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 GORDON ZAHARA

Several years ago, I decided to devote my time entirely to nugget hunting in northern California, giving up the other methods I was using. Being retired at a relatively early age, I had plenty of time. And so, I spent approximately six hours a day, four days a week, during the next two years, learning by trial and error what equipment to use, how to use it properly, and where to go to be the most effective with it.

After numerous requests, I have decided that this web site would be an appropriate place to pass along some of the helpful tips I’ve learned–things that will make it easier for someone who wants to get started, or improve their methods in the rewarding activity of detecting for gold nuggets.

Also, during the past several years, technology in the field of nugget detecting equipment has been improving rapidly. With the advanced technology and capabilities they put into the new designs, a prospecting metal detector (one designed specifically for finding gold nuggets) is capable of finding a piece of gold at greater depths than ever before, and some people can detect pieces weighing as little as 1/10 of a grain with ease.

When deciding on the metal detector of your choice, a few good points to remember are:

1) Seek out friends or other qualified individuals who can answer questions and show you how to use metal detectors designed for gold nugget hunting. Nugget detecting is a specialized field in itself.

2) Find a reputable equipment dealer who has a good selection of prospecting detectors. Note: All metal detectors have the capability of finding gold nuggets. But a detector designed specifically to find gold will give you a far better edge in your quest, make it easier, and more fun.

3) Have your friend or dealer bench-test various detectors for you. This will allow you to compare the depths and capabilities of the various detectors. (Please keep in mind that the degree of mineralization in the soil you’ll be working is going to affect the detector’s sensitivity and therefore your ability to find the same sized pieces. You won’t be able to find them at the same depth in the soil as you’re able to in the air.) Therefore, it is also of extreme importance to choose a detector that is going to be able to handle the heaviest mineralization possible.

4) Another helpful tip to use when selecting your detector is to know that in recent years we have generally found that the higher the operating frequency or kilohertz (khz) of a detector, the smaller the gold that can be found with that detector.

5) Upon choosing your new detector, make sure your dealer instructs you in the use of your new machine. This can be done in various ways. The best ways are by either using a test-patch (area with gold and other metal targets buried in mineralized soil), or by having the dealer take you to a gold bearing area and give you hands-on training with your new detector. You should never test a detector solely inside a building. Because the results will not be accurate, due to the materials in the walls and floors. In addition, exclusive testing there will result in your finding yourself alone in the field with your new detector and not knowing how to effectively make use of it. Because a detector’s response in the field is completely different from a “bench test.”

The following is a list of some of the metal detector accessories and tools you will need to be successful, as well as the purposes they serve to facilitate your quest:

1) Earphones: A necessity for nugget hunting. You will lose 80% of your detector’s sensitivity if you try to detect without them. They should be well padded, allowing for long periods of usage. It is also a good idea to have some type of built-in booster which adds to the depth capabilities of your detector and enhances the metallic sound of the gold.

2) Coil Cover: A small item, but quite important. It will protect the bottom and sides of the coil and give it a much longer life.

3) Digging Tools: There are many types to choose from, so find the one, or ones that best suit you.

4) Plastic Cup: To be used to separate a target from the soil by process of elimination. It should be about 4×3 inches, and slightly flexible.

5) Rake: Any type of heavy-duty rake will work. The rake is often used to eliminate soil from a paying area, a few inches at a time. This enables an electronic prospector to find deeper nuggets. Using the raking system, I have found many nuggets that I would have otherwise missed. Note: Gold nuggets are often found in patches. So where one nugget is found, many more may be located.

I feel that the above items are the most important accessories you will need. There are a great number of other products on the market, and you can determine if you need them or not after you have been detecting awhile.

Where to hunt? The best answer I can give to this question is, hunt anywhere that gold nuggets have been found in the past. In other words, any gold bearing area. Almost any research books on past mining operations and other related topics can help you locate prospective metal detecting areas. After you have located an area, you must make sure that it is not private property or already under mining claim.

Many people have trouble finding areas to metal detect for nuggets. If this is your problem, you might consider joining a mining organization.

Here are a few pointers that may help you after you have found the areas you want to metal detect.

For Desert Areas, check the following:

1) Exposed Bedrock: Gold can usually be found on bedrock, or in exposed crevices.

2) Washes: Desert gold is moved by flash floods, which create washes that may be gold bearing. The banks of washes also sometimes pay well, with nuggets that are in the process of being washed down by the infrequent flash flooding.

3) Old Dry-washing Tailings: Dry-washing equipment misses gold many times when the dirt is screened into the machine. A dry-washer does not separate wet dirt well and the gold can often flows right out into the tailings.

4) Any other desert areas where prospectors have found gold in the past. Remember–GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT–AND WHERE OTHERS HAVE FOUND IT!

