WEEK-LONG GROUP PROSPECTING PROJECTS: Experienced gold miner and New 49′er founder, Dave McCracken, personally supervises week-long group prospecting projects during the mining season, where each participant shares in the work to be done and the gold that is recovered. While the primary purpose of these projects are to prospect and mine for high-grade gold deposits, these organized prospecting programs are an excellent way for members and guests to gain valuable prospecting experience and have a fantastic outdoor adventure at the same time. No prior experience is necessary. Some group projects are with the use of motorized sluices and vacuum-mining machines (prospecting out of the water). Other mining projects are with dredges.

Dave often uses rubber rafts or boats to carry fellow participants into otherwise inaccessible gold-bearing areas along the Klamath River. These areas are where few prospectors have gone before, so the potential for awesome success is higher than normal.



The New 49′ers provide all of the dredges, motorized sluicing equipment and boats used in these projects. Participants will need to have their own wet-suits (for those who will dredge) or other protective clothing and footwear, a dive mask and transportation. Participants provide their own lodging and nourishment.

Please contact our office or click here for more details, rates and the schedule of any upcoming group prospecting projects.
A schedule of this year’s Group Projects and participation costs can be found at this Schedule link, and is also freely available by contacting our office. Please phone us at 530-493-2012 to request a copy.Week-long group projects are limited to a certain number of paying participants. Scheduling in advance is strongly advised to ensure a position on any specific week-long project. A nonrefundable deposit is necessary to secure your position in advance for a project.

 

By Dave McCracken
Getting pinned solidly to the bottom by a huge hunk of bedrock that
Crumbled off the Side of the River!
Dave Mack
It was a judgement call. Obviously I made it wrong because it almost killed me. But it was the first time I had ever run into this sort of situation before. I was not sure what to do about the fractures in the bedrock wall that was hanging over me. Should I have put the chisel edge of my five-foot pry bar into it to see if it’s loose? I finally decided that might loosen it up even further and make it more unstable if I was not able to break it loose using the bar. This was a guessing game. I knew it, and I guessed that the bedrock wall would hold together if I left it alone. I simply guessed wrong this time, that’s all.goldIn dredging for gold, there are a lot of things you are not sure of, so you have to use your best judgment to make a guess.It all started several years earlier when we discovered a very rich pay-streak on the Klamath River in northern California near the confluence of Thompson Creek, about 10 miles upstream from the town of Happy Camp. We were performing a sampling contract for a company out of Salt Lake City. They were looking for a special type of gold deposit, mainly very consistently high-grade for long term production. This particular deposit did not qualify because it did not produce at least a pound of gold every day. It did produce a pound on some days though, sometimes as much as two pounds. But there were also quite a few two and three ounce days which disqualified the deposit as far as the principals were concerned. So we moved on to sample in other locations for the remainder of that season, and we located several other semi-rich deposits which we left behind in our hunt for the real motherlode.

Several years then quickly passed by while the deposits we found during the sampling program could not be touched, in case the company which paid for the sampling decided to exploit the deposits according to their option. They were waiting for the gold prices to skyrocket as we all have been waiting. But instead, the price just slowly kept edging downward. The company finally dropped its lease. So several seasons ago, my partner and I went to work at the head of the deposit where the amount of gold is more inconsistent, but pays quite handsomely in the pockets. Because of other commitments we both had, my partner and I were only able to dredge on a part-time basis, but the deposit did appear to be getting better as we dredged forward. We were getting more excited, and trying to squeeze more and more time in as the season went on.

The biggest problem we had was the huge boulders! We were working in an average of ten feet of tightly packed virgin hard-packed streambed material. The bottom had a layer of boulders most which we were able to shift around to dredge the gold off the bedrock. But there were occasional huge boulders up in the material, sometimes sitting right on top, just waiting to fall into the hole on top of us. It was a very dangerous hole!

The gold was coming from the bottom two or three feet of virgin hard-pack, and on bedrock if it was rough and irregular. To make the gold really add up in our recovery system, all we had to do was move the volume through and uncover a bunch of the bottom layer. When the bedrock was right for it, we would get a handsome bonus. Sometimes the pockets contained so much gold, we could stir our fingers in it! The bonuses were getting more often as we moved on, and we were really synchronizing our effort to move the material. We were also working really hard!

Since we were not using a winch at the time, it was a constant challenge to move the boulders out of the way safely. The two of us together could roll many of them out of the hole. This would allow us room on bedrock to roll the really big ones. When a big one was uncovered in the top layer, which we knew we would not be able to move once it was dropped into our hole, we would try and safely make room for it on the bedrock so we could undercut the boulder and drop it on a spot where the gold had already been dredged. This is a very dangerous method of dredging which I do not generally recommend. It requires you to be constantly on guard; and even so, your life is on the line all the time!

Still, underwater mining can be a dangerous business. Sometimes where you find the richest gold deposits prompts you to take personal risks. You find yourself in situations where every decision you make can directly affect the final outcome.

Dredging under a five-ton boulder (underwater estimated weight) and trying to calculate just how much you can take out to loosen it up enough to roll, without taking so much that it rolls in on top of you, is also a dangerous game. We call these boulders “Loomers.” It is a very high-risk job, because it is difficult to tell what material is holding up the boulder, or what affect the current is having on the boulder or the face of your excavation. You can never take your eyes or some part of your body off the boulder even for a split second. You have to be poised to jump out of the way at any given instant; because sometimes, the boulder will come crashing down with no warning whatsoever!

But the worst part of this type of dredging is cleaning the bedrock when there is a loomer hanging over you way up in the material. It is another judgement point (guessing game) as to how much of your “working face” (side of the hole that you are dredging) that you can dredge without undercutting the boulder too much. Most of the time, my partner and I were managing this with me running the nozzle deeper in the hole, and my partner watching the boulder while holding onto my shoulder, ready to pull me out of the hole quickly if the boulder started to move. Needless to say, this was very high-stress for both of us, and confirms the sensibility of a winch.

With a winch, you simply hook onto a boulder before it becomes a “loomer” and you pull it down and out of your hole.

Needless to say, we went home feeling queasy at the end of nearly every day we were working this pay-streak without a winch. I was having nightmares about not being able to move out of the way fast enough, or taking my eyes off a loomer at the wrong moment…

It was becoming apparent that my partner thought I was crazy to take such chances! Actually, I was being very careful; we did not have any near misses. But I knew it was just a matter of time. The odds were against us.(me)

We could have moved to any number of other mining properties if we wanted to. But the gold was so rich on this property, I decided to assume the calculated risks that were involved.

So I did not have my full attention on the state of the bedrock wall that was hanging over me. I noticed that it was fractured and the cracks were big. The problem was that we were dredging under a cave-like overhang of bedrock on the side of the river. We just had our best production days right behind us. I was watching out for big rocks on the working face, and I was paying a lot of attention to the gold I was seeing on the bedrock!

There had never been any time in the past where a bedrock wall had collapsed into one of our dredge holes!

It was time to take another cut off the top-front of our working face; and as I took material off the top six or seven feet, I noticed (again) that I was removing support from the hanging bedrock wall. The thought crossed me that I should do something about it, but what? Perhaps try prying on it to see if the bedrock was loose? It was hanging menacingly right over where I was dredging. I also was keeping my eye on a good sized boulder up in the material that I was going to have to do something about pretty soon.

After we moved the loomer, we were down in the hole underneath the cracked bedrock overhang watching the gold go up the nozzle. Then we uncovered a “two-roller” sitting on the bedrock. A two-roller is a rock that takes two persons to roll. Just as we finished rolling the rock to the back of the hole, with no warning, the bedrock slab came down on top of me in two pieces! The first hit me on the back and shoved me forward, ending up on my right leg. The second piece landed on top of the first and drove my foot hard against the bedrock.

