance out of it. Gold travels and deposits along special lines. A knowledgeable, energetic, persistent sampling effort is assured of always finding the next pay-streak.

Sound simple? It isn’t that easy! This is because you never know where the next deposit is or how long it is going to take to find it. And, this is why it always comes back down to that important, fundamental ingredient, which is you!

You are the one who decides where to put your sample holes, how large to make them, and how long to continue them. You are also the one who evaluates the test results and has to decide what to do next. You have to decide, based upon your sampling results and the other information you have collected, whether a certain section of river deserves further sampling activity or if you should move on to another location. Every decision you make is a crossroads that will directly affect the final outcome.

It is important to realize that how much gold you get from your mining activity depends entirely on you and what you decide to do. A good miner is an investigator who tracks down where the gold is coming from, and diligently works his or her way right into it. How good you are does not depend upon how much time you have spent at it in the past. It depends upon how much you really want to succeed and how willing you are to hustle yourself into a deposit.

I know of quite a few people who have discovered rich gold deposits in their first season. I also know a lot of guys who have been at it for years, and still cannot seem to find acceptable deposits for themselves. Why is this? They are not sticking to the right procedure. They are making the wrong decisions, and, a lot of the time, they are (deciding to) giving up too easily.

Again, the main problem is not knowing. So, based on the information you do have, you are constantly being put to the test, having to decide if the gold is likely to be in a certain area or if it is more likely not to be.

People who have the most trouble in gold mining are the ones who give up too easily. You need to give your sample holes a little more time and effort than they deserve, but without overdoing it. This is a matter of judgment which gets a little easier with experience. It’s always going to be a challenge, though; because you don’t know if the gold is going to be there right up until the point when you find it!

Once you find a good deposit, it is easy to see why it is located there, and you will also see how easy it was to find. But when it runs out, you are right back to not knowing where the next one is going to be. Gold mining is always an emotional challenge.

The problem most people have with mining and sampling has little to do with judgment in sampling. It has to do with other basic decisions they have already made concerning their own personal success. It is very difficult to help someone become a successful miner when that person has already decided he or she is not going to do very well at it. Some people work at it just a little bit, and then give up on their sample holes long before they are completed. You cannot find gold deposits this way unless you are awfully lucky. This is good food for thought for everyone.

Some people get into gold mining as a get-rich-quick solution to other problems they have created in their lives. Any person who is giving up or quitting in their personal life hasn’t much chance of succeeding at gold mining!

If you are not finding enough gold, you cannot blame the claim, the river, the club you belong to, or anything else. Blaming an outside source might make your ego feel better, but it will not help you locate more gold. You are either getting it, or you are not. Blaming anyone or anything else is going in the wrong direction. The answer is to become effective, communicate with other miners to find out where the gold is coming from, and then get busy with your sampling. If you want to do well in gold mining, you have to make it happen!

And, if you are not sure if you have given a sample hole everything it deserves, be honest with yourself about it and give it a little more. It takes personal discipline to be a good sampler!

This is not to say that gold mining cannot be fun. It is a great outdoor activity no matter how much gold you find while you are prospecting for high-grade deposits. Once you get involved though, you will find it is more fun if you are finding more gold! If you are looking for challenge in your life, if you want to put yourself to the real test, then gold mining is just the thing for you!

When you are producing sample holes and not finding acceptable amounts of gold, when you are not sure where the gold might be, and you are not sure exactly how to deal with it, that is when you are put to the real personal test. This is when you have the opportunity to see who you really are and where your personal improvement lies. There is not a successful miner alive who does not have to deal with this on a continuing basis! This is why it always comes back to you. If you are strong enough to pull yourself through it, you will learn to sample, enjoy new thrills, and attain personal achievement and growth, not to mention the gold you will find.

There is much, much more to know about the business of sampling, which we will continue to cover in future articles. But we have covered the most important and fundamental ingredient here. If you can get yourself squared away with the right attitude, and approach mining with a stiff upper lip and the eye of a tiger, you will have no trouble figuring out the rest!

Don’t quit!

 

By Dave McCracken

I know I’m going to have a great season! How about you?

Dave Mack

Springtime! The days are getting longer and warmer. The birds are chirping. And, there is a magic in the air created by all of the living things waking up for a new start. This is when most of us who live on or near the river start really feeling the gold fever itch. Miners start returning to the river, and you can really feel the excitement about the prospects of the new season. What is it about spring that gives people so much renewed hope and interest? Even people who failed utterly during seasons past, who considered giving up gold mining forever, seem to be rejuvenated at the beginning of a new season!