For Mountain Areas, check the following:

1) Rivers & Streams: Detect all exposed bedrock on the sides of rivers and streams.

2) Old Mines: Look through tailings piles and around old stamp mills. Check roads that were used for hauling ore. Caution: Do not enter any mining tunnels. These can be extremely dangerous.

3) Hydraulic Areas and Ancient River Channels: Metal detect all exposed bedrock. Look under rock piles (watch for snakes!) Check areas where old sluice boxes were used. I’ve found that gold can be anywhere in a hydraulic area, so be sure to search these areas very carefully.

For the beginner, desert metal detecting should be considered as an excellent learning area. Since the desert has mostly flat terrain and very little mineralization in the soil, a new metal detector can be mastered more-easily here.

My last tip is to keep up-to-date on new metal detectors and accessory equipment. The metal detecting industry now realizes that the electronic prospector who hunts for nuggets is a viable public. New and even better equipment is on the horizon for us out there.

I hope this article aids you in getting started detecting for gold nuggets.

The following is a list of recommended books that can provide further information on nugget hunting: 1) “Finding Gold Nuggets With a Metal Detector,” by Jim Normandi. 2) “Follow The Dry-washers,” by Jim Straight. 3) “Magnificent Quest,” also by Straight. 4) “Modern Electronic Prospecting,” by Lagal and Garrett and 5) “Successful Nugget Hunting,” by Pieter Heydelaar.

 

BY SAMUEL T. LONG

No matter what the size or nature of our mining operations, we all have one common procedure to deal with—the cleaning up of our concentrates. Sometimes, the process of separating the gold from the other sand and gravel is a tedious task. But, there is a way to make it relatively quick and easy.

This final step, before the gold is totally isolated, is of no less importance than the prior steps used to recover the gold laden concentrates themselves. Many times, in a mining operation, much thought and energy have been used to successfully reach the clean-up stage, only to squander the last remaining hours of the afternoon or early evening on an inappropriate and/or wasteful system of final gold clean-up. In fact, some operations take so long to complete this stage that they’re not started until the next day!

Final clean-up of concentrates should take minutes, not hours. If you can’t go from sluice box concentrates to gold in a bottle in less than an hour, your technique needs to be examined, then streamlined.

We all know the direct relationship between time, effectiveness, and gold. Its no secret, for instance in dredging, that the more time you spend during the day pumping gravel, the more gold you’ll have at the end of the day. All the effort you spend on plug-ups, throwing and re-throwing rocks, moving the dredge, winching unnecessary boulders, and all the other odds and ends “Murphy” continually throws at you, essentially steals valuable time from operating the suction nozzle. This, in turn, logically lessens the amount of gold in your box on any given day. So, an important aspect of successful gold production is efficiency. Isolated efficiency used mainly during diving time is not enough. Productivity, in every aspect of your over-all mining operation, is vital for success. Clean-up of concentrates is no exception.

Before we go any further, lets look at a few clean-up methods that, for one reason or another, don’t prove to be satisfactory. Maybe yours is in this short list:

1. Panning: Simple, direct, and economical. But time consuming. It works after a fashion, but obviously a prospector’s sampling tool, at best. If you do use a pan to do final clean-up, you will find the process goes much better if you first classify your concentrates through a series of mesh-screens and pan each size-fraction separately.

2. The Tweezer Method: Again—simple, direct, economical and EXTREMELY time consuming. Actually, it works great for the first eight or ten pieces of gold you pick up. Its the next two hundred pieces, or 20,000 pieces, and your unasked for double vision, that puts the “kibosh” to this method. This method is unworkable as soon as you begin finding more than just gold traces in your sampling.

3. Spiral Gold Wheels: Here’s the backbone of many clean-up operations. Wheels are basically good tools at a moderate price, but can fall flat on their face when it comes to efficient use of time. Its almost impossible to classify, run, and re-run concentrates through any wheel and still break the one hour target. If you use a wheel, don’t throw away the final concentrates that remain in the bottom-edge of the wheel after all the gold has climbed out. Because there always seem to be pieces of gold that will not climb out! Save those concentrates for another day…

4. Shaker Tables: Very effective for fixed commercial operations. But generally too bulky to support portable sampling programs. They are also quite expensive. Unless you already own one, you can still be effective without it.

This is not to say that there is only one correct way to clean-up; and if you’re not doing it that way, that you’re doing it wrong. This is just to show you a fairly quick, cost-effective, simple way to separate gold from your sluice box concentrates; a method by which you can cut your clean-up time from two hours to less than one hour with only the addition of a few simple tools and techniques:

1. A very important part of any efficient clean-up method is what percentage of the sluice that you are cleaning up. No matter what size sluice you have, or how it came from the factory, it is imperative that you re-design it so it’s possible to clean the top 20-25% of it without disturbing the rest of the sluice.