The pain was almost unbearable, but was quickly replaced by panic as I realized that I was pinned solidly to the bottom. The hunks of broken bedrock on top of me had me pinned face down on my cobble pile, and I was not able to turn around to see how big they were; this was terrifying! And it hurt real bad which added to my severe discomfort. My first impulse was to try and pull myself free; and there was no way. This just sharpened the pain as the movement caused the heavy weight to settle more firmly on my foot.

My partner was not hit by the falling bedrock, but was obviously very upset about my situation. He told me later that he thought my leg must have been crushed into pulp by the sheer impact of the slabs when they came down. Both our heads had been in the same position as my leg only seconds before. If the slabs had come down on our heads or backs, we would have been killed instantly. We were both stunned by this reality.

I gave my partner the sign that I was O.K. and signaled for him to try and lift up on the slabs so I could pull my foot out. I still had no idea of how large the slabs were, but was getting a better idea when my partner was not able to even budge them when he put his full weight into it. This added to my panic. I knew we were towards the end of a three hour dive and there was not much gas left in the dredge. The pain in my foot was killing me! I was not prepared to wait while he went up to gas the dredge; I wanted out from under the slabs now!

There is also some risk to gassing up a dredge while it is running. We have caught a few dredges on fire that way! Shutting down a running engine creates a situation where you might not be able to get it started, again. There was only a minute or so of air reserve for me once the dredge shut down. So gassing it up while I was pinned to the bottom was very risky! But what if the dredge ran out of gas while I was pinned?

I signaled to my partner to go get the 5-foot pry bar. Neither of us knew exactly where it was. We had been allowing two other New 49′er Members to dredge in the outside of our hole, but they had taken the day off. They had used our 5-foot pry bar the day before and we had not seen it all day. My partner went off to look for it. As my partner went off to look for it, I really started feeling trapped like I was close to the very uncomfortable end of my life, and it was out of my hands. Very few times in my life have I been in a position where I certainly was going to die within a very few minutes if someone else did not perform exceptionally well! I still had no idea if the slabs were so big that even the 5-foot pry bar would not budge them. The full weight of the slabs were slowly crushing my foot flatter and flatter to the bedrock.

My partner’s airline was tangled in mine. So, as he reached the outside of our dredge hole, his line pulled against mine. He spotted the bar outside of our hole, on the very outside edge. He felt his airline go tight against something; but in his panic to get to the bar, he lunged forward against the tug on the line. When he lunged, it yanked the regulator right out of my mouth! This really panicked me. With all my might, I pulled him back by our airlines. I had no idea he had even located the bar, much less gotten that close to it. When he came back, he did not have the bar; my foot felt like it was being crushed off; and he thought I was certainly dying by the violence with which I had reeled him in. In desperation, I had him try and lift the rock off me again even though I knew it wasn’t going to work! I guess I was starting to get a little delirious in my pain and panic. This time, I tried pulling my leg out with all my strength. The resulting pain was excruciating! Man, was I pinned solid!

There was no alternative. I gave my buddy the signals to first untangle our airlines, and then continue to look for the bar. You don’t know what patience is until you have had to wait for someone under this condition! All I could do was wait and hope. It did not take long before he was back with the bar. I set the point of the bar, myself, to make sure in his own panic, my partner did not get my foot between the bar and the slabs. My whole beingness was in a state of hope that the pry bar would give the necessary leverage to move the slab enough that I could pull my foot free. There was one sincere voice from somewhere telling me that the slabs were too big and heavy even for the pry bar.

Once the bar was set, I positioned myself to pull with everything I had, to break free and gave the signal. He pried; I pulled; and my leg came smoothly free. What a wonderful relief! Then I grabbed my foot to get an assessment of the damage. Possibly a bad bruise, maybe a mild break, I was thinking. My partner misread the action, grabbed me around the waist, and was going to help me get to the surface. I signaled him that I was okay, and then gave him the signal to please go gas up the dredge. I was going to remain down to dredge for awhile longer.

I sincerely believe that if it is at all possible, it is best to stay in the immediate vicinity of a location in which you have suffered severe injury or fear until the immediate shock wears off. I feel the body and mind will heal itself faster, and I also don’t like to leave right away because it leaves me feeling like I am running away. I could see by the look in my partner’s eyes that he did not approve, but I insisted.

So we dredged for a few more hours directly in front of the slabs. They were too big to move, so we dredged around them. I made it a point to make sure they were left well behind in our cobble pile before knocking off for the day, even though my foot hurt and I was not able to put very much weight on it. As it turned out, nothing was broken except my boot. The steel tip was crushed so tight that I could barely squeeze my toes out! This was further confirmation of the value of steel tipped boots! Without the steel tip, I surely would have lost some toes or perhaps my whole foot!

And now? I have dropped back on the pay-streak and have incorporated a floating winch into my dredging program.

My partner of that time quit shortly thereafter. The experience, I believe, was harder on him than it was on me. When I told him to go gas the dredge after the accident, I could see that he knew in his own mind that he was not going to dredge along side me, no matter how good the gold was.

And now? I watch out for the bedrock! What am I going to do next time I find a fractured overhang like that? I’m not sure. But one thing I won’t do is turn my back to it!

Here is where you can buy a sample of natural gold.

Here is where you can buy Gold Prospecting Equipment & Supplies.

 
This story first appeared in Gold & Treasure Hunter Magazine Mar/Apr, 1993 on Page 13. This issue is still available! Click here.

By Dave McCracken

“Covering the Basics of Suction Gold Dredging”

Most gold mining today is done in small operations — one or two persons working at a time — often with the use of suction dredges. A suction dredge is a powerful underwater-type of vacuum cleaner. It sucks up streambed material (rocks, sand, gravel, silt, gold and other minerals), passes it up through a suction hose, and runs it across a recovery system floating at the surface. Pieces of gold, which are very heavy, are separated from the other streambed materials and trapped, as the gravel and other material wash through the recovery system and are then washed back into the stream to fill in the hole as the dredge moves forward in the waterway.

Most intermediate and larger-sized gold dredges come with built-in hookah-air systems. These attach to the same engine that powers the water pump. As demonstrated in the following video segment, air for breathing underwater is generated by an air compressor, passes down through an air line, and provides air to a diver through a regulator, similar to what is used by SCUBA divers:

Dredging is usually done in ten feet of water or less, but some work is done at greater depths. The following video segment demonstrates how modern suction dredges are constructed with the use of venturi jet systems. These allow gravel and streambed material to be directed into a gold recovery system without having to pass through the pump:

Using a dredge, an (experienced) operator is able to process a much larger volume of streambed material than with any other small-scale hand-mining apparatus. Most of the gold-bearing river-bottom streambed material is sucked up as quickly as the operator is able to feed it into the suction nozzle. Rocks that are too large to pass through the suction nozzle are moved out of the way by hand.

The early miners who came to California (and elsewhere) during the 1849 gold rush (and later) did find and recover many of the easy-to-find gold nuggets and rich deposits. During those early days, the deposits had to be easy to find and recover; because recovery methods and processing capabilities were very limited. Suction dredge technology allows modern-day gold and gemstone miners to prospect and mine for mineral deposits in places where earlier miners were not able to go. This is true in the deeper rivers (3-meters or more of water depth) all over the world. It is especially true in remote locations and/or within developing countries where modern technology is generally not available to village-miners.

Because a modern (experienced) dredger is able to process substantially more volume of streambed material with better gold recovery, the gravel deposits of today do not need to be as rich in gold as was necessary during the past.

One of the main advantages of having the capability to process more streambed material is that an area can be more-effectively sampled. Therefore, the success-rate in modern underwater mining is much greater than it has ever been using other technologies. This has caused a lot of interest in suction dredging equipment, which has resulted in a competitive market. At present, very good equipment for suction dredgingcan be obtained at relatively low cost. Just to give you some idea, a top-of-the-line five-inch gold dredge and the miscellaneous gear needed to run a small dredging operation can be obtained for less than $6,000.