Spring and early summer is usually the time when most of us are pulling our mining equipment out of storage, wiping off the cobwebs, doing the needed repairs, and ordering the necessary replacement gear and additional equipment to start our new gold mining adventure. We are also spending a lot of time thinking about where we are going to mine.

Having a successful mining season depends on many things. But all of these basically fall into four separate categories: having the right equipment; having the experience and knowledge to do it properly; having a location where recoverable gold deposits are present; and most of all, having good management–meaning the right approach!

Basically, if you have dependable equipment and you have a gold bearing location, and you know how to use the equipment to find and recover gold deposits, then you obviously can be successful. Creating the condition of having the right equipment, knowledge and location will be accomplished by you. You will decide on what equipment to use and how to service it and keep it operational. You will decide how you are going to improve your mining skills–or you will decide you don’t need any improvement. And you will decide where you are going to mine. Therefore, the final category, management, is more important than any of the others.

It is very important to know all of the technical aspects of successful gold mining: what pay-streaks are and how to find them, how to cleanup, the best way to utilize your equipment, etc. The “how-to” is one of the most important categories, but, what good is it go know the technical points if a person is going to approach gold mining with a losing attitude?

There is an emotional scale on which any person or group can be found with regards to any subject or activity. At the top of the scale is enthusiasm; down about halfway is anger and resentment, and at the bottom is total apathy and regret.

A person at the top of the scale, approaching the activity of mining with interest and enthusiasm, would try to do everything the right way. He or she would obtain the best possible equipment within his or her available resources. The equipment would be properly maintained. Communication would be energetically and enthusiastically undertaken to determine new and exciting places to mine, with plenty of new friends and allies being made along the way. And the person would be absolutely willing to learn everything possible about those aspects of mining that would affect his or her type of operation, even though he or she may already know a great deal.

Everybody makes mistakes–especially when learning. A person high on the emotional scale would recover quickly from mistakes, and enthusiastically approach his or her mining operation with the new-found knowledge. The idea of failure or giving up would probably never be considered. Also, at the highest level of responsibility, the person would not be found blaming others or “the world” for his or her momentary setbacks. Instead, the person would confront his or her mining activity with renewed energy and build his or her own success in the world. This is the way that successful people do it! It is the way you win in the game of gold mining.

A person who is further down the emotional scale will not take responsibility for the problems that are occurring in his or her mining operation. The person will feel more like his or her success and destiny are not really self-created, but are more at the effect of other people or the world at large. Most likely, the person will be found resenting others who are succeeding. The person is not as willing to make the extra effort to do things the right way in the first place, and not as willing to confront mining with the necessary perception to be able to predict what things to prepare for. Therefore, more mistakes will be made. In anger and resentment, this person is generally found striking out at the world, and generally is blaming others for his or her “bad luck.”

This type of person, for lack of incentive, and for lack of personal responsibility, will usually approach mining impatiently. If he or she does not have enough money to buy the proper equipment, rather than wait and do it right, the person is likely to buy worn-out gear, or equipment that is not large enough to work efficiently in the person’s operation. He or she is more likely, for lack of personal incentive, to allow damaged or worn equipment to go on without service or repair, which ultimately results in more damage or costly accidents. The

person is more likely to get angry and to give up because he or she is not able to locate an acceptable gold deposit right away. And the inability to find paying deposits is neverbecause the person does not know how. In the person’s “expert opinion,” it is because there simply is no gold left, or someone else already took it all.

A person in the resentment stage is more likely to be seen blaming the dredge because it is in a poor state of repair. He or she generally won’t have very many real friends; and the friends the person does have will generally be found to agree on the same negative viewpoints: “The gold has already been taken.” We already are experts on mining.” “Watch out for others so they don’t steal our gold,” etc. A negative person generally will give little help to others when it comes to passing along useful information about the potential location of valuable gold deposits. Therefore, he or she places little value on the information received from others, because he or she knows “no one would give me real information on the location of gold!”

Also, negative people have difficulty learning new skills. Learning comes from perception–which results from taking the responsibility to take an honest look at the subject or activity. A negative person generally has the idea that he or she is wrong in some way if he or she admits that something can be learned about a subject.

A person at the bottom of the scale has completely given up and is not even blaming anyone else for failure, anymore. Such a person has little or no chance to succeed at gold mining on a continual basis.