We call this the “high-grader.” Because it is extremely heavy, eighty percent or more of the gold will regularly be in the top 20% of the sluice box. Given this fact, there’s no need to spend extra time and effort cleaning the entire box each time you clean-up. All that extra time could be much-more effectively invested in the sampling or production-phases of your program! On an average, clean the top section every day, the middle section every two weeks and the back section every month or so. You have to be flexible about this, depending upon how rich the gravel is that you are mining. This saves a lot of work while still retaining all the gold. Design your sluice in individual sections and clean them on a staggered basis.

2. Remove the riffles and miners moss with concentrates from the top section. Rinse the riffles and thoroughly wash out the miners moss into a utility tub. A flat kitchen-counter scraper works well to clean the bottom of the sluice. Immediately replace the miners moss and riffles.

3. Using another utility tub, transfer the concentrates from one to another via a 4-mesh classifying screen.

Check the top of the screen for nuggets before discarding the over-sized material. You never know when one will appear. This 4-mesh classification should cut the amount of concentrates by around fifty percent. Dump the classified material into a five gallon bucket. Now you have gone from five gallons of concentrates to two in only about ten minutes.

4. Start the dredge and run it at low idle. Set the black plastic mini sluice (or the Le’ Trap plastic clean-up sluice) in the top of the sluice. The moving water will hold it in place. Note here that it is counter productive to use a longer plastic sluice instead of a small one. That’s because you’ll end up with twice as much material, but no more gold. The object of this step is to get the material down to a workable amount for final clean-up. If you use too large a mini sluice, it will take another step to reach this proper volume. While it is probably not necessary, we like to lace the one-foot square of miners moss under the tail of the mini sluice in such a manner that all material washing out must travel over the moss. This is to catch any fine flakes of gold that may be washed out of the sluice. However, because the process is usually done inside the sluice box of your bigger recovery system, there is little chance any gold can be lost anyway.

5. Carefully drop the concentrates a handful at a time into the top of the mini sluice.

Adjust the water flow via the throttle so that the concentrates are gently carried away while leaving the gold in the top few riffles. We have found that this step goes much quicker and simpler than using a gold wheel or gold pan. The process is so efficient, we have found that running the concentrates through the mini-sluice twice is a waste of time.

6. At this point you’ve only spent about twenty minutes and you’re more than half-way to having completely separated the gold from the rest of the concentrates. Next, rinse out the square of miners moss and the contents of the mini sluice into a bucket.

Notice there is only a fraction of a pan’s worth of concentrates remaining. These can be dried out in a small, steal gold pan over an open flame (outside in a well-ventilated area), screened, and carefully separated with a gentle blowing process on paper. The best demonstration I have ever seen of this final process of separation can be found in Dave McCracken’s video, “Successful Gold Dredging Made Easy.” Who said clean-up had to be tedious and time-consuming using expensive tools? So far, we haven’t even left the river and we’ve gone from nearly five gallons of concentrates to less than a cup in only twenty-to-thirty minutes. This easy technique, coupled with the dry final separation, is all you need to make your operation more enjoyable and successful.

Expertise in clean-up demands an approach that will deliver all of the gold in your concentrates in less than an hour. Anything longer than this is a waste of time and energy which definitely subtracts from your over-all mining success and enjoyment. As you know, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. While streamlining clean-up may not drastically improve total gold quantity, it is surely a step in the right direction. Gained insight concerning your clean-up methods may reveal ineffectiveness in other areas as well; the sum of which very well could mean the distinct difference between success and failure in your operation.

 
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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!

 

By Dave McCracken

Raw gold creates an impulse inside of you that makes you want to possess it, to own it for yourself, to hoard it away, to treasure it as your own!

Dave Mack

Not too long ago, while dredging with partners on the Klamath River in northern California, we located a very rich deposit, sometimes recovering as much as 24 ounces of gold per day. This was one of the best gold deposits I personally have ever located!

While some people are skeptical about the subject, the condition of “gold fever” really does exist. I know, because I have felt the heat and confusion on more than one occasion. I have written in the past that gold fever affects different people in different ways, depending upon the basic nature of their/your personalities. How much gold that is being uncovered also can determine the degree to which gold fever strikes. Some people get excited over recovering just a few flakes! What would happen if they uncovered untold riches out of a bonanza deposit; how would these same people react?

When my partners and I uncovered this very rich deposit, we started by finding about two ounces during the first 30 minutes of sampling. Because it looked so good, we decided to drop back on the pay-streak several hundred feet and dredge another sample hole. We recovered a pound of gold the first day we uncovered bedrock. There were pockets of gold deep enough and big enough that we stirred our fingers in it! We undoubtedly could have doubled our production if we had chosen to dredge efficiently, rather than spend most of our time googooling around together on the bottom, screaming at the top of our lungs, patting each other on the back, and uncovering the gold as slowly as possible to prolong the incredible excitement of uncovering a real treasure.