The size of a gold dredge is determined by the inside-diameter of its suction hose–usually anywhere from two to ten inches. A single person customarily can operate a four, five or perhaps even a six-inch dredge. Two men commonly operate six, eight or ten-inch units. Sometimes, when streambed material is deep, and there is a lot of oversized material (large rocks and boulders) that needs to be moved out of the way, as many as four or five persons can be utilized underwater to operate a production gold dredge.

A single, experienced operator who is sampling with a four-inch dredge can process multiple times more streambed material than could be processed at the surface using conventional pick & shovel methods. A six-inch dredge in experienced hands can process about four times as much material as can be accomplished with a 4-inch dredge — and can also dredge several feet deeper into the streambed material while remaining efficiently-productive. An 8-inch dredge can about double the production over a 6-inch dredge and excavate even deeper into the streambed material. And a 10-inch dredge can double production over an 8-inch dredge and excavate even deeper holes.

The other side of this equation is that each larger dredge-size about doubles the bulk and weight of the equipment that must be moved around and managed. Because of this, some locations may be too remote to support a larger-sized dredge. The limiting-factor on a suction dredge is not the horsepower or the size of the suction hose. It is the size of the suction nozzle opening. Please trust me on this one: It is all about the size of rock that will go up the suction nozzle. Once again, I invite you to closely watch the underwater video segments on my videos and see what is happening underwater. It is almost all about moving the oversized material out of the way. The size of the nozzle-opening determines what can be sucked up, and what must be otherwise moved out of the way by hand.


A cutter-head will just get bogged down (and damaged) in a normal hard-packed streambed.

Some dredges are available that are operated from the surface with hydraulic-powered cutter-heads at the nozzle. Cutter-heads are mechanical devices that help feed material evenly into the nozzle. They are most-productive in doing channel-work in harbors or making navigation-channels deeper or wider (where the material mostly consists of sand or silt). Cutter-heads cannot replace the need for divers when mining in hard-packed streambeds which are made up mainly of oversized rocks and boulders which must be broken free with pry bars and moved out of the excavation by hand.

If you want to do serious excavations with a suction dredge, you must leave the opening of the suction-nozzle as large in diameter as possible, while still reducing it enough to eliminate un-necessary plug-ups inside of the suction hose or power jet.

Streams, rivers and creeks in gold-bearing areas are constantly being replenished with fresh gold. During the last 150 years, natural erosion has caused a substantial amount of new gold to become deposited in today’s waterways. Some rivers and streams that were once thoroughly mined by the old-timers are presently paying gold dredgers in very handsome deposits. Rivers that ran too deep for local miners to gain access to the bottom during the past are also producing rich, virgin gold deposits for suction dredgers.

Gold found in streambeds is called “placer gold.” Placer gold is most commonly found in flake form, usually about the size of flattened grains of rice and smaller. Some deposits carry a larger amount of such flakes and fine-gold. Other deposits carry substantial amounts of larger pieces and nuggets. Gold nuggets can be worth more than actual weight-value, because of their uniqueness as jewelry or specimens.

Gold is one of the heaviest metals. It has a specific gravity of 19.6, meaning that it weighs 19.6 times more than an equal volume of pure water. It is about six times heavier than the average sand, gravel, rocks and other materials which normally make up a streambed. So it takes a substantially-greater force to move gold, than it does to move the other streambed materials. This principle is used in gold recovery systems. The same principle is also used to predictwhere high-grade gold deposits are most likely to be found in a streambed.

Because of its enormous weight, gold tends to follow a certain path of its own when being washed down a waterway, and it will concentrate in common locations where the water force lets up enough to drop gold. One example is the inside of a bend where a stream makes a turn. Another example is at the lower-end of a section of white water. Gold will form “pay-streaks” in areas such as this–where the water slows down on a large scale during large flood storms.

The nice thing about gold dredging is that you can actually see the gold as it is uncovered when you are looking for it. This means that you should pay close attention when you reach the locations where gold is most likely to be, like in the contact zone between different flood layers and on bedrock. Because they are also heavy, lead and iron objects also commonly follow the very same path inside of the waterway as gold, and they deposit inside the same places.

As demonstrated in the following video sequence, with just a little practice, you can learn to look for these positive signs and can follow them right into the high-grade gold deposits:

Once a rich gold deposit is located, as long as there is time, the best thing to do is continue the sampling process long enough to establish the downstream boundary of the deposit. As demonstrated in the following video segment, if the deposit is developed from the lower-end, cobbles and tailings can be deposited further downstream without worry of dropping them directly on top of the rich deposit where they will just have to be moved again at some later time:

A gold-dredger has an advantage, in that he or she is able to float equipment where he or she wants it to go, sucking up gravel (sampling) from various strategic areas. This is much easier than having to carry equipment around and set it up in each new area, as is required in conventional mining.

Most gold dredgers use just two types of knots to secure their dredges in the waterway: (1) several half-hitches, or: (2) a bowline knot. The bowline knot is used where a non-slipping loop is needed at the end of a line. Here follows a demonstration of how to tie a bowline:

There is some amount of gold to be found just about anywhere in a gold-bearing waterway. The important key is to find it in paying quantities. Most commonly, experienced dredgers locate rich pay-streaks by systematically sampling various locations where it seems that gold should have been deposited. Sometimes it takes numerous sample holes to locate a pay-streak, and sometimes it only takes a few. This often depends upon an individual’s understanding of where gold gets hung up in a stream, and upon his or her familiarity with the area that is being sampled.

To accomplish the most from your effort, usually the best way to dredge a sample hole is to move it forward and downward at the same time. This way, you can move steadily away from your growing pile of cobbles (rocks that must be moved out of the hole by hand). Since you usually do not know which way the positive signswill lead you when you begin a sample hole, if possible, it is best to toss your cobbles downstream from the excavation, rather than off to either side or to the front. The idea is to move the same cobbles as few times as possible. The following video segments demonstrate how to obtain optimum production for your effort:

In fact, most of the work associated with suction dredging involves the organization and movement of cobbles and (sometimes) boulders.How well a person can organize and move the oversized material out of the way will determine how deep and fast the samples can be dredged efficiently. Consequently, this will also determine how quickly your sampling activity will lead you into high-grade pay-streaks. The following video segment further demonstrates this very important principle:

For the most part, you want to avoid dredging sample holes straight down into the streambed material. This is because dredging straight down will soon have you off balance. It is much more difficult to remove cobbles from the excavation when you are upside down in the hole.  As demonstrated in the following video sequence, if you cannot toss the cobbles far enough out of the excavation, they will just keep rolling back in on you.

Depending upon how deep into the streambed your sample goes, it can sometimes be difficult to get cobbles far enough out of your sample hole on a single toss. In this case, as shown in the following video segment, it can be sometimes be more efficient to relay them out with 2 tosses, rather than try and carry each rock all the way out of the hole. Each situation is different and requires independent judgment on the part of the dredge operator(s).

Dredging can be an exciting and remunerative activity if you are willing to work hard at it. It takes a bit of study and persistence in the beginning–just like any other activity. Anyone contemplating suction dredging as a commercial activity should be aware that there is a learning curve involved, and they should plan on it.

 

 

“…Our Group Mining Programs offer something you can’t get anywhere else, and these are some of the most important services we make available to members and our guests.”

 

LEARNING BY EXPERIENCE: Hands-on experience is a very important part of The New 49′er program. It is our ongoing group mining programs (along with our abundant property reserves) which distinguish us from other prospecting organizations. We believe that the future of small-scale prospecting could largely depend upon how effectively we as an industry pull together in a responsible way to meet the challenges which we will face together. Much of this effectiveness and dedication is contingent upon gaining exposure to existing operations which are already effective. This is because, generally, the more skilled you are as a gold prospector, the better your chances of realizing your expectations, ambitions, and goals. Moreover, it is generally true that if you are successful, you radiate your success to others and our entire industry flourishes and grows.

Certainly, proven mining property is also an important key. But gaining exposure to effective mining and prospecting techniques by actually doing it with others who are more experienced is vital since a less-inexperienced person can do poorly even on very good mining property. Most of our programs consist of direct hands-on experience in the field, where you can gain direct exposure on how to do it right through group mining projects where all the gold is split amongst all of the participants.