All of us can be found somewhere along this scale as regards to how we are approaching gold mining–or life. There are levels between enthusiasm and anger, and between anger and total apathy at the bottom. A person’s basic survival (or success) level is largely determined by his or her volume of positive energy, in comparison to the volume of negative energy. That is what this scale is all about. People having more negative than positive will be found lower on the scale.

Of course, we all have our momentary good and bad moments–those times we sank our dredges, we were ready to give it up altogether. But, when we found the big nugget last year, we felt totally on top of the world!

The question is, how do we approach our gold mining ventures most of the time? Are we willing to stick ourselves way out there to confront every possibility in order to prepare? Do we share and communicate with others in order to improve our chances of success and theirs? Do we try to do everything the right way in the first place? Are we willing to defend our industry when it is in trouble? When we are not enjoying immediate success, do we utilize all of our energy to create success? Or, do we use our energy to complain or justify our failure? Just how are we positioning ourselves around this activity of mining?

When it comes down to it, how well we do in gold mining on the long term always comes back down to how we are approaching the activity. We ARE responsible for how well we do. Isn’t this great?

Just how do you change the way that you are? You do it with personal discipline, by boosting yourself up to a higher level of responsibility.

There is more to success than hard physical work. Success breaks down to the above four categories. Knowing how to do it properly is one of them! If success is continually lacking, then something is definitely lacking in one or more of the four categories.

If, however, an operation is temporarily not recovering very much gold, it does not mean there is a management problem–or even a problem with the other three categories. By the nature of gold mining, there are times when we are not into gold deposits–but rather are looking for them.

If a person is blaming anyone other than himself for the long-term lack of success of his or her operation, there definitely is a problem with management!

But, it is Spring; there is magic in the air, and we all have renewed high expectations about the upcoming season. As a sobering thought, in the renewed excitement, some people seem to forget all of the pain and misery they were experiencing last year–only to recall it again once they get started. Spring cannot change the basic way you approach mining. Only you can do that. To experience the magic of success in any activity, failure and inability has to be overcome by positive energy and personal discipline. True magic cannot be obtained by forgetting failure or justifying it away.

So, if you want to experience excitement, and the true magic feeling of recovering valuable gold deposits continually, you must depend upon and improve your own skill, rather than depend on your luck. Your skill will improve in direct proportion to your correct basic approach to gold mining.

Spring is here, and it is time to work on the dredges. I cannot wait to get into the water! I know I’m going to have a great season! How about you?

 

 

By Ron Wendt

“I Remember Seeing The Miners Coming In With Bags Full Of Gold…”

 

Sluicing in AlaskaThe old man leaned against his shovel and wiped his brow as the hot interior Alaska sun beat down upon him. He was a veteran of the gold rush. He had missed too many boats and never quite made it back out of Alaska. It had been over sixty years since he had walked the streets of Seattle, where he first caught a boat to head north to the Klondike. It was the gold that kept him here, and his sluice box, shovel, and gold pan were an integral part of him.

He looked at me and never said a word. Even at my age in the early 1960′s, I could tell he was not having any fun. It was a tedious job for him. He shafted to bedrock during the winter and sluiced in the summer. As my father used to tell me, “He made enough gold to buy beans.” The old man was content with his life in the wilderness where he answered to no one; only the occasional camp robber or raven would land nearby, begging for a few scraps of food the miner had.

Even in the late 50′s, as a small boy, I remember seeing the miners coming in from the Fortymile River with bags of gold, begging for someone to buy it just so they could feed themselves. One miner had a cake pan full of nuggets he tried to peddle. He wanted $500 for the whole pan, but my father could only afford to buy a few choice nuggets from him at a cheap price.

Sluicing 2My first homemade sluice box was built from old photos, some advice (some poor and some good), a few aged pieces of plywood and two-by-fours, wooden slats for riffles and burlap to catch the gold. At sixteen, I had visions of gold, just like any other person would after reading Jack London’s books and other stories about the gold rush. Having been raised in the gold camps of the Circle Mining district in eastern Alaska, I had watched many miners, including my father, extract gold with sluices and gold pans.

Here I was in the Yentna River area near the Alaska Range, with a water-logged wooden sluice box, trying to make my first big strike. Believe me, there is nothing worse than trying to move around water-soaked wood! With the help of a more seasoned prospector, we located a bench of pay-dirt where a false bedrock of clay rose up out of Twin Creek. Through some trial and error, I figured out that the gold was in the clay. After shoveling tons of dirt and clay into my sluice, I soon discovered that I was not breaking up the clay enough and was losing quite a lot of gold with the tailings.