After all, in the end the gold gets traded for money and spent or locked away. And all you have left is the memory of having found it. That is a memory I personally will never forget. It is a memory of an adventure that few people on this planet ever get a chance to experience. It is an experience that gets into your blood, goes directly to your heart and soul, and gives you a case of gold fever that will probably never be cured!

I have heard people, after locating rich deposits, express the wish that they did not have partners with whom they had to share. For me, I am really glad I had partners to share this experience with. Because the experience was so powerful, with so much generation of emotional energy, that it is almost impossible to express it to others who were not there.

More recently, while consulting in Central America, I had an opportunity to get my first look at real gold treasure! I have spent some time looking for it during the past and spent a lot of time thinking about being in the big treasure hunting game, but this was my first chance to see the real thing as it had come out of the ground. Wow!!

I saw gold and jade artifacts which had been created five, maybe six, centuries ago by people who had not even discovered the wheel! Artifacts so rich in detail, beauty and antiquity that they made my heart pound so hard that I could actually hear it. My body-heat came up enough to run sweat down my back. And my emotions energized to the maximum limit just at the thought of owning such things. No gold deposit ever affected me in this way!

I am told this is called “treasure fever”.

Just like many people who get into gold mining, but never experience a really significant gold deposit, I think perhaps a lot of people get into treasure hunting, but never get a chance to really experience “treasure fever” the way it can really be. It is one thing to think about it, speculate over it, plan on it, and experience it on a subjective level. It is entirely another thing to confront priceless treasure head on, to find it unexpectedly—even when you were planning on it. Then you have to deal with the reality of having uncovered incredible riches.

There is something excitingly-beautiful about the aesthetic wave-length of gold as you locate it in its natural from. It creates an impulse inside of you that makes you want to possess it, to own it for yourself, to hoard it away, to treasure it as your own.

But finding gold which has been refined, perfected and crafted into artistic, beautiful, rich artifacts which were valued and hoarded and lost by people long ago, adds a value of antiquity which intensifies the personal emotional desire to keep the pieces for yourself. This is treasure fever!

I sympathize for treasure hunters or gold prospectors who are not prepared for it, who have not organized their program well, and who are (un)lucky enough to stumble upon real treasure!

I say “lucky,” because most treasure hunters today who find really significant treasures are very well organized, utilize modern equipment, and follow proven techniques. They generally are prepared for treasure when they find it. But, even the most successful and experienced treasure hunters will readily admit that they generally were not prepared for the amount of confusion and greed which resulted from uncovering real treasure!

Gold and treasure will test your personal integrity in a serious way!

While treasure fever, or gold fever, can have many negative connotations, it can also have a very positive affect upon people. Treasure fever adds spice to life, gives you purpose and makes life more interesting.

As gold prospectors, we actually experience the adventures most others only touch on lightly by watching the television!


 
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This story first appeared in Gold & Treasure Hunter Magazine May/Jun, 1997 on Page 22.
This issue is still available! Click here.

By Dave McCracken

“It takes a huge amount of streambed in motion to cause large portions of the river to form new high-grade deposits.”

Dave Mack

It only takes a small amount of water force to move sand-sized particles downstream in a riverbed. It takes more water force to move pea-sized gravel downriver, and even more force to move baseball-sized rocks, and so on. It also takes a greater amount of water force to move larger particles of gold, than it does to move smaller ones – just like other streambed materials.

There is a massive amount of gold in gold-bearing waterways which is so small in particle-size that it floats in a state of suspension in the river-water itself. Some amount of gold is moving downstream in any gold-bearing river at any given time. An increase in water-flow increases the amount of streambed material and gold that is moved downstream.

Normal winter storms, for the most part, can move large amounts of fine and ultra-fine gold down the gold-bearing rivers. But this gold is likely to be so widely dispersed throughout the overall river that it is of little value to the modern river-prospector.

Today’s modern river-prospector is mostly interested in that gold which lies inside and underneath naturally-formed streambeds. For the most part, this gold will remain locked in place until a storm of major proportions comes along. Such a storm can cause so much water force in the river that large sections of pre-existing streambeds, and the gold that is within them, are swept up and washed downstream.

When a storm or snow-runoff of huge dimensions comes along and creates so much force of water flow that large portions of the riverbed are torn up and washed down along the bedrock, large portions of the bedrock will also get pounded loose, and any gold which was trapped in that bedrock will become washed further downstream along with the rest of the streambed material.

“Rough bedrock makes the best gold traps.”