Yearly, we are proving that our group mining ventures help create successful, invigorated prospectors who are excellent examples to others. Others then become interested, participate in group projects, become successful, and our organization and our industry prospers and expands.

ORGANIZED GROUP PROSPECTING PROJECTS OUT OF THE WATER: We sponsor weekend group prospecting projects for members on a continual basis between June and October. These valuable projects allow participants direct exposure to prospecting for gold through panning, motorized sluicing, vacuum-mining, sampling techniques, and important information about how and where to find gold on our properties. These projects consist of an exciting, fun-filled, and information-packed outing along the Klamath or Salmon Rivers. This is a interesting and (always) exciting group surface prospecting operation (out of the water) where participants each receive an equal share of the gold recovered.

WEEK-LONG GROUP PROSPECTING PROJECTS: Experienced gold miner and New 49′er founder, Dave McCracken, personally supervises week-long group prospecting projects during the mining season, where each participant shares in the work to be done and the gold that is recovered. While the primary purpose of these projects are to prospect and mine for high-grade gold deposits, these organized prospecting programs are an excellent way for members and guests to gain valuable prospecting experience and have a fantastic outdoor adventure at the same time. No prior experience is necessary. Some group projects are with the use of motorized sluices and vacuum-mining machines (prospecting out of the water). Other mining projects are with dredges.

Dave often uses rubber rafts or boats to carry fellow participants into otherwise inaccessible gold-bearing areas along the Klamath River. These areas are where few prospectors have gone before, so the potential for awesome success is higher than normal.



The New 49′ers provide all of the dredges, motorized sluicing equipment and boats used in these projects. Participants will need to have their own wet-suits (for those who will dredge) or other protective clothing and footwear, a dive mask and transportation. Participants provide their own lodging and nourishment.

Please contact our office or click here for more details, rates and the schedule of any upcoming group prospecting projects.

Week-long group projects are limited to a certain number of paying participants. Scheduling in advance is strongly advised to ensure a position on any specific week-long project. A nonrefundable deposit is necessary to secure your position in advance for a project.

A schedule of this year’s Group Projects and participation costs can be found at this Schedule link, and is also freely available by contacting our office. Please phone us at 530-493-2012 to request a copy.

 

By Dave McCracken

“When lots of gold starts coming into play, everyone gets excited and in a hurry!”

Dave Mack

At the beginning of a recent season, my partners and I were sampling a promising section of our properties along the Klamath River for new pay-streaks. We had dredged several holes and were onto a deposit. Since we did not know if it was high-grade enough for us to work, we were dredging more holes up and down the deposit to get a better idea. On the fourth or fifth test hole, we uncovered a section of bedrock which had gold lying all over it; it was truly rich!

Something always happens in the dredge hole when dredgers start uncovering lots of gold! It does not matter how professional or experienced the operators are. When lots of gold starts coming into play, everyone gets excited and in a hurry. And it was no different on this occasion.

There was a pretty good sized boulder in front of us, slightly up in the streambed material. It was too large for one of us to move. But we thought both of us, working together, could probably roll it to the rear of our hole. Hurriedly, because we were anxious to see more gold on the bedrock, we made room behind us for the boulder by throwing a bunch of smaller rocks and cobbles further behind. Then we climbed upstream of that big rock and gave it a shove. The rock moved more-easily than we thought and slammed into the hole—right on top of my airline!

divers under waterWe use extra heavy-duty airline, the kind that does not kink under normal working conditions. I have tossed cobbles onto it hundreds or thousands of times; I have rolled boulders over it; and I have never had an instance where the airline was damaged in any visible way. That is, until this time.

As soon as the boulder stopped moving, I lost all my air supply. That is when I realized the boulder had pinned my airline underneath. I was already winded from the exertion of shoving on the boulder. So quickly, my partner Rob and I put our shoulders against the boulder, propped it up, and I pulled my airline out just far enough to see that it was split almost in half. We set the boulder down to deal with this new problem, but the boulder still had my airline trapped from behind.

These kinds of emergencies unfold very quickly when they happen underwater. One moment everything is fine. And the next moment, your life is hanging in the balance of what you do! I had a similar event once where I got pinned to the bottom by a slab of bedrock that fell on top of me from the side of the river.

First I thought I might be able to get air by holding the airline together and compressing it in my hand. This did not work and I was really starting to hurt for air; the second stage of panic was just starting in. What is the second stage of panic? It’s when you are on the verge of a psychotic break!

I looked to Rob and signaled him to cut my weight belts loose. We were working in fast water and I was using a second 25-pound belt to keep me in the hole. Instead, Rob handed me his regulator. Good idea, I had not even thought of that! So I took five long, deep breaths from Rob’s regulator. I would have taken more, but he had that “growing worried” look in his eye. The air was a big help, but far from satisfying; my body was demanding more.

However, the air did reduce my emotional state down to first stage panic—which is non-careful, frantic action. I signaled for Rob to release my belts again. The reason I was asking Rob to remove them is that a face mask prevents a diver from being able to see his or her own belt, so it is much easier for a second diver to release them.

I had one heavy belt which carried about 60-pounds of lead. And my second belt, with about 25-pounds, was connected to my airline. Rob released my heavy belt, not seeing that the airline was still connected to me.

This was all happening very fast. Rob was having panic problems of his own, because he was desperate for air while I was breathing off his regulator. When I handed him his regulator back, he was having trouble removing the water from it. So Rob cut his own weights loose and was gone with his own airline. With my heavy belt gone, I floated up into the current and reached the end of my airline (which was still stuck under the boulder), stuck about six feet from the surface. I immediately reached second stage panic; I was dying for air!

We use a boom on the front of our production dredges to help support the suction hose. A cable extends from the boom down to the suction hose. Looking up from my suspended position, I realized I was in reach of the boom cable. I had already frantically tried to find the quick-release buckle on my weight belt. But the belt had shifted around somehow; and with my heavy rubber gloves on, and in my panicked state of hurriedness, I could not find the buckle. I snapped into third stage panic, grabbed onto the cable and started pulling myself to the surface with everything I had. It was an inch at a time.

Finally, when my face was about one foot from the surface, the airline would no longer give. So close, but so far! In a last ditch adrenaline pull, I managed to get my mouth just above the water’s surface; I got a breath of air and water. I did it a few more times. Then I pulled my glove off the right hand, stuck it under my left armpit (no use in throwing away a good right-handed glove), and reached around to release the weight belt. It fell away and I was quickly on top of the dredge. Rob was up there hoping I was going to make it.

That one was close!

While I was catching my breath on the surface, without any delay, I asked Rob to go down and recover our belts and my air line. We repaired the line with some parts in our tool box, fueled up the dredge, and went right back down to finish the sample hole. I immediately went back down to finish the dive because I believe it is important to get back on the horse that throws you without delay, especially when you are feeling emotional trauma from a harrowing experience.

The pay-streak turned out to be a good, rich one!

I learned a few valuable safety lessons that day—the primary one being to not roll heavy rocks across my airline. This means knowing exactly where my airline is, along with everyone else’s in the hole, at the time when boulders are being moved.

fast waterHere are a few other pointers we have learned about airlines from our experience: Stay aware of where your airline is. Do not allow it to get wrapped and tangled around objects, the suction hose, tangled with other divers’ airlines. Immediately untangle your airline if it does get caught up in any way that might prevent you from getting quickly to the surface or the stream bank in an emergency.

I am a true believer in extra heavy-duty, non-kinking airline. Not only is it non-kinking, but it is also a safety line. We run several wraps around the frame of our dredge before plugging our airlines into the air system. This way, if we need to pull ourselves up the airline in an emergency, we are not pulling directly against brass fittings.

