New 49'er Newsletter

THIRD  QUARTER, JULY 2012                                VOLUME 26, NUMBER 7

Dave

By Dave McCracken

We did the drawing for our most recent legal fundraiser on 7 July at our weekly potluck in Happy Camp. Thank you very much to everyone who participated! Congratulations to the following winners:

One-ounce American Gold Eagle:  Tom Stull.
Quarter-ounce American Gold Eagles: Dave Siegrist; James Rocha; Jerry Keith & Uwe Mueller.
Tenth-ounce American Gold Eagles: Vern Breitenstein; Mike Regan; Gilbert J Reynolds; Donald W Flickinger; Gary Thurston; Jim Yerby; Tom Stull; Joe Martin; Wesley Wright & Randol Thrasher.

Giving Away Dave Mack’s Gold Nuggets!

Dave's Gold Nuggets

We do not have much time remaining to raise money to support a Petition for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a recent Ninth Circuit Decision that is making it more difficult for small-scale miners to prospect on the public lands across America, including a big portion of our new properties along the South Umpqua River in southern Oregon.

Therefore, I am allowing three ounces of my personal gold nuggets to be used as prizes in this new fund-raiser!

New Fund-raiser, 25 prizes in all:

Grand Prize: 1-Ounce of Dave’s Gold Nuggets
Four ¼-Ounce Bags of Dave’s Gold Nuggets
Twenty 1-Pennyweight Bags of Dave’s Gold Nuggets

The drawing will take place at our offices in Happy Camp on Friday afternoon, 9 November 2012 (you need not be present to win). But please do not wait to send in your contributions; because we must file the Petition in about 30 days!

Our office will automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets). There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win.

Legal contributions can be arranged by calling (530) 493-2012, by mailing to The New 49′ers, P.O. Box47, Happy Camp, CA 96039, or online by clicking here: 

Sign up for the Free Internet Version of this Newsletter

We strongly encourage you to sign up for the free on line version of this newsletter.  The Internet version is better, because you can immediately click directly to many of the subjects which we discuss; because the on line version is in full color; because we link you directly to locations through GPS and Google Earth technology; and because you can watch the free video segments which we incorporate into our stories.

 

The New 49’ers Prospecting Association, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012
www.goldgold.com

 

New 49'er Newsletter

SECOND  QUARTER, JUNE 2012                                VOLUME 26, NUMBER 6

Many of you will recall that we have been engaged in litigation with anti-mining activists who have been attacking us through the Karuk Tribe of California since 2003.  It all started with their lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), challenging that District Rangers do not have the authority to allow small-scale mining activities under a Notice of Intent (NOI) when the Ranger concludes that the mining activity is not likely to create a significant surface disturbance.

USFS regulations do not require a prospector to provide an NOI to the local District Ranger unless the prospector believes his activity might cause a significant disturbance.  Once the Ranger receives an NOI, if he believes there is likely to be a significant disturbance, he has 14 days to inform the prospector that a formal Operating Plan is required.  In that event, the regulations provide authority for the Ranger to stop the mining activity until the Operating Plan is approved.  Depending upon the circumstances, it can take a long time to gain approval of an Operating Plan.

USFS regulations do not provide the Ranger authority to require a prospector to file an NOI.  Therefore, NOI’s are mainly a voluntary formality which prospectors normally do to cooperate and coordinate with USFS.  Under existing regulations, the Ranger’s only authority is generated by his “Decision” that a mining or prospecting activity is likely to cause significant surface disturbance.  In 27 years on the Klamath National Forest, this has never happened with our program.

Believing that it was a bad idea to allow USFS and anti-mining activists to fight between themselves over the rights of small-scale miners, we intervened in the litigation from the beginning.  We defeated the Karuks in Circuit Court, and then we defeated them again in the first round of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, the Karuks succeeded in having the full Ninth Circuit overturn our win. Here is the full Decision. Here is also a short summary from our attorneys about the Decision.

This new development affects all USFS lands in America!

From my own perspective, since it is only required that an NOI be filed if the prospector believes there may be a significant impact, and the Ranger has no authority to require an NOI, this Decision has pretty much eliminated NOI’s from the ongoing relationships between prospectors and the USFS.  Said another way, based upon the existing USFS regulations, it looks to me like prospectors can proceed with our mining programs as before; and just like before, the Ranger only has the authority to step in and require an Operating Plan if and when he decides there is likely to be a significant impact.