The amount of gold still sitting inside streambeds of proven gold-bearing rivers is incalculable; there is a whole lot of it! Much was left behind in low-grade deposits which the early miners were not capable of mining at a profit. While there may been a lot of gold in some sections of river during the gold-rush years, it might also have been too widely dispersed or sitting underneath too much overburden to make the gold worth mining in those days. Other very rich deposits were missed because they were out of sight. Without processing every bit of streambed (which they did not have the capability to do), the old-timers simply could not find all of the gold deposits that existed during their time. A lot of gold that was excavated was never recovered. It was washed out of the high streambed deposits, through sluice boxes, and right back into the present rivers and creeks. This was particularly true of hydraulic mining, where an estimated 59% of the gold was missed by many of the large and small operations alike.

Also, the last 150 years of erosion has washed more gold into the present rivers and streams out of higher and older streambeds, and out of some lodes that are still in existence.

In taking all of this into consideration, we are talking about a lot of gold still existing in these gold-bearing rivers. In some cases, there is more gold present now than the amount that has already been mined out of them.

When a major storm occurs in a gold-bearing area and tears up large portions of streambed, a great deal of gold is set free and put into motion downriver. A fair amount of this newly-released gold, because of its superior weight, will be deposited in common areas along the riverbed. This is the type of gold that the modern gold prospector should be sampling for. The same major storm which causes enough force to tear up large portions of streambed material will also deposit most of that material into newly formed natural streambeds-even in those same areas which were once mined by the early miners.

During full flood stage, when streambed material and gold are moving free in the waterway, because it is so heavy, most of the gold will travel along a rather narrow path. This path is often referred to as the “gold line” by prospectors. Almost all high-grade pay-streaks will be located along this specific path. Therefore, the first step in prospecting is to locate where the common gold path is within the waterway. This very important principle is demonstrated by the following two video segments. Please take careful note of how the gold is attracted to the common line in the simulated river, regardless of where it is fed into the waterway:

For the most part, normal winter storms occurring in gold country do not create enough water force to do this. A winter storm might be enough to sweep up small portions of streambed in faster-moving sections of river and redeposit new streambeds in those areas, but this small amount of movement is not likely to put paying quantities of gold into play in the riverbed. It takes a huge amount of streambed in motion to place substantial amounts of gold into movement. This causes large portions of the river to form new placer deposits. Such storms occur occasionally, and are the main cause for a streambed cutting deeper into the earth as time goes along. Most gold-bearing areas have had at least one of these major storms since the early 1960’s. Alaska has major storms along with massive snow runoffs. So flood forces like this happen more often there.

When millions and millions of tons of rocks, cobbles, and boulders are being swept downstream along the bedrock foundation during a huge storm, the ground shakes and vibrates, and the river rumbles like a huge loaded freight train. After a major storm has been through an area, the plant growth, underbrush and weeds which normally grow along the river gravel bars, will be washed away. This will also be true with a lot of the growth, including trees, along the riverbanks.

It takes an incredible amount of water force to cause an entire riverbed to move downstream, but this is what it takes to form many new placer deposits in the river.

The following video was taken during the major flood storm that took place along the Klamath River in Northern California during early 1997. If you watch the footage closely, you will see places where the river is flowing down river with the full force of the storm, and you will see other places right alongside where the water is flowing in a reverse direction. This is important! Take note of the incredible amount of boiling which takes place between the different directions of flow. These are pay-streaks in the making; places within the waterway at flood stage where the river is not really flowing in either direction; but rather is boiling like a kettle of superheated water between opposing forces. Gold concentrates within these areas because there is not enough water velocity to keep it moving along. Each place along the common gold line within the waterway that a boil like this is created by the interplay of reverse-flows is where a prospector will find the high-grade pay-streaks. See how big the boiling areas are?

The earlier idea that gold drops into the river and simply is vibrated down through already formed streambeds to eventually reach bedrock and form a placer deposit is very limited in its workability. This theory does not lead a prospector into paying deposits of high-grade gold

Sometimes a storm will have enough force to move large amounts of gold, but will only move a portion of the entire streambed, leaving a lower stratum in place in some locations. When this happens, the gold moving along at the bottom of the flood-layer can become trapped by the irregularities of the unmoving (false bedrock) streambed layer lying underneath. The rocks along the surface of a lower stratum can act as natural gold traps.

Streambed layers caused by different flood storms are referred to as “flood layers.” Flood layers within a streambed are easily distinguished, because they are usually of a different color, consistency and hardness from the other layers of material within the streambed. Sometimes the bottom of a flood layer will contain more gold than is present on bedrock. Sometimes, when more than one flood layer is present in a streambed, there will be more than one layer of flood gold present, too. Gold deposits can often be found in the contact zone between the layers.