Between shoveling into the head, and raking rocks through the sluice, just as I watched that old man do years before, I was able to recover six ounces of gold for the two mosquito-infested, rain-soaked months that I worked this bench. Though it wasn’t a fortune, I didn’t care; I felt as happy as that old-timer probably did when he just got started years before. I have learned a lot since then, but I still value all of the early golden lessons taught to me by those old sourdoughs.

Eventually, I graduated to the wonderful world of aluminum. The aluminum sluice has been a great blessing to the modern day prospector. They are great for back-packing and throwing around in the back of the pickup. They don’t break; and if you learn to master them, they will reward you with great recovery results.

Some places in Alaska are pretty remote. Not always can one put a suction dredge in just anywhere. It is so much easier to walk into the hills with a four-foot, fifteen-pound sluice box, than hauling a 200-pound suction dredge over hummocks and through alders. Each piece of equipment has its place.

I have always recommended that if you are going to get into prospecting, start out small. Start with a gold pan, then sluice with pick & shovel, then eventually get into a dredge system. From there, who knows–maybe a D-8 will be your next tool!

I have found that if you are going for the gold, like most everything, unless you are pretty lucky, you will not strike it rich right off. Finding the high-grade gold deposits is something that gradually happens as you learn the right approach.

I have also found out that when new prospectors start off all gung-ho into this business, hauling in big equipment where there is not much gold, they usually lose interest real fast. After two or three outings, a few thousand dollars of investment and no return, they get discouraged and quit.

I suggest it is better to start small and learn the art of prospecting. Shoveling into portable sluice is an excellent, economical way to learn the basics of finding gold.

In the old days, the sluice boxes were usually 12-to-14 inches wide, pieced together in telescoping sections, with pole riffles. The boxes were set at an average grade of six inches to the twelve-foot box. Water was directed to the head of the sluice from a long flume or a canvas hose coming from a dam. As in today’s sluicing operations, the name of the game was production, shoveling the most pay-dirt into the sluice. With long lines of sluice boxes, the kind you see in the old photographs, miners would try to set up the sluices so there would be six feet open on either side of the boxes. The lighter material was shoveled in while the larger rocks were placed on bedrock and washed later on.

During those days, shoveling-duty varied with the nature of the gravel and bedrock, how far pay-dirt had to be lifted to the sluice from the excavation, and the person’s capability to work. Under ideal sluicing conditions, a shoveler could feed as much as 2 ½-to-10 cubic yards of gravel in 10 hours.

In 1905 on Anvil Creek near Nome, there was one elaborate set of sluice boxes set up on bedrock. Five strings of sluices were shoveled into 24 hours a day by 120 shovelers. They were able to process an average of 1,080 cubic yards of pay-dirt per day during this time.

The good thing about prospecting with a sluice box is that you can process a lot of material just using a good No.2 shovel and a sharp pick. A sluice is an excellent way to scout out good future prospects.

I have heard some pretty interesting stories about sluice boxes. One classic story I remember happened up on the Koyokuk River around 1914. A prospector made a big strike; but all he had was a gold pan, shovel and an ax. So he cut down a tree, split-out a four-foot piece, carving out a set of riffles along the bottom edge. Although this was indeed very crude, the prospector found enough gold in two days to party in San Francisco for four months!

When sluicing with a portable aluminum sluice, there are several key factors to be aware of:

1. Water-speed is critical to gold recovery. Some gold can be lost out the end if the water is too swift-flowing through the box. If the water-flow is too slow, the heavy rocks, black sand and/or garnets can clog the riffles and the gold can wash out. So it is critical to learn water-flow. In my own experience, water-flow in the sluice should be no more than three inches deep with a flow that will tumble golf ball-sized rocks out the end.

2. It is important to keep the sluice box raked out after one or two shovelfuls of pay-dirt are fed into the head of the box. Allowing too much material to pile up in the sluice can also cause erratic water flow in the sluice. This can cause a gold loss, too.

3. The sluice should be on a slight slope. Most streams have a natural slope as they flow along. But there are times when the sluice needs to be adjusted to increase water-flow, especially in wider, deeper water. Sometimes, water-flow can be increased through your sluice simply by raising up the head of the sluice; and, whenever needed, using rocks underneath and around the sluice to dirvert more water.

For under $200, a prospector can be outfitted with an aluminum sluice, gold pan, pick and shovel. The sluice is one of the handiest prospecting tools next to the gold pan.