The word “decide” has important legal implications as a result of this Ninth Circuit decision. Case in point:  Since the Ninth Circuit has determined that a District Ranger does not have the authority to make a “Decision” concerning the lack of a significant disturbance without first consulting with multiple other agencies, it also places doubt on the Ranger’s authority to “Decide” that a significant disturbance may occur (triggering the requirement of a formal Operating Plan) without also doing consultation with other agencies.

We have been in communication with the Mineral Officers within the several USFS Districts where we have mining property. They are still waiting for direction from USFS in Washington DC.  So it is still too early to know how this new development will affect our program, if at all.  In our case, in 27 seasons along the Klamath River, there has never been a Ranger that has required us to file a formal Operating Plan.  We have filed annual NOI’s as a volunteer, cooperative formality.  My guess is that we will probably have to stop doing that.

As a precautionary measure, I strongly suggest anyone planning to attend our scheduled weekend group mining events to register in advance with our office: 530 493-2012.

Now we must raise funds to appeal this terrible Decision to the Supreme Court!  It does not appear that USFS will file a Petition.  However, my guess is that they will submit supportive briefs if we file the appeal.  We have also been encouraged by two substantial conservative legal foundations that mostly take up property rights cases, suggesting they will also file supporting documents.

Since The New 49’ers is the only private organization defending the rights of small-scale miners in this particular litigation, besides USFS, I believe we are the only ones with standing to file the Petition with the Supreme Court. Going to the Supreme Court is not going to be cheap. Therefore, I am encouraging everyone to please support our ongoing legal-fund raiser. The drawing will take place at our weekly potluck in Happy Camp on Saturday, 7 July (2012). So there is very little time remaining before we will be giving away 15 American Gold Eagles:

Gold eagles

Grand Prize: 1-ounce American Gold Eagle
Four ¼-ounce American Gold Eagles
Ten 1/10th-ounce American Gold Eagles

The girls in our office automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution that we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets, etc).  There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win. Contributions can be called in to our office at 530 493-2012, or they can be mailed to The New 49’ers, P.O. Box47, Happy Camp, CA 96039.  Or you can do it on our web site by going here:  Make a Donation

Participation in this drawing so far has been so poor that we have not even raised enough money to cover the value of the gold.  This is not good. So I am hoping a bunch of you guys will jump in and give us a hand during the next several weeks.  Thank you for anything you can do! 

Sign up for the Free Internet Version of this Newsletter

We strongly encourage you to sign up for the free on line version of this newsletter.  The Internet version is better, because you can immediately click directly to many of the subjects which we discuss; because the on line version is in full color; because we link you directly to locations through GPS and Google Earth technology; and because you can watch the free video segments which we incorporate into our stories.

 

The New 49’ers Prospecting Association, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012
www.goldgold.com

 

New 49'er Newsletter

SECOND  QUARTER, MAY 2012                                VOLUME 26, NUMBER 5

  Happy smiles Running high-banker

Successful gold mining on any scale must be accomplished in two separate steps.  The first is prospecting. We also call this sampling.”  We sample to try and find a high-grade deposit.  The idea is to not invest very much of your time into any given location until you find something that is going to pay off.  Once we find a good location through sampling, we switch gears into what we like to call “production.”  During the production phase, we try and process as much of the high-grade material as possible given our rather limited resources.

Nearly the entire focus of our Weekend Group Projects is on these two phases.  And it was no different on this particular project.  After reviewing the theory Saturday morning using a backboard demonstration, all 48 of us met after lunch out at our famous K-15A property, otherwise known as the “Mega-hole.”  While the theory is important, nothing can compare to actually doing it out along the river with experienced prospectors.

Once out on the river, the first thing we always do is provide a substantial demonstration on how to take a proper sample.  Sampling is not just about shoveling some streambed material in your pan.  You have to focus on gathering up targeted material.  Since we know that the gold on K-15A is concentrated directly on top of a special brown layer which is about a foot deep in the streambed, the best sample will be from filling our gold pan with that particular material.  We do this by first shoveling aside the material which is on top.  Once we get down to the target area, we carefully gather up the material which is in the contact zone between the two different layers.