Flood layers that are caused by major flood storms are almost always found in a compacted state where the rocks and material hold together tightly and require tools to help pry them apart. In mining, we call this “hard-pack.” There is a big difference between hard-packed streambed and tailings from earlier mining activity or loose streambed material. Almost all high-grade pay-streaks will be found at the bottom of a layer of hard-pack. So it is very important that you know what it is. Please note how hard I have to work to break apart the hard-pack in one of the following 2 video segments:

The larger that a piece of gold is, the faster it will work its way down toward the bottom of a flood layer as it is being washed downstream during a flood. The finest-sized particles of gold might not work their way down through a flooding layer at all, but might remain dispersed up in the material.

So, you can run across a flood layer which has a line of the heavier pieces of gold along its bottom edge, or a flood layer which contains a large amount of fine gold dispersed throughout the entire layer. You can also run across a flood layer which contains a lot of fine gold dispersed throughout, in addition to a line of heavier gold along the bottom edge.

Not all flood layers contain gold in paying quantities for the small-sized mining operation. But in gold country, all flood layers do seem to contain gold in some quantity, even if only microscopic in size.

Some of the best areas to test for paying quantities of flood gold are where the stream or river widens out, or levels out, or changes the direction of its flow. Such places always cause the flow of water in a storm to slow up in certain locations. This can allow concentrations of gold to collect either on bedrock or in the contact zones between layers. These following important videos demonstrate the most common areas where pay-streaks are formed:

Gravel bars, especially the ones located towards the inside of bends, tend to collect gold. Flood gold in bar placers is sometimes consistently distributed throughout the entire gravel bar. Often the lower-end of a gravel bar is not as rich as the head of the bar, but the gold there can be more uniformly distributed throughout the material.

 

 

BY TOM BRYANT

Helpful Tips on Dealing with Big Rocks Underwater

Dredgers underwater

Every experienced dredger has had at least one close call with a rock that decided to ruin his (or her) day, despite the precautions he was, or thought he was using. It comes with the territory. Just like a close call in traffic, you have a while of silent thankful prayer vowing to never let that happen to you again, and then you get on with things like nothing ever happened.

If you have ever been trapped by a boulder while dredging, and are still alive to tell about it, then you will likely have a tale to tell that would make people sit up and listen.

For those of you that have never experienced it, let me try to tell you what it is like:

There is no noise, and very rarely is there any warning. A horrible, crushing weight comes down on you, like “Jaws,” and you get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as you instinctively try to pull yourself free. You try to tell yourself to keep calm, but the shock of the pain as the boulder crushes your leg or arm, joined with the realization that you have very few escape-options, makes you hyperventilate. You cannot seem to get enough air through your hookah regulator.

If your airline is also pinned under the rock, you might find yourself with no air at all! You try to pull yourself free, but there is no place to push against; and the rock is not moving. If you have not already drowned by now, or been so badly hurt that you can no longer function; reason will slowly return, and you will start thinking hard about what your resources are and what remaining options you have. “How much gas do I have left?” “Am I caught, or is a piece of my equipment caught?” “Can I use the dredge to suck away a channel to free myself?” “Where the heck is my diving partner?”

The biggest danger facing the trapped diver is time. How long until the air runs out? Your whole life is tied to your hookah airline and the dredge motor. This is a good reason to take suction dredging on with the right approach in the first place, making sure to keep all your dredging gear in a good state of maintenance and repair.

Dredgers moving bouldersA trapped diver needs time. As long as he has air and has not sustained a fatal injury from the accident, he can wait it out underwater until he starves to death. Here follow some good ideas when you find yourself dredging around big rocks. Some of these ideas will buy you time. Some will help you avoid serious problems in the first place. Some will help get you out of trouble if you are having a bad day:

1) It is always a good idea to work with a buddy.

2) Your buddy should have a source of air. If you are dredging in water that is too deep for your buddy to stand waist deep, how else can the person stay underwater to help you? This could involve an extra hookah line on the dredge and/or even a scuba tank with regulator which is ready to go in the event of an emergency.

3) Unless your buddy is the incredible hulk, you should have the basic tools for moving large rocks. At the very least, a long pry bar and a few wedges. Few people realize the great advantage that a wedge can provide. Wood and plastic wedges can sometimes be hard to use underwater, because they try to float away. I suggest having a metal wedge or two on the dredge site.

The difference between freedom and drowning can be a fraction of an inch. A wedge, hammered alongside a diver’s trapped limb, could lift or move the rock just enough for the person to break loose. A wedge can be used to prop-up the rock as you try to dredge some material away to create more room under the boulder. A wedge can be used to create a pivot-point for your pry bar. I have even heard that a wedge was used once to break-up a large rock that had trapped a gold miner. This was on dry land, but it would work underwater, as well.