Airlines generally float when being used under normal circumstances. This means you have to watch out that yours does not get tangled around the underside of your dredge. Airlines usually sink to the bottom when they are being used in conjunction with a hot water system, which pumps hot water down to the dredger through a second line that is fastened to the airline. In this case, you have to watch what the airline might get tangled around on the bottom of the river. And, spoken from hard-won experience, you have to be careful not to roll boulders on top of it. You also have to watch that you do not bury your air line with cobbles being thrown behind your dredge hole.

Avoid using longer airlines than are necessary. Ten or twenty feet longer than the suction hose is just fine. Longer airlines tend to get caught on more objects and set up more drag in the current.

When we are working in fast current, and the heavy drag on the airline is a problem, we pull our airlines up onto the back-side of the dredge hole and put a cobble on top to hold it there against the fast water. The cobble must be large enough to hold the airline down, but not so large that you cannot jerk it free in an emergency rush for the surface or stream bank.

We always untangle and unwrap our airlines on our way to the surface at the end of every dive. This gives us a free airline to coil up on deck at the end of the day, or to use again at the beginning of the next dive.

two guys dredgingAnd we always replace or repair a damaged or defective airline without delay. Murphy (as in Murphy’s Law) lurks behind every corner! There are so many details to get right in a dredging operation of any size. There are many things which can possibly go wrong. We try to do everything right to avoid problems. But one thing we should never get lazy about is maintenance action on our air systems. If it even looks like it could be a problem, fix it now! And use quality repairs! Clamping copper tubing between two pieces of airline is not the way to do it!

All in all, I believe safety is a personal matter. This is all about having the right approach in the first place. Different people have different levels of ability doing different things. While one person may have trouble walking across the street without encountering grave personal danger, another person can stay out of personal danger while pursuing hang-gliding or sky-diving activities.

Still, it is true that the more adventuresome the activity, the less margin there is for error. And in adventuresome activities, when things do go wrong, it often turns into a life-threatening emergency. So it is very important to cross all your “T’s” and dot all your “I’s” when it comes to your air system.

 

By JIMMY SIERRA

In the metal detecting industry, there is a term which has recently been
misused a great deal. This term is:“discrimination.”

 

Metal detectingSome have said that the pen is mightier than the sword, and I am sure that on occasions this has truly been the case. Throughout the ages, man has used words to explain, convince and cajole his fellows about one thing or another. Advertising executives are no exception to the rule; and in their deft hands, a word can become downright dangerous or at least costly to some of us. I am, of course, speaking about the use of the language without explaining the meaning of the terms used.

Every special interest has built into it numerous buzz words. Golfers, tennis fans and fishermen all have special terms familiar to the insider, and metal detector users are no exception. We all get to know these terms as we read articles and talk with the cadre of users. However, there is one term which had been used correctly for a long time, but which has more-recently been misused a great deal. This term is “discrimination.”

Discrimination was originally conceived by metal detector engineers as a means of operating a detector in junky areas; and, by some electronic magic, eliminate or alter the sound of a target which consists of unwanted material and thus increase the amount of good targets for the treasure hunter. This whole experiment was intended to benefit the coin hunters, who were in fact the majority of treasure hunters. When I first started detecting, metal detectors had no such ability and we dug everything. We found a lot of good items, of course; but spent a lot of time doing it. Then along came ground-cancelling, which is a form of discrimination; and our detectors starting detecting deeper and deeper. Along with the added depth came the attraction of these new GEB or VLF units for nails. Not to be outsmarted, the electronic engineers came out with a discriminator for iron trash, then one for other junk items such as pull tabs and foil.

All of these so-called discriminators worked in the same way, by eliminating or altering the sound of an undesirable target. All had the same weakness: The more mineralized the ground, the less they were able to penetrate compared to the al- metal or non-discriminate mode of the detector. Even with the so-called motion discriminator, this still holds true. A GEB or VLF discriminator goes deeper than the old TR discriminators, but not as deep as the all-metal mode when there is increased mineralization in the ground that you are searching.

Ladies metal detectingBut with the advent of meter identification on many detectors, the user was no-longer locked into searching in a discriminate mode with limited depth. He or she could finally search in an all-metal mode if desired and check the meter for probability of target identification. This is where the definition of terms is becoming important and what I have been leading up to. I have recently heard it said that this or that detector is better for prospecting because it doesn’t discriminate, and many a treasure hunter has set aside his or her perfectly good multipurpose unit and bought another unit just for prospecting. I am not suggesting that these new units are not worthy of the task; but in many instances, it was costly and unnecessary to buy two units. First of all, the original unit should be able to cancel the ground effectively; and secondly, the owner must learn the skills necessary to operate it in a prospecting environment. Every company makes such units, and all are capable of finding the elusive gold nugget. The meter should work independently of the all-metal audio signal. That is, you should be able to operate the detector in the all-metal mode and hear every target that the loop passes over. The meter should respond to these targets in some sort of predictable fashion.

Thus the meter really ceases to be a discriminator, but functions in reality as a target analyzer. This is the term I feel is more appropriate. Even though this is visual discrimination, nothing is being eliminated as is the inference when the term “discriminate” is used. Of course, there are limitations to this ability, namely the extent of the mineralization in the ground. The meter is, of course, still working in the discriminate circuit of the detector and has depth capability depending upon the amount of ground mineralization. But it is there when you can use it, and it is a valuable tool indeed.

On a recent trip into the El Paso mountains in southern California with my White’s Eagle, I spent the better part of three days fighting the intense heat and struggling with the enormous amount of metal trash in an old mining area. The two fellows prospecting with me were digging all targets and collected between them enough nails to build a small shed. In about the same period of time and number of targets later, I had accumulated only a hand full of nails, but enough lead and brass for a small arsenal. My point is, there are only so many targets a day a human body can dig. The more probable gold nuggets there are (lead, copper and brass are all probable nuggets), the more gold will be dug. The more nails and iron trash you must dig up, the less the odds of digging a nugget. It is an odds-game from the start. I ended up with a single 2.7 pennyweight. nugget on the third day, not from skill, but from better odds and some luck.

One of my good friends has used a Whites 6000Di/pro during the past two years, gleaning gold nuggets from the tailings and gullies of north-central California. The area he works was heavily populated with miners, and the iron trash is extensive. He works with a smaller loop to get in-between the trash, and has told me he never digs a target unless his meter indicates the possibility of a desirable target.

On the other hand, you must always consider that tiny nuggets can drop into the iron range (meter reading), and thus I do recommend digging any dubious signal. When in doubt…DIG.

Just so you don’t think all is peaches and cream, there is a minus side to every method. Because of the extreme mineralization in some locations, there will be times when you will not be able to rely upon your meter or display screen. You will know this because your meter will respond to the ground with readings or numbers whether or not a target is there at all. At these times, you will have to dig all targets just as if you didn’t have a target analyzer meter at all.

I learned this the hard way a while back on a trip into the Pinto Mountains near 29 Palms. A group of us with an assortment of units started out early one morning and headed about two hours into the desert for a dry-wash known to produce nuggets. I headed down the wash with my trusty Eagle in tow which had just come from a successful trip to the Sierra’s where my meter ID worked beautifully. In fact, a ¼-grain nugget had registered with a positive dig signal on the eighth or ninth pass. I was a bit cocky, and I broke my cardinal rule: Put down a nugget or two of varying sizes and cover them with some of the local terra firma. Check the sound and the meter to see the response. In other words, know what you are getting into. My friend of the El Pasos came down the gully behind me. I stopped at a number of signals, checked the meter and walked on. A few moments later, my friend beckoned me back. “Check this one,” he said. I did, and it sounded good. But the meter said iron. It was a small nugget of a few grains. I checked my sample nuggets and got the same response. In fact, I had to progress to a half-pennyweight nugget before the reading would not be overridden by the heavy ground mineralization! The gully was full, as should be expected, with much black sand; and it was overriding the nugget response on the meter. The sound was loud and clear, but the meter reading was unreliable. This was one of those instances where you dig everything if you want small targets, or you just settle for the less-frequent larger nugget.

The incessant hot rock can also be easily identified with a meter and not be the bother that some make of it. All this takes skill and practice. Learn to use your detector, whichever one you buy.