Then we pan that material very carefully.  We need to be careful, because the sample is so small.  We cannot afford to lose a single speck of gold if we want to have an accurate look at how much gold is in the contact zone.  Sometimes a sample pan will just turn up a few specks.  Seeing those specks might prompt you to take a few more samples.  Then one of those additional samples might show a better result.  The better result might prompt you to process 25 or 50 buckets of the target material through your high-banker to see how good the area really is.  This is how high-grade deposits are found.

 Sample result Showing gold

After providing this group with a sampling and panning demonstration, we passed the pan around to show how much gold we recovered.  It was better than an average result.  Doing this provides newcomers a baseline in two important ways:

1)      They can compare how much gold they get in their own pan samples to what they saw me recover.  Then they have an idea if they are getting an acceptable result.

2)      They will be able to compare how much gold we get in our single sample pans to the amount of gold we recover when processing the same material in volume on the following day.  Tying the sample result to the production result gives a prospector judgment in what he or she is looking for during prospecting.

After seeing my result, this enthusiastic group spread out across the bar and started doing their own pan samples. Thankfully, I had eight experienced members helping me with this particular project.  While half of them were helping beginners with their panning techniques, the others set up our high-bankers for the following day. A “high-banker” is a gold recovery system which can be set up some distance from the waterway, which will process much more volume than a gold pan. This means pay-dirt does not have to be carried very far, or can actually be shoveled directly into the high-banker.

About half of the participants in this project were beginners.  So my helpers and I stayed out on the bar on Saturday afternoon until everyone out there was panning correctly.  Since many were recovering their first gold, which was theirs to keep, there were still plenty of people going hard at it when we departed.

Saturday night potluck at the Grange Hall in Happy Camp lured in most of the participants, along with plenty of other members who either live in the area or were doing their own mining programs.  There was more food to go around than we needed, and morale was very high – which always makes me happy.  We had a short meeting and ended with a prize drawing.  These weekly potlucks have been a New 49’er tradition during our busy months all the way back to our first season in 1986.

We were shifting over into a production mode on Sunday. So my helpers put their “Team Leader” hats on and split the whole bunch of people down into smaller, more efficient groups.  We started early, about 7 o’clock, so we could get most of the hard work done before the worst heat of the day was upon us.

 Connie People digging

All of the gold we recover on Sunday goes into a common bucket.  Everybody who helps will get an equal share at the end of the day.  The production focus on Sunday switches to volume of the target material.  We want to fill buckets with as much pay-dirt as we can, and process it through the high-bankers.  Having said this, there are three important points that we stress:

1)      Processing volume is most-effectively accomplished by reaching way out and dragging a bunch of material into the hole.  We call this a “top cut.”  Once in the hole, it is easy to remove oversized rocks from the loose material and shovel the remainder into buckets. Then we do the same thing again with a “mid cut.” The wider you are making the top cut, the easier it is to take apart the puzzle of rocks that are wedged together.  This method is much faster than just working one rock loose at a time, a practice we refer to as “nitpicking.” Here are some demonstrations from me of how to use a hand-pick to get optimum results:

 

 Richard, 2 buckets Three guys

2)      It is important to not fill the buckets with low-grade material.  By this, I mean loose sand or gravel on the surface seldom have enough gold to justify being processed through a high-banker.  But because beginners want to feel productive, sometimes we really have to impress upon them to stop filling buckets with non-producing material.  Since we will be feeding the high-bankers at full capacity, every bucket of worthless material will subtract from a bucket of pay-dirt.  This will directly affect how much gold we will recover at the end of the day.  The same principle applies to the material which is below the contact zone.  The amount of gold we will recover is directly related to how much of the target material that we process. Here is Ray Derrick’s explanation of the way we like to do it:

Feeding high-banker

3)      To get the most out of a high-banker recovery system, you must supply it with a steady feed.  Dumping a whole bucket in there at once will overwhelm the system, and some of your gold will wash right out into the tailings.  You can tell where maximum capacity is by watching to make sure the riffles do not get overwhelmed and pack up. Here follows Richard Krimm’s explanation of the proper way to feed a recovery system:

We normally do not break for lunch on Sunday.  It is understood that everyone will take breaks whenever they need them.  Otherwise, we just try to keep the high-bankers running.  When they run out of fuel, it gives us an opportunity to clean out a front portion of the recovery system from one of the high-bankers.  We work this down in a pan and show the gold around to all the participants.  This goes a long way to convince everyone that their effort is adding up to something good.  It also always motivates another 150 or 200 buckets of pay-dirt after we refuel.  The following video segment captured the mid-day look at how we were doing:

Pan of goldIt starts getting pretty hot out on the bar by about noon.  So that’s normally about the time we are shutting things down and going into our final clean-up stages.  By clean-up,” I mean removing the gold and other heavy concentrated material, mostly iron, from the recovery system, and going through a step-by-step process to reduce it all the way down to just the gold.  We begin this process out on the bar; but the final part, and the gold split is completed in Happy Camp.