4) Never leave a large rock above you in the open working face of a dredge excavation. This is a rule Dave McCracken promotes in his books and videos; it is one of the best safety tips that you can have. As long as that rock is up there hanging over you, it can work loose and do you harm. If you expose a large rock in your working face, and you do not have the ability to winch it out, then you will have to drop back and clear some bedrock where you will place it in the back of your dredge hole. Then you can dredge away material so that the rock will roll down the face of the cut and end up back in your previously-dredged hole. Follow number 5 when cutting this rock out.

5) If you must dredge away material from around a large rock that has the potential to move, then work from above the rock if possible. This can be awkward; but if you can float on the surface and move material away, you know the rock will fall down away from you. If you are above it, the rock cannot swim up and get you. Put one hand on the rock as you work around it. If that thing even moves a hair, you can feel it and will have a better chance of moving back out of range. If you have to move, move fast upwards and downstream letting the current help carry you out of range. The rock will be going forward and down. Drop the dredge nozzle! Trapped dredge nozzles cannot drown, but they can anchor a diver that is trying to get clear of danger. Keep in mind that you should not have any section of the dredge hose over or across your body when working around big rocks.

6) If you are working a cloudy hole, and you expose the large face of rock, let the water clear so you can get a good look at the thing. Alert any other divers in the hole with you to a possible dangerous rock! You might not get caught by a falling boulder, but your cobble-man further down the cut might get caught.

7) Rig up an emergency signal with your buddy up top. There are all sorts of ingenious setups for controlling the throttle on the dredge from the dredge nozzle. This is a practice which I personally believe is detrimental to fine gold recovery as a rule, but that is another article altogether. It would not be difficult to rig up an electronic or mechanical alarm system to alert someone topside. Tugging on your air hose is a common signal sys- tem, but is impractical if your buddy isn’t holding onto the hose or in view of it at all times. I have seen floating buoy systems used that do have a potential, as long as you can reach it in an emergency. It is good practice for the top-side person to put on a mask and snorkel every once in a while to check on the dredger.

Slinging Boulders 8) When winching a rock, never stay near it, especially lower in the hole than it is. Sometimes a pry bar is needed to help move the rock while winching. This is a dangerous practice. But if you think you have no other choice, then try to stay above the rock while prying. Do not winch or pry blind. Keep your eyes on that rock. If it shifts in any manner whatsoever in a way you didn’t expect, back off and wait for it to settle.

9) Sometimes a dredger will expose a section of a large rock and feel it is too risky to work around until later, when the hole is clearer or whatever. This is good common sense; but if you are in fast water, keep in mind that by exposing a portion of the rock, you have opened it up for increased erosion. You have also removed some of the structure that was holding the rock in place. The fast current could eat away the critical portion of the gravel you left to hold the rock up. If you turn your back on the rock, you could be wearing it! Always treat an exposed rock like a loaded gun. Keep your eyes on it, and unload it as soon as possible by moving it safely or working around it in such a way that it will not come down on you.

10) Never try to prop up a boulder and work under it. I have seen where a diver will dredge out sections of gravel from under a large rock, and then stick a cobble under the rock so it won’t drop as he continues to dredge away more of the supporting material. It is better to dredge a ramp down into your cut that you can roll the boulder down or winch it into. Propping boulders was a specialty of the Chinese miners in the old days, but even they lost sometimes. And, they weren’t working underwater while they took risks. The added risk is just not worth it.

11) Quite often, when working with a large dredge in shallow gravel on bedrock, a dredger will just rest the nozzle on the rock and let the face of gravel cave in and flow to the nozzle. It is easy to get so involved in watching the material flowing into the intake and trying to keep large cobbles from flowing onto the nozzle that you forget to look up at the face you are working. A large boulder stuck part way up the face can be exposed and drop in on you as you dredge away its support. Always watch the full face of your cut.

12) In some deep dredging operations, lift bags or 45-gallon drums are used to lift rocks and float them downstream out of your excavation. A 45-gallon drum is common because of the low cost. One end is cut out and cables are strung down from the open-end. When moving a rock, the drum is filled with water and allowed to sink down to the rock. The cables are attached and the drum is set up so the closed-end faces the surface. Air from an extra hookah rig is fed into the drum, and the lift created by the air-filled drum lifts the rock and floats it downstream.

It sounds easy; but in practice, it can be a lot harder than it reads. An air-filled drum will lift at least 300 lbs. It is supposed to lift 400-plus if you use mathematics. If you lift a 300-pound rock from the bottom, you have a couple of problems. How to keep it from getting away from you as it heads downstream, and how to stop it once it gets where you want it to drop — and how to do this all very safely. First, tie a line to the drum and anchor it to shore. The line may act as your steering system and will pull the drum in an arc towards the shore. This may or may not be the place you want it. To drop the rock, you want the safest way possible, and in my experience, that is a stop cock valve on the closed end. When you have the rock where you want, just crack open the valve, and the trapped air will leak out, allowing the drum and the rock sink to the bottom. You are well out of the way by floating on the surface or at least above the drum. Never swim directly above a drum full of air, as it has enough power to hurt you if it gets loose.