Remember, you have to be standing over a nugget to find it!

 

By Dave McCracken

When the gold starts being trapped further down the length of the box, it is definitely time to clean up your box!

Dave Mack

 

Some miners like to clean up their sluice boxes after every hour of operation. Some prefer to do clean up at the end of the day. Others will go for days at a time before cleaning up. This is a matter of preference and seldom has much to do with the actual needs of the sluice box. Some of the large-scale operations, which ran during the early 1900′s used to allow the lower two-thirds of their boxes to run for months at a stretch without cleaning them up, and without very much concern about losing gold. However, it is true that sluice boxes were longer in those days.

There is a method of determining when a sluice box needs to be cleaned up to keep it operating at its utmost efficiency. If the majority of gold is catching in the upper third section of the sluice box, then the recovery system is working well.

After a sluice box has been run for an extended period of time without being cleaned, the riffles will have concentrated a large amount of heavy materials behind them. Sometimes a lot of heavy concentrated material in a sluice box will affect the efficiency of the riffles’ gold recovery. This is not always the case; it depends on a number of different factors, like the size and shape of the gold, the size and type of riffles being used and how they are set up in the box.

The true test of when a set of riffles is losing its efficiency because of being loaded down with heavy concentrates is when the gold starts being trapped further down the length of the box than where you are comfortable seeing it. When this occurs, it is definitely time to clean up your box.

Otherwise, clean them whenever you like.

Expanded metal riffles, being short, will tend to load up with heavy black sands faster than the larger types of riffles. But shorter riffles generally concentrate fine gold better than deeper riffles.

A large, visible amount of black sand being present is not necessarily a sign that you are losing gold. Gold is four times heavier than black sand. In some cases, the black sand will have little effect on gold recovery. Again, it depends on how the system is set up, the type of material being run, the purity (and therefore weight) and shape of the gold, as well as other factors.

The best way to evaluate your recovery system is by direct observation of where the gold is being trapped.

 

By Dave McCracken

Showing people how to find high-grade gold has as much to do with developing the proper focus as it does with passing along helpful information.

Dave Mack

 

Running a successful mining operation is one thing. Helping someone else to be able to run a successful operation is something else altogether. During the past several years, we have worked with hundreds of people in basic gold mining techniques and dozens of men and women in commercial underwater mining procedures. We have also had the opportunity to observe many others conduct their own mining operations in Africa, South and Central America, Alaska, Canada, Indonesia, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Madagascar and along the rivers of Northern California. Working with the theories and procedures, you are also working with the person’s ability, or lack of ability, to apply the principles.

A number of years ago, it became apparent that future growth and success of my own commercial activities in this field would depend, in part, on our ability to guide others in successful gold mining procedures–not just in theory, but in actual application. As part of our effort to improve our capabilities, I have personally devoted quite a lot of effort trying to understand why some people (a healthy percentage, actually) cannot seem to acquire the ability of practical application of successful mining and sampling procedures–even though they apparently understand all of the theory behind them.

I personally know a fair number of successful gold miners; some who we worked with and some who learned on their own. Some are successful on a smaller-scale. Some mine gold to support themselves and their families.

I also know a fair number of rather unsuccessful miners, some who we have given some help to and others who would not accept help if their lives depended upon it.

Unquestionably, there is a distinct difference between successful miners, partially successful miners, and those who are completely unsuccessful. A fundamental way to explain the differences is with the concept of wavelengths.

Consider the idea that each person is similar to an electronic frequency radio tuner, and that the universe consists of an infinity of possible frequencies which can be tuned in. I propose a theory that successful gold miners have themselves more finely tuned on a particular frequency than those who are not so successful.

Why is it that sometimes you try and tell a person how to do something better, when the person obviously does not know how to do it properly–but the person won’t listen, won’t understand, wants to disagree, becomes suspicious of you, won’t accept help or rejects your information? Helpful information is coming the person’s way, but the person is not tuned to the frequency to receive and utilize the signal. In fact, he may be tuned to a rejection-frequency.

One of the primary common denominators I recognize being present in successful miners alike is a never-ending drive, or hunger, or urge to get on and stay on the pay-streak during their mining activities. You can actually SEE this drive or hunger as part of their beingness. This urge is similar to an entrepreneur looking for a good investment opportunity, or a businessman wanting to close a profitable deal, or a musician trying to create an exceptional melody, or the drive an athlete has to win a race.

All gold miners WANT to be successful and find lots of gold. The difference is that successful miners CREATE success by learning how to do it, by hustling around to find the best opportunities, and by actually making success happen. The best simply have themselves more finely tuned and focused on the desired wavelength!

Unsuccessful people often allow themselves to be diverted off the wavelength by little losses, or unknowns, along the way–or by little decisions: “I can’t do it,” “I don’t know,” “I’m not good enough,” “It’s too hard, etc.”

As an example, I can look back to my own involvement with gymnastics in high school. I was moderately successful–enough to become co-captain of our team during my senior year. But there were others we competed against who were far better than me.

I look at these kids today who are near perfection and realize that I was never really even in the league. Why? At the time I felt that those who were better had more inherent gymnastics ability than I did. But the truth is that they were more focused into advanced-gymnastics perfection than I was. This made them better gymnasts. There is no rightness or wrongness in this; you end up receiving exactly what you focus upon.

Someone more sympathetic might say that I lacked the proper coaching. And I’m sure thaey are right that exteriour environmental factors play a part in this. But even the best coach cannot help a person who insists upon setting fixed personal limitations.

My ex wife’s son, Derek Parra, wanted to be the world’s fastest speed roller-skater. He finished high school a half year early with honors; and with no money or financial support, moved to Florida where he could be near a world-class coach. He made the world skating team in his first year and took a gold medal at the World Games. When he realized that roller skating would not make it into the Olympic games during his time, he made the very difficult move of switching from the top of the roller world to the lower-end of ice skating. But within several years, he worked his way up to take gold and silver metals in the Olympics. Now that is focus far beyond coaching!!

I’m focused on being the world’s best underwater mining specialist–and on helping others, also, to be very good at it.

In working at this, I am finding that showing people how to do it only partially has to do with passing along helpful information. It actually seems more to do with developing the proper focus. This is why hands-on experience is so enormously valuable in any field.

If I wanted to be an expert at computer programming, I would spend the necessary time learning the basics and then devote myself, at any cost, for a year or two working under the guidance of a proven master. Why? Because the Master is riding directly on the frequency of success in this endeavor. His tuner is locked onto the precise channel I am searching for. My time is valuable. Why spend ten years trying to attain the successful frequency when I can learn it from a master in one tenth the time?

There is a big difference between having an understanding of the theory of mining, and having the ability to apply knowledge perfectly to obtain the optimum result.

The following is a short list of some of the differences I have noticed between successful and unsuccessful people — both inside and outside of the field of gold mining:

Receiving Help: Successful people willingly and gladly accept help wherever it is needed. They also tend to be freely willing to extend a helping hand to others who are in need. Unsuccessful people have a perverted idea of help, sometimes expecting others to do the job for them— and then being suspicious of the helpers, wondering what their malicious intent might be. They might refuse help to others altogether–or help somebody so they can gain leverage over them. Some refuse help from others, feeling they don’t deserve it–or sometimes feel that to accept help would be admitting failure. Such people are almost impossible to help.

Handling Data and Knowledge: Successful people, and those on their way towards success, tend to be hungry for new and more information which they can utilize to boost themselves towards accomplishment. Each piece of useful information is learned with care, sorted properly as to its importance and usefulness, and held in standby as another tool in a never-ending drive for success.

Unsuccessful people often can be spotted trying to be “experts,” trying to “remember” bits and pieces of information to prove to others they know what they are talking about.