The main purpose of these Weekend Projects is to expose our members to all of the essential parts of a successful small-scale gold mining program.  It begins with sampling. Then it switches to production. And then we go through the final clean-up, separation, weighing and gold split.  All participants are invited to participate in every step.

In all, we recovered 285.5 grains of beautiful gold. That’s about 6/10ths of an ounce, or about $1000 at today’s gold value.  Not too bad for less than four hours of production work.  There were also 23 natural gold nuggets.  There were a lot of smiling faces as we split the gold evenly amongst the participants.

Final gold

High-banking in California this Season

While Oregon is more user-friendly towards suction dredging; our best high-banking opportunities remain along our extensive properties on the Klamath River in northern California.  Therefore, Our Weekend Group Mining Projects will take place during 2012 near our headquarters in Happy Camp.  They are scheduled as follows: June 2 & 3; June 23 & 24; July 14 & 15; August 4 & 5; August 25 & 26. These events are free to all active Members, and everyone is invited to attend.  Please contact our office in advance to let us know you will be there: (530) 493-2012.

New Legal Fund Prize Drawing

On behalf of The New 49’ers and some individual members, our attorney filed a legal challenge to California’s new dredge regulations last month in concert with a “takings” claim against the State of California. If we cannot overcome the incredibly-restrictive regulations, then we will force the State to buy all of the mining properties which have been rendered valueless. Defending the rights of small-scale miners, this now places us in three separate litigations, in three separate jurisdictions. Since costs are mounting, we greatly appreciate your participation in our legal fund drawings!! 

Gold Eagle Coins

We will be giving away 15 prizes in our new legal-fund raiser:

Grand Prize: 1-ounce American Gold Eagle
Four ¼-ounce American Gold Eagles
Ten 1/10th-ounce American Gold Eagles

The drawing will take place at our weekly potluck in Happy Camp on Saturday, 7 July (2012).

The girls in our office automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution that we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets, etc).  There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win. Contributions can be called in to our office at (530) 493-2012, or they can be mailed to The New 49’ers, P.O. Box47, Happy Camp, CA 96039.  Or you can do it on our web site by going here:  Make a Donation

2012 Group Insurance Policy

All Members are eligible to sign up for $10,000 of accidental medical Insurance which covers you while camping, prospecting for gold, and also during any activities which we sponsor. Dental accidents are included, along with $2,500 for accidental death or dismemberment.  The policy has a $100 deductable.  It is an annual policy which extends through January of 2013.  This insurance is available for $30 per year, per person. More information can be found here.

Sign up for the Free Internet Version of this Newsletter: We strongly encourage you to sign up for the free on line version of this newsletter.  The Internet version is better, because you can immediately click directly to many of the subjects which we discuss; because the on line version is in full color; because we link you directly to locations through GPS and Google Earth technology; and because you can watch the free video segments which we incorporate into our stories.

 

The New 49’ers Prospecting Association, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012
www.goldgold.com

 

New 49'er Newsletter

SECOND  QUARTER, APRIL 2012                                VOLUME 26, NUMBER 4

Clean UpDiggers

I have been managing these weekend group mining projects for the past 26 years. All this experience has taught me that every single group has its own chemistry.  There are probably a lot of different things that contribute to this; the different personalities, the weather, how the bigger world is doing at the moment, and perhaps even how I am feeling.  But every group is different.

We always begin with a morning of theory on Saturday.  This gives me an opportunity to size up the participants and the group-chemistry, organize things with my experienced helpers and provide a presentation of the long-proven procedures that we have developed to find gold.  We call this a  sampling plan.

These days, we do the initial meeting and the morning presentation at the Grange Hall in Happy Camp.  Nearly everyone was already present there when I showed up at about 9 AM.  And I knew even before I got out of my car that this was going to be a lively bunch.  They were already having a lot of fun.  This is all good; because my seasoned helpers and I know how to direct all that enthusiasm into the hard work which would be necessary later in the day, and especially on Sunday.