13) When placing the cables around the boulder for lifting, use a length of wood to push cable ends under the rock. Do not risk being caught by placing your hands down there. You may have to dredge away a couple of channels under the rock to pass cable through. Follow the above rules when doing so. When lowering the rock into place, try to set it down so you can pullout the cable. You may have to set the rock down on a couple of cobbles, but keep in mind the support may be wobbly as you try to remove cable. Post a warning sign at your dumpsite to warn divers away from potential loose rocks at least for the first season. The spring floods will have a tendency to settle the rocks into more stable configurations. The air-filled drums are great as long as you have deep enough water, and are not fighting the current as you wrestle them into place. If you have any sort of current, you will have to winch boulders. Post your pile of winched rock too, as it can be unstable for the unwary. When working underwater around your rock dump, keep the potential for instability in mind. Do not stand on any rock that could slide or move or you could be right into the situation which you were trying to avoid.

The above rules are a few that I have used and I have not had a problem, yet. Close calls do not count! There are others that could apply to specialized dredging situations, and it would be a real benefit to hear other people’s ideas for good safety practice. If we had enough input, a small manual could be compiled which would benefit all of us dredgers.

For those of you foolish enough to work around big rocks solo, the question is: “Why the heck didn’t I bring a buddy?”

 

By Sam Radding

 

Sam RaddingTime, like the river in front of our camp, takes some interesting twists. Some years back, I sat on a boulder by a small creek with a fishing rod in one hand and a gold pan in the other. I can still remember wondering whether I looked as foolish as I felt. Was I actually going to put some dirt into the pan and try my hand at gold mining? — Or was I just going to go fishing?

I guess most would-be miners come to a point like this. Although there was a lot to learn about gold prospecting, the knowledge did seem to come easily to me. I have always been a do-it-yourself person; and within two years, I was already building small-scale mining equipment for several shops in southern California.

Sniping 1For me, building the equipment, and showing others how and where to use it, widened the pleasures found in our gold mining adventures. Since then, some part of every prospecting trip has been devoted to showing at least one beginner how it all works.

A case in point happened over our last three sniping trips to the Mother Lode. Sniping has two related meanings in a mining sense. To the old-timer, sniping meant using light, portable equipment to work the high-grade deposits along the banks of gold-bearing streams and rivers. These banks were sampled quickly. When a suitably-rich deposit was found, it was worked as fast as possible and the miner was off to the next spot.

Today, sniping also means working gold-bearing waters with a mask and snorkel and a few hand tools. Higher-grade spots are still worked quickly and the miner is off to the next hot spot. The equipment must be light, because the sniper usually has to cover a large area.

Sniping 2Over the years, I have gravitated to this type of mining. There is nothing quite like the thrill of spotting gold sitting on the exposed bedrock, right there for the picking. This is where my love of sniping, joy in teaching, and my friend Howie all came together.

We first met Howie at the Mineral Bar Campground on the North Fork of the American River. We pulled into our camp spot and within an hour there was Howie, the itinerant camp-greeter. He was living out of his old Dodge van and finding a little gold with his gold pan.

Sniping 3Over the next few days, Howie watched me don my wetsuit and head up the river. In the evening, he would watch me clean up the gold. On the third evening, I asked if he would like to try his hand at sniping. I would supply the tools and a day’s instruction. As it turned out, we worked together for about four days. In that time, Howie learned to look for bedrock cracks, but not just any cracks. We wanted cracks that were fed by other features surrounding them. Low spots and shallow channels were examined for cracks. Areas downstream from large obstructions, like trees and boulders, were worked. Any patch of broken or rough bedrock was investigated. We hand-fanned away shallow overburden, looking for hidden gold-bearing spots. There were a lot of places to look!

Sniping 4We found lots of flake-gold and a few small gold nuggets by splitting small cracks with my four-pound hammer and a one-inch chisel. We cleaned other spots with small hook tools. At times, we just picked the flakes off the bedrock with our fingers.

By the end of the fourth day, Howie had the basics down, but he was still leaving a lot of gold in the spots he worked. The best I could do was to tell him to be more thorough in the areas that showed good potential. Those tiny cracks can hold as much gold as the larger, easier ones do; and there are a lot more of them.

One year later, we met again. Howie’s old van was now a truck, but camping still was home. We worked together for a few days, and I did see progress. He was finding better spots and working them more diligently, but he was still leaving some easy gold for me to find when I checked his spots.

Gold from snipingThat was last year. This year, Howie is an accomplished sniper. A few hours spent together in the water proved that. Somehow, between this year and last, Howie got thorough. At an evening get-together, Howie turned to me and quietly said “I really have gotten better at sniping.” I already knew that. The gold in his bottle said a