 

By Dave McCracken

It is important to define for yourself how much gold you need to recover to make the effort worthwhile.

Dave McCracken

 

It is a very good idea for you to define for yourself what amount of gold is minimally acceptable for you to recover on a daily basis. It might be a half-ounce per day. It might be more. Or it might be less, depending upon the size of the dredging or other mining equipment you are using, your operating expenses, and how much gold you need to recover to make the effort worthwhile. The main point here is that you should set some minimum standard. If you are recovering that much gold on a daily basis, you will stick with it. If your daily averages start dropping below that point, you will start sampling around for better ground.

There are several good reasons for doing this. One is that if you do not know about how much gold is acceptable to you, and what is not acceptable, you can waste a lot of time “going on hoping” (for some undefined target) while you continue to dredge in low-grade material, rather than sample around for something better like you should. Another good reason is that you need to determine how far to each side and how far to the rear to dredge into the lower-grade material along the boundaries of a pay-streak. I covered this subject more thoroughly in another article.

Perhaps the best reason that you need to define a minimum acceptable level of daily gold for yourself, is so you can take in the better, and much better, and tremendously-better pay-dirt as a bonus when you find it. This could be on a regular basis if you become good at sampling. If you do not take on the good finds as a bonus, you can find yourself comparing the good finds with the acceptable finds; and pretty soon the acceptable finds may not be acceptable any more! This is especially true when you are dredging up a high-grade pay-streak.

I know of a guy that was new to gold dredging, who was into a very large pay-streak which was paying him a little more than half-ounce per day for every day that he went out and dredged. He was happy with this. That was well more than an average day’s wages in the profit he was making over top of expenses, and gold prices have been going up to make that even better. Everything was going along just fine until one day when he uncovered a bedrock up-cropping and pulled six ounces of beautiful gold out of a single pocket in the bedrock just in that one day. The following day, he was back into the half-ounce amounts again. Only that was no-longer good enough. He quit shortly thereafter. He left the area, never came back, and I have not heard of him since.

What happened? He got spoiled from the incredible feelings generated from uncovering really valuable golden treasure. This causes something which is often referred to as “gold or treasure fever.” Once the extreme high-grade was finished, he could not go back to recovering just half-ounce of gold per day, anymore. It is kind of like losing the person you love. Nobody else will do.

If you stick with gold prospecting long enough to get good at sampling, there will always be greater highs. But if the greater highs are the only thing that is now acceptable pay-dirt, you will find yourself frustrated a lot of the time.

If you define for yourself what is acceptable as pay-dirt, as you continue to get better at sampling, you will find that there is a surplus of acceptable ground available to you. Therefore, you will be able to upgrade your minimum acceptable levels a degree or two as time goes along.

If you are willing to mine every bit of acceptable ground that you can get into, and are willing to accept the bonuses as they are uncovered, and just treat them as a bonus, you will be making more gold more of the time – and you will find more bonuses, too

 

By Dave McCracken

Part Two – Sampling For Paystreaks

Dave Mack

 

There are few things in the world more enjoyable — and more exciting — than finding your own pay-streaks, particularly when they are rich! It is one thing if someone else turns you onto a previously-located deposit — which, by the way, you should always take when it is offered to you. It is much more emotionally satisfying when you locate a rich deposit by following the signs discovered by your own sampling program. Seeing the first flakes of gold uncovered, when you knew they were going to be there even before you saw them, is a wonderful feeling; it is a true thrill to follow those flakes into a rich deposit. There is nothing else like it! Some say there is no cure for gold fever.

The procedure for finding pay-streaks is quite simple, really. The key is having the emotional fortitude to follow through with your sampling procedure, by following up on positive signs if they are there. And remember, you don’t need to find a pay-streak in every sample hole. Otherwise, sampling would not be necessary. You only need to find a pay-streak once in a while to make mining pay off — on any scale.

As we discussed in part one, pay-streaks form in those sections of a riverbed where the water force slows down on a large scale during major flood storms. Because gold is so much heavier than other average streambed material in the river, particles, flakes and nuggets of gold tend to collect in these large, slower-moving sections of river, while the lighter materials continue to be washed downstream.

Pay-streaks can be large or small, depending upon the size of the low pressure (low velocity) area in the river and depending upon how much gold traveled through each particular area during major flood storms.

Here is a location on our mining property at K-15A during the 1997 flood

Here is the very same location at K-15A during normal summer flows.