After going over the weekend plans and covering the theory on sampling, I always take time to answer everyone’s questions before we break for lunch.  But this time, I had to cut it short with this lively group or we would not have had time for lunch!  I know the participants are really into it when they are asking all the right questions.

DiggingRich Krimm

Saturday afternoon found us all up at k-15A, otherwise known as the Mega Hole.  This is one of our more popular high-banking areas.  By high-banking, I am talking about mining up out of the water.  We also have a very popular camping area at K-15A.  This makes it convenient for participants to just walk down to the gravel bar where we are doing the project.  K-15A is quite a long mining property.  Over the many years, we have done plenty of weekend and week-long mining projects there, on both sides of the river.  The property has been very productive for us, and we are lucky to have it.

On this particular project, we were up towards the upper-end of the property.  We have been doing these weekend events there, because boats are not required when we have larger groups, and because there is this very distinct brown layer which is usually only a about a foot deep into the gravel bar.  We get lots of nice gold right off the top of that layer!

I am lucky to have a bunch of experienced members who enjoy coming out and helping me to organize these events.  With their help, we split the larger group into smaller ones, each with one of my helpers as a team leader.  The team leaders went out and did some sampling in advance on Saturday morning, while the rest of us were still busy at the Grange Hall.  So, when we showed up out on the gravel bar on Saturday afternoon, my helpers just pointed to several hot-spots where I could provide a sampling and gold panning demonstration.  It’s always better if I turn up some gold in the sample.  This gets everyone motivated to find more gold!

Participants get to keep any gold they find on Saturday afternoon. So after seeing the gold from my sample, this group went right to work.  It wasn’t long before people started showing me the gold in their pans.  For many, these weekend projects provide the first gold they ever found.  “First gold” is always the most precious!  I still remember my first gold. It didn’t come this easy!  But it was still a very magic moment. So I enjoy this part as it unfolds, sharing the “first gold” moments with others, watching for the sparkle in their eye at the first moment of realization.  I love my job!

 RestingUSA Scarf

Really, we were just going through the motions out there on Saturday afternoon.  My helpers had already confirmed where we were going to dig on Sunday.  So we devoted the afternoon assisting beginners to dial in their gold panning techniques. It’s not that panning is difficult.  It just takes a little practice to teach your body the correct motions.  This bunch was catching on fast!

As the afternoon progressed, we set up the high-bankers close to the places where we would dig pay-dirt.  We wanted everything to be ready for an early start on Sunday morning.  This is because we like to get most of the physical work done before the summer heat of the day sets in.

A high-banker is a portable sluicing device, like an aluminum trough with baffles (called riffles) along the bottom edge. Since gold is 5-to-6 times heavier than normal gravel and sand, it gets trapped in the riffles, while the lighter material is washed through by water. Because water is pumped to it, the recovery system of a high-banker can be set up close to the dig-site.  This eliminates the need to pack the pay-dirt closer to water.

After getting everything set up, my helpers and I left to go get set up for the evening meal.  There were a bunch of participants lagging behind out there still panning for gold.  Some of them probably stayed until dark!

Nearly everyone met up back at the Grange Hall that evening to participate in our Saturday evening pot-luck.  These pot-lucks are a tradition that dates all the way back to 1986 when we started The New 49’ers.  Mostly, they are just get-togethers.  Lots of members come.  We have a great meal, enjoy each other’s company, exchange helpful information and do a prize drawing.  Mostly we just have a good time.

Workers High-banker

Almost everyone was out on the bar ahead of me on Sunday morning.  The team leaders had everyone organized, and Rich Krimm informed me that two or three hundred buckets of pay-dirt had already been processed.  This was good!  Man, there was a lot of productive activity going on.  The enthusiasm was infectious. I’m not sure I have ever seen so many people having so much fun playing in the dirt! Here are some explanations of what was going on:

Since most of the work gets done before lunch on Sunday, we just encouraged the flow of material from off the top of that brown layer, into buckets, and through the high-bankers.  The harmonious sound of picks, shovels, rocks being tossed out of the way and material being poured into the high-bankers is like music to my ears.  There was a lot of laughing and joking going around.  Morale was high out there.  This always makes me feel good!