Most often, because of lack of true focus on accomplishing a goal, the unsuccessful person also has an inability to evaluate the different degrees of importance of information. For example, such a person might not understand (as far as his ability to apply knowledge in the gold-finding field), that the datum “Gold is six times heavier than gravel” is substantially-more important than “Gold is an excellent conductor of electricity.” An electrician would see the second datum as more important. A successful miner knows the first datum is more important to him, because it is a far more useful tool, by today’s methods, in finding where gold deposits are located.

Focus and Intention: You cannot be an expert at everything. Successful people choose the areas in which they want to do well and focus their attention and intention (getting on the frequency) at becoming good in those areas.

Such people are a breeze to train. If you are not telling them how to do it, they are figuring it out for themselves. Unsuccessful people tend to focus either too narrowly–where they cannot evaluate importance, or too broadly — where they don’t have the necessary attention or intention to follow through. Often, unsuccessful people tend to focus on failure, problems, barriers, or resentments, rather than focus on what needs to be done to get on with progress.

Handling setbacks: There is no one who hates a failure more than a predominantly-successful person! However, many very valuable lessons are learned the hard way by doing things less than perfect the first few attempts–especially when treading on new territory. Successful people generally have enough personal drive to learn from mistakes and keep pushing forward even though there may be some pain and discomfort during the process.

Unsuccessful people tend to collapse because of setbacks, resulting in the primary focus staying on the problems, rather than achievement of the goal of success. After a time, small setbacks add up to a major failure – which eventually results in the person giving up altogether on the endeavor. We see this quite regularly in gold mining, when a person is in the prospecting phase and doesn’t find a pay-streak right away.

The successful person, even while hurt during setbacks, recovers from the loss, re-focuses on the goal, throws off the negative energy, feeds on the gains, and keeps moving forward as best he or she can.

Dealing With Success: Many unsuccessful people don’t do well because they do not feel they deserve to. But most often you will find them consciously blaming others for their problems and failures. Lack of responsibility for one’s self and one’s actions goes hand in hand with failure. Along with this, you will find unsuccessful people constantly upset and resentful at the success of others who are working more energetically towards accomplishment of life’s goals.

I can often tell who my true friends are not; those who are disappointed every time I get into an excellent pay-streak!

Generally, successful miners are happy to see others do well–unless the other happens to be someone who is first to a person’s secret hot spot. A successful miner might be a bit envious of another’s gold find–but probably not resentful. And if anything, he is most likely to spur himself on to work harder to find a better hot spot of his own.

Personal Integrity: This is most important, so I left it for last. What kind of person am I? Certainly there will not be much personal improvement if we are not willing to look at what we are, and be honest with ourselves about what we see.

Don’t like what you see? Change it–don’t bury it! Everyone is somewhere on the scale from heaven to hell. The direction upward is through personal honesty, integrity and willingness to improve those things you see in yourself which you are not pleased with. The way downward is to not look, to hide from yourself, and to be ruled by those things inside yourself that you don’t like…

Cheaters never really win! Because, by definition, a person who feels he must cheat to win is below the level of actually playing the game in the first place. Therefore, cheaters are really living in a game of their own–not truly in communication with those around them. Giving up your true self, your real happiness and your personal well-being, is a huge price to pay for having some temporary material belongings.

There are a lot of unhappy people around who act like they are happy. Look around. What do you think their problem is? However, even their game is not over. Wherever a person finds him or herself, the road continues in two directions.

Successful people win their games by focusing themselves towards accomplishment within the rules of the game. Don’t like the rules? Do something effective to bring about agreement to have the rules changed. Winning the game by the rules brings great satisfaction, and successful people are willing to put out the necessary effort to gain each step along the way. Sure, it’s always a bit more difficult to not take the unethical short cuts which present themselves. But real progress is built upon a solid foundation of the ability to accomplish.

Unsuccessful people can often be found looking for the short cuts, the get-rich-quick schemes, or are willing to bend the rules–or cheat outright to win the game the easy way. Ultimately, such gains are only temporary because they are not built upon a foundation of the ability to create or perform–only the ability to take advantage of shortcuts.

Personal integrity is most important, because a person’s ultimate success in life, or mining, or any other endeavor, starts from his or her own source-point, wherever that may be. A person low in personal integrity may not allow himself to succeed, regardless of how hard we try and train him! The desire to be a successful gold miner, computer programmer, athlete, or good husband, is an impulse that begins and ends with the individual. And if the person isn’t being honest with himself, who he is, what he is, what he is doing, what principle he stands for, and where he truly wants to go, then it’s more than likely the person will not have the necessary drive to become truly successful at mining.

So you can see, there is more to helping a person to become successful than just showing him or her how to do it right. Sometimes, you also have to help get the person onto the success-frequency. And when you have accomplished this, then you have struck real pay-dirt.

 
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This story first appeared in Gold & Treasure Hunter Magazine Jan/Feb, 1992 on Page 21. This issue is still available! Click here..

By Dave McCracken

“Team dredging is very similar to playing music, except that you are playing little notes of effort in unison, so that all of the effort combines together to achieve optimum momentum.”

Pro-Mack Team

The amount of streambed material that you are able to process through a gold dredge will determine the volume of gold which you will recover. Actually, this is true of any type of mining operation, whether it be a large-scale lode mine or a small-scale gold prospector using a gold pan.

The smaller the amount of material which an operation has the capacity to process, the richer the pay-dirt must be in order for the operation to recover as much gold. Consequently, a smaller operation often needs to sample more to find the higher-grade pay-streaks which are more scarce. So smaller-scale operations generally spend more time sampling and less time in production.

To summarize this, gold mining on any scale is a volume game. If you can move twice the volume, not only can you recover twice the gold, but you will find more than twice as many lower-grade gold deposits which you can make pay adequately enough to meet your minimum standards. You can also reach deeper into the streambed to find more pay-streaks.

This is why we always advise beginning gold dredgers to go find an easy location and practice their basic gold dredging production techniques for a while to bring their speed up to par, before they get very serious about sampling for pay-streaks. A beginner will sometimes be so slow in volume-production that he or she will likely miss valuable pay-streaks simply for lack of being able to process enough gravel during sampling. This is because when you dredge a sample hole, you have to evaluate how much gold you recover against the amount of time and energy that it took to complete the test hole. If you are only moving at 20% of your potential production speed, you are likely to walk away from excellent pay-streaks just because you will believe they are not paying well enough.

When we run larger-sized gold dredges, eight inches or larger, we almost always have at least two men underwater. The reason for this is that operating an eight-inch dredge in six feet or more of streambed material requires that a large number of oversized rocks must be moved out of the dredge hole by hand. This varies from one location to the next. But generally, in hard-packed natural streambeds, somewhere between 60 and 75 percent of the material is too large to process through an eight inch dredge. This is where the second person comes in. A sole operator in this type of material, when the material is deeper than five or six feet, is going to spend a great deal of time throwing rocks out of the hole, rather than operating the suction nozzle. Some hard-packed streambeds require that most of the oversized rocks be broken free with the use of a pry bar. This further decreases the amount of nozzle-time on a single-person dredging operation. This extremely important concept is demonstrated in the following video segment:

In the final analysis, it is the volume of material which is sucked up the nozzle that determines final gold production. However, it is how efficiently the oversized material is moved out of the way which determines how much gravel and gold is sucked up the nozzle.

If a rock-person is added to the operation, he or she must increase the efficiency of the operation at least as much as the percentage of gold which the added person is going to receive.

If I am running an eight inch dredge in two or three feet of hard-packed streambed, chances are that a second person would not increase my speed enough to justify paying the second person a fair percentage of the gold for his or her time. The reason is that I do not have to toss the oversized rocks very far behind me when dredging in shallow material.

If I am dredging in five or six feet or more of streambed, I can literally bury a rock-person with oversized rocks and make the person work like an animal all day long. I also have to work like an animal to accomplish this. The result is a good paying job for my helper and a substantial increase in my own gold recovery.

And when we start talking about working in ten, twelve or more feet of material, I absolutely must have a rock person to help me. Otherwise, I myself am completely buried with cobbles all day long and get very little actual nozzle-time accomplished.