Pay-streaks always form on the path that gold follows in the river. Sometimes there may be more than one gold path, because the gold may be originating in the river from several different sources.

Pay-streaks are very important to miners because they are larger than single-type deposits, such as those found in a bedrock crevice along the gold path. Therefore, pay-streaks are easier to find. Because they tend to be long and wide, pay-streaks are deposits which can be worked usually for quite some time.

Gold can be recovered from a pay-streak which is located on bedrock; it can also be found throughout the streambed material or on the top of a flood layer.

It is important to understand what flood layers are. They are separate strata of streambed, which were laid down by different storms or perhaps at different periods during the same storm. The various layers are usually very easy to distinguish from one other. Each has different colors and consistency, and the gravels are usually of different compact hardness. If you are looking for it, you can nearly always see the changes in flood layers as you dig or dredge a sample hole deeper into the streambed. Sometimes there is only one layer over the bedrock. Often there are two or more layers.

As we discussed in part one, gold is extremely heavy. Therefore, most gold travels along the bottom of the other suspended streambed material as it is being washed downriver during a major flood storm. If the material is washing down across bedrock, then gold can become trapped in the various irregularities, cracks and holes. Sometimes, if conditions allow, gold may even be deposited on top of smooth bedrock to form a pay-streak in a low pressure area of the river.

Sometimes, because the flood storm is not quite extreme enough to break up pre-existing hard-packed streambeds, material moving during a storm will wash over the top of already-established streambed layers, rather than across the bedrock. Therefore, newly-formed pay-streaks may be found on top of pre-existing streambed layers, rather than on bedrock.

It is very common to find pay-streaks on top of a streambed layer. Sometimes you can find pay-streaks on top of several different layers in the same location. Sometimes, you can find pay-streaks on a layer, but not on the bedrock in the same location.

Most gold-bearing rivers have some amount of gold disbursed throughout the streambed material, so you tend to recover a small amount of gold out of each sample hole. We call this “traces.” This usually is not very much gold; not enough to get very excited about and not enough to support a small-scale mining operation. It only takes a few sample holes to give you an idea of the average amount of gold that is disbursed in the general streambed. You can pretty-much expect to get this small amount of gold from each sample hole that you dredge or dig. If you recover more gold from a sample hole than is showing up in the average streambed, it is important to realize you are onto something — even if it is not exciting, yet.

Remember, sampling is the business of following positive signs into a pay-streak. When you are finding increased amounts of gold in an area, it is likely that you are onto the general gold path, and you are into a low pressure area of some magnitude. You may be very close to an excellent deposit.

So the first thing to do, once you start finding increased amounts of gold in a sample hole, is figure out exactly where it is coming from. Is it coming from a layer? This is really important to know.

Several years ago, I had a friend who was recovering two pennyweights (1/10th of an ounce) of gold per day with a 4-inch dredge, dredging in four feet of streambed material. He had been trained in the old school of thought, which says you always dredge to bedrock, no matter what. I jumped into his hole one day and noticed almost immediately that a lot of his gold was coming off the top of a flood layer which was located about six inches beneath the material’s surface. Investigating further, I found there was some gold coming off the bedrock, but it was not very much. About 95% of his gold was coming off that layer. Once I pointed it out, he began to just skim off the top foot of material, and he started recovering about five times as much gold. This is why it is important it is to establish exactly where the gold is coming from in a sample hole!

If you dig a sample hole through deep material and only find a marginal amount of gold, the location might still be worth working if you discover that the gold is coming from a layer change closer to the surface.

When I am dredging a sample hole and see a change in layers, I always slow down and uncover a section off the top of the new layer while careful1y looking for gold. If there is a substantial amount of gold on the layer, it is never hard to see if you are looking for it. All you have to do is hold the suction nozzle further away from the streambed material so there is just enough suction to pull the gravel, but not enough to pull the gold, which is about six times heavier. Underwater magnification makes the gold very easy to see. But you have to be looking for these changes in layers, and you need to slow down and look on top of them as they are being uncovered.

The gold is more difficult to see if you are digging up on the bank. In this case, layer changes can be sampled separately with the use of your gold pan or other recovery equipment.

Seeing an increase in the amount of gold in a sample hole, even if it is just a small increase, is one of the most important signs to recognize in sampling. You would not see the increase if you were not on the general gold path and on or near a low pressure location in the river. Seeing an increase in gold is always reason to investigate that location further, either by spreading the hole in different directions to see if it gets better, or by digging or dredging more sample holes in the immediate area. You should be acting like a dog who has found a nice, juicy scent!