We don’t normally shut things down for lunch on Sunday.  People just take breaks when they are ready.  We usually only stop when the water pumps run out of fuel.  This also gives us an opportunity to clean-up one of the high-grade portions a one of the high-bankers.  A “high-grader” is a smaller portion of the high-banker that recovers perhaps about 50 percent of the gold.  Because it can be cleaned up fast, you can get a good idea how an area is producing when you run production samples.  A few hundred buckets is a pretty substantial sample! 

Nuggets Onlookers3

Rich made quick work of recovering the gold from one of the high-graders. Then he made sure to take it around and show everyone out there on the work site.  You would have thought we were at a sports event the way everyone was cheering.  The hard work was really paying off!  

We actually do this on every project so everyone can see how their physical energy is being converted into Mother Nature’s most-favored treasure – gold!  This always motivates at least another few hundred buckets once the pumps get fueled up.  But on this day, the group never stopped filling buckets even while we were preparing for a second run.  They only stopped digging when they saw that others were cheering over the gold! The following video sequence captured how jacked up this bunch was: 

So that we can be completely finished by dinnertime on Sunday, with everything put away and the gold split up, we like to end off on the dig by about noon.  This was a real struggle with this group, because they just wanted to keep digging.  I imagine some of them would still be out there digging if we didn’t shut the high-bankers down!

Le Trap Onlookers

After cleaning out the high-banker recovery systems, we ran the concentrated material over a special “Le-Trap” sluice that we use to reduce the amount of iron with no loss of gold.  It is always a treat to watch the gold accumulate in the riffles.  Some of the participants were wondering where the ice cold beer was!  But that would have to come later, since we were not yet finished with our day.  Here are two video sequences which captured a Le Trap demonstration, and also the fun we were having during clean-up:

After back-filling the holes we had dug out on the bar, we made plans to meet back up at the Grange Hall where we would finish the clean-up and split the gold.

Let me just say that this is real mining.  The participants get to assist in every step along the way.  In addition to being part of the process, the experience rubs off on all the participants, allowing everyone the knowledge to do it on their own.  I demonstrate the process exactly how I do it in my own mining programs.

Final gold Onlookers2

Once we got it all separated and cleaned up, our work from several hours of hard work that morning produced 290 grains of gold, which is 6/10ths of an ounce.  That’s around a thousand dollars, and it would have bought us plenty of beer.  And pizza, too!  There were also 21 nuggets, the largest being 6 grains.  We split it all up evenly between the 43 participants, and I’m not sure I have ever seen a happier bunch of people!

High-banking in California this Season

While Oregon is more user-friendly towards suction dredging; our best high-banking opportunities remain along our extensive properties on the Klamath River in northern California.  Therefore, Our Weekend Group Mining Projects will take place during 2012 near our headquarters in Happy Camp.  They are scheduled as follows: June 2 & 3; June 23 & 24; July 14 & 15; August 4 & 5; August 25 & 26. These events are free to all active Members, and everyone is invited to attend.  Please contact our office in advance to let us know you will be there: (530) 493-2012.

New Legal Fund Prize Drawing

Gold Eagle Coins

We will be giving away 15 prizes in our new legal-fund raiser:

Grand Prize: 1-ounce American Gold Eagle
Four ¼-ounce American Gold Eagles
Ten 1/10th-ounce American Gold Eagles

The drawing will take place at our weekly potluck in Happy Camp on Saturday, 7 July (2012).

The girls in our office automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution that we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets, etc).  There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win. Contributions can be called in to our office at (530) 493-2012, or they can be mailed to The New 49’ers, P.O. Box47, Happy Camp, CA 96039.  Or you can do it on our web site by going here:  Make a Donation

We greatly appreciate help from you in regenerating our legal fund!

2012 Group Insurance Policy

All Members are eligible to sign up for $10,000 of accidental medical Insurance which covers you while camping, prospecting for gold, and also during any activities which we sponsor. Dental accidents are included, along with $2,500 for accidental death or dismemberment.  The policy has a $100 deductable.  It is an annual policy which extends through January of 2013.  This insurance is available for $30 per year, per person. More information can be found here.

Sign up for the Free Internet Version of this Newsletter: We strongly encourage you to sign up for the free on line version of this newsletter.  The Internet version is better, because you can immediately click directly to many of the subjects which we discuss; because the on line version is in full color; because we link you directly to locations through GPS and Google Earth technology; and because you can watch the free video segments which we incorporate into our stories.

 

The New 49’ers Prospecting Association, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012
www.goldgold.com

 

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.

 

“…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.

 
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.

 

 

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.