As we move our hole forward, and as we dredge layers (“top cuts”) off the front of the hole, we try to leave a taper to prevent rocks from rolling in on top of us. This is an important safety factor. Also, since the nozzle operator’s attention is generally focused on looking for gold, the rock person should be extra vigilant in watching out for safety concerns. As demonstrated in the following video segment, any rocks or boulders that potentially could roll in and injure a team-mate should be removed long before they have a chance to do so:

One main advantage to a two-person team is the enormous emotional support which a second person can add to the operation-especially when you are dredging in deep material, or when you are sampling around for deposits and have not found any in awhile.

On the other hand, the wrong person can inhibit the operation. So you must be especially careful to find someone who has a similar work, emotional and moral standard as yourself.

In my own operations, we have found that the key to good teamwork is in establishing standard operational procedures for almost everything. This takes quite a bit of planning and communication, and is an ever-continuing process. We have standard procedures for removing plug-ups from the suction hose and power jet. We have standard procedures for moving the dredges forward and backward during operation. And, we have standard procedures for every other facet of the underwater work of moving the material from in front of us, to placement of the tailings and cobbles behind our dredge hole.

The following video segment demonstrates a well-orchestrated underwater dredging team. Notice how the rock-persons are working to free the very next over-sized rocks that are impeding progress of the suction nozzle:

Most importantly, we have standard underwater communication signals. These are demonstrated in the following important video segment:

As we discussed earlier, volume is the key to success — or the degree of success. We take this quite seriously in my own operations, to the point where every single second and every single physical effort is important to the operation. You will seldom find the members of my team socializing or goofing off during the underwater production hours. During the rest of the time, maybe. But during production time, we are entirely focused upon the needs of the operation. We treat the dredging-portion of the operation kind of like competitive team athletic sports. We don’t compete against each other. We compete against the barriers that Mother Nature has constructed for us to overcome to recover volume amounts of gold.

We try to spend a minimum of six hours doing production dredging each day. In our operation, this is done in two 3-hour dives. Other commercial operators prefer three or four shorter dives. I know one commercial dredger in New Zealand who prefers a straight six, seven or eight-hour dive. What an animal!

Personally, I like lunch. But I do agree with the concept of long dives; the reason being that it takes a little while to get a good momentum going. Every time you take a break, you need to then get the momentum going again. What do I mean about momentum? Momentum in dredging is very similar to the beat of the drum in rock n’ roll. It is the continuous flow of gravel up the nozzle, with the oversized rocks being moved out of the way in their proper order at just the proper time so that the flow of material into the nozzle is not slowed down.

In fact, team dredging can be like an art form. It is very similar to playing music; only instead of notes being played on several instruments to form a harmonious melody, you are playing little notes of effort using your bodies to move the suction nozzle, or the oversized rocks, in unison, so that all of the effort works together to achieve optimum momentum.

An inexperienced rock-person will often move the wrong rock, which will cloud the hole out with silt, rather than move the next rock which is immediately in the way of the nozzle operator. In this case, the nozzle operator is slowed down because of the decreased visibility, and is further slowed down because he or she must then move the proper rock out of the way. This is similar to playing off key, or playing the wrong tune, in music. Everybody else is playing one song, and the new person is doing something else. This all amounts to less volume through the suction nozzle.

On the other hand, there is enormous personal and team-satisfaction to operating within a well structured team-dredging system. This is where the nozzle-operator is the conductor, and the rock-person or rock-persons make the extra effort to stay on the nozzle-operator’s wavelength, to play his tune at his pace, to do everything possible to contribute to his momentum. This is where the rock-person is always paying attention to the needs of the nozzle-person in order to keep things moving along; not just the next rock which is in the way, but moving the dredge forward a bit when necessary to give the nozzle-person a little more suction hose when it is needed, and the hundred other things that are necessary to keep the flow going with minimal restrictions upon the effort being expended to get the job done.

We treat it like a team sport. Everything in dredging is physical. When I give my rock-person the plug-up signal, he or she races to the surface to do his part to clear the obstruction. He doesn’t just mosey on up there like he is on vacation. He goes like he is running for a touchdown or home run. And he gets back to the hole just as fast, once the plug-up is free. When he sees that rocks are stacking up in the hole, he doubles his pace to catch up. When caught up, he will look around to see where other cobbles might be moved out of the way without clouding the hole. Or, he might grab the bar and start breaking rocks free for me. At the same time, I am doing my job, which is to get as much material through the nozzle as humanly possible, with the minimum number of plug-ups. And I don’t stop for anything if I can help it. If something else needs to be done, I delegate it to my rock-person so that I can keep pumping material up the nozzle. That’s my job! Everyone’s gold share depends on it.

Every effort counts in production-team-dredging. This requires everyone to pay attention to what is going on in the dredge hole. Rock-persons particularly must be able to remain flexible and be able to switch gears quickly. At one moment, there may be a pile of rocks which needs to be thrown out of the way. The next moment, even before the rock-person has moved several of those rocks, he may notice something else which is directly impeding the nozzle-operator’s progress-like a boulder that needs to be rolled out of the way, or a particularly difficult cobble which needs to be broken free with the pry bar.

The main objective in everyone’s mind must be to support the nozzle-person’s progress. Whatever the next thing in the way is, deserves the most immediate attention.

When things get too confused, sometimes the nozzle-person needs to put down the nozzle and help organize (move cobbles and boulders out of the dredge hole). But everyone should have it in mind that actual production-momentum (gravel through the nozzle) has stopped and needs to get going again as soon as possible.

We take cuts off the front of the dredge hole in production dredging, and take the material down to bedrock in layers. We do this because it is the fastest, safest and most organized method of production dredging. Sometimes, when conditions are right for it, a rock-person may be working directly at the nozzle, breaking the next rock free and quickly throwing it behind the hole. However, on every cut, there comes a time when the nozzle-operator decides to drop back and begin a new cut to take off the next layer. The rock-person has to pay close attention to this and follow the nozzle-operator’s lead. Otherwise, he or she may finish breaking free a rock up in the front of the hole when there is no nozzle there to suck up the silt. In other words, the rock-person has to keep one eye on the nozzle-operator all the time. Because if he is a dynamic and energetic nozzle-operator, he certainly will not be following the rock-man around the dredge hole.

Teamwork extends up to dredge tender, as well, if you have one. A dredge tender should always immediately attempt to remove a plug-up when the water velocity slows down through the sluice box. Many times, this effort is done for nothing, because the nozzle-operator has set the nozzle down over a large rock in the hole for one reason or another. However, on the occasions where there is a plug-up, it is great teamwork to have a tender handling the problem immediately without having to be told. Volume through the sluice box should also be heavy on the tender’s mind. When gravel stops flowing, something is wrong.

And the same thing goes for other support activities. When the tender sees that the dredgers are moving forward in the hole, he or she should be also making sure the dredge is being moved forward proportionately to insure the nozzle-operator has a comfortable amount of suction hose to work with. Good teamwork minimizes the number of orders that need to be given. Most of the activity is handled by standard operating procedures which require a bit of planning and coordination in advance.

There are different opinions about all of this. Some people are simply not running any races. This is fine, but they must understand that they do not have nearly the same gold recovery potential as others who are working at a faster pace or with a more organized system.

I hear the occasional comment that I am a slave driver. Slaves do not last very long with me because they have too little personal judgment and require constant orders! I choose to work with hardworking, ethical, highly-motivated individuals who enjoy the challenge of optimum physical team production. I prefer to think of myself more as a production manager. And, generally, you won’t hear those on my team complaining, especially during split-off time.

There is not anything difficult to understand about successful gold dredging techniques. The process is quite simple. However, the activity, as a commercial endeavor, is a lot of hard work. The faster, deeper and more efficiently you can dredge the sample holes, the faster you will find the pay-streaks, and the better you will make them pay.

Even when you are not finding commercial amounts of gold, there is at least a satisfaction to knowing that you are accomplishing optimum momentum. And, when you do locate the deposits, the sky is the limit!