As mentioned in part one, one of the biggest barriers new miners need to overcome is their own doubtful thoughts about how much gold they are not going to find in a sampling location. Many beginners have themselves talked out of finishing a sampling project long before they have properly completed it! Forget what you think might not be there, and just work hard to see what actually is there. This is what sampling is all about!

Time and time again, I have seen beginning miners start a sampling project, start recovering some gold which is not enough for their minimum requirements, but is far greater than the average amount of gold in the river; and then give the area up because it is not good enough. Afterwards, someone else will open up the same location a little more and find a rich pay-streak. Yet, the original miners are still sampling elsewhere, not having found a pay-streak of their own. Short of finding an acceptable pay-streak, a visible increase in the amount of gold recovered from a sample hole is the best sign you can look for. Don’t walk away from it until you are more than certain it is just a low-grade pay-streak which you have no interest in.

There is something mystical in the way gold affects people. This has been known for a long time. How much gold a person is finding, or not finding, definitely affects his or her emotions. Successful miners have learned to set the negative emotional impact aside and to use effective sampling techniques and hard work instead.

It has been well proven throughout history that gold is much easier to lose than it is to find. And, no doubt, men have walked away from more gold deposits than they have found due to the way they were emotionally affected by the results of their sampling operations.

I know of one man who dredged a sample hole and was recovering four-to-five pennyweights of gold per day. He spent a day pushing the hole towards the bank and discovered that someone had been there with a dredge ahead of him. He spent a day pushing the hole to the right and found the bedrock going deeper, but the gold was getting a little better and the pieces bigger. He decided the area was too difficult and not paying well enough, and went to sample elsewhere before he even came close to defining what kind of pay-streak he had located. What causes a person to give up so easily when the signs are so good? Why walk away from a location with fantastic signs to go sample a new location where you have not yet discovered any positive signs? The answer has to do with the way gold affects people’s emotions, and the fact that it is much easier to lose than it is to find!

There is an excellent lesson to learn from this: Watch for an increase in the amount of gold in your sample holes. Leave your negative emotions out of it. Follow up positive signs when you see them — always. Have some patience, and positive signs will lead you into the pay-streaks.

 

by John Cline

I talk to a lot of other miners, asking for different ways to do this or that. One observation that has surfaced is the importance of sampling. And, how many miners lack this practice. Many miners can “read” a river or creek, and some sample, but many don’t. This past year, I’ve talked to several miners who can’t understand why they are not finding gold. They are set up in a great looking location, they have moved many large boulders, they have cleaned the bedrock, but still very little gold. Well, believe it or not, they have been bitten by the gold bug. They have “gold fever,” they are working for all they have… but bottom line, recovering nothing for their effort. I have experienced this same frustration.

A couple of my friends and I set up our dredges in an area that looked great. Within the first hour, we knew that we were working someone else’s tailings. This area hadn’t been worked for ten years or so, but still we were in some tailings. We moved to our second location. We worked a hole for two days without success. Afterwards, we asked ourselves why we hadn’t found anything. We were in hard-pack, we found the red layer, we were on bedrock, but still nothing. When we asked some the local old timers why, their answer was “that’s gold mining” or “sometimes you find it and sometimes you don’t.” The real reason we did not harvest any fruit for our labor was that we had not sampled. Oh, we looked at the water flow and studied the river, but we had not sampled either location. It’s like working with our heads in the hole and not looking up to see which direction we’re going. When one climbs out of the hole, looks around and yells down to the others “We’re going in the wrong direction!” The others yell back “It doesn’t matter–we’re making good progress.”

Webster’s definition of sampling: “…a part, piece, or item taken or shown as representative of a whole thing, groups, species, etc., specimen; pattern.” We sample all the time and really don’t give it a second thought. Recently my wife Marge and I were going out to dinner with our son David and future daughter-in-law, Daphne. And, we had a hard time deciding where to go. I suggested one place and they said it was a great place for lunch, but not so good for dinner. This happened several times and then we decided on a nice restaurant. Believe it or not, this is a form of sampling. David and Daphne eat out much more than we do, and in other words, they sampled for us.

In my last article I shared with you my experience with Dave McCracken and his weekend Group mining Projects. During the workshop Dave made two points over and over, which have made a considerable difference in mining for me. The first is being proactive and having a goal. The second was the importance of sampling. During the Project we had twenty-plus people sampling and formed a good picture of the area–where the gold was, and where it wasn’t. When you work by yourself or with a friend or two, you must create that picture.

First, I believe that a sample hole when power sluicing (high banking) or dredging must have at least 50 square feet (5 feet x 10 feet) of bedrock cleaned. I feel that this should give us a fair sample of the potential for gold we should recover. We systematically take the hole apart by deciding the location that we will work, how big an area, and how deep we will go before testing the high-grade trap in our Pro-Mack High banker/Dredge Combo. Let’s say that the overburden is about three feet deep. We divide the area into sections. Take the first foot or so from one side, then test the high-grade trap for results. We then do the second half of the hole. If we run into a different layer of material we clean each half of our hole to that depth, trying not to go any deeper. Why? Well, if we do we’re not getting a good sample of the material and potential gold above that layer. After we have cleaned the top portion of each section, then we go down to bedrock, again looking for different layers of material, heavy metals such as lead, steel, etc., working each section and testing before working the next layer. We continue with this process until we have cleaned our test hole, thus creating a picture of where the gold flow is located. In the drawing I have included, we tested a creek on our claim. This is a secondary creek of the main creek, meaning that the creek “split,” forming an island. This section of creek is about 30 feet wide and runs about 150 feet long before merging back into the main flow. The water

was mostly 4-6 inches deep, with the exception of a few holes. As we sampled this area, we drew a map of each location we worked and recorded the results.

In Hole #1 at the top of the divide, we cleaned about 50 square feet of bedrock. There was about 2-1/2 feet of overburden. No defined layer difference. In the top half of each section, we recovered some fine gold and several small flakes (what we call flood gold). In the bottom of each section we recovered not only flood gold but several nice small nuggets. There was no apparent difference between the left or right side of the hole. Total weight recovered was 3.5 pennyweights (dwt).

In Hole #2, about 25 feet below the first, we cleaned about 150 square feet of bedrock. We started from the inside curve, working to the outside. We decided our approach would be to divide the hole into six sections, each being about five feet. Again, we systematically removed about a foot and a half of overburden, testing the high-grade trap before moving to the next section. We discovered that the west half of the creek had a good amount of flood gold and the east half had almost none. When we removed the remaining overburden to bedrock we found the following:

The west outside half: 2.5 dwt., and a one dwt. nugget.

The west inside half: 2 dwt. of nice pieces.

The east inside half: Five to six grains of fine flood gold.

The east outside half: Almost nothing.

In Hole #3, about 40 feet below Hole #2, we decided to work the center of the creek westward. This time we decided to test three parts. The bedrock was showing in several places and the overburden wasn’t more than two feet deep, so we cleaned the bedrock without sampling midway. We found the greatest amount of gold in the middle third of the hole. All total being a little more than 5 dwt., 3.5 dwt. from the center and very little from the inside third.

In Hole #4, about 25 feet below Hole #3, we decided to test out our theory that the gold was on the west side of the creek. Again, we systematically cleaned about 60 square feet of bedrock, but this time on the east side of the creek. The results–you guessed it, almost nothing.

As Dave McCracken states in his dredging videos, when you hit pay dirt or the paystreak, the hardest thing to do is to fall back and find the tail end of the flow. In Hole #5 we dropped back another 50 feet, almost to where the little creek flows back into the main channel. Again, we started at the center and worked westward, and you guessed it. Almost the same results. The westward half of the hole proved to be the best. Total weight found was 7 dwt. We talked to the miners above and below us. There have been several nice nuggets an ounce or larger, as well as several quartz rocks with gold taken.

I have talked to many miners about sampling and recording. It is hard to believe the number of miners who play the hit or miss approach to mining.

If you are out to have fun and find some gold, then sample, find gold and have fun. If you want to find a little more gold, then use a systematic approach. This approach must center around sampling and recording, sampling and recording, and more sampling.

Knowing where the gold should be does not mean that it is there, but your chances are better. Like many of you, David’s mining and mine is limited to weekends and summer vacation time. If we’re going to be productive, find gold and beat that gold bug, then our time sampling is of greatest value to us. We can plan our summer vacation in the area that has sampled out the best.

We have now sampled several locations and recorded our gold recovery. Some locations have been very interesting with good potential, and others did not prove out at all. We haven’t made our plans for next year, but we have created a fairly good picture of where the gold is, and where it isn’t. A very important first step.

If we decide to mine the creek above, guess which side of the creek we will be mining? I’ll let you know how the summer goes, but until then, remember to keep a smile on your face, your back to the wind, and watch out for that gold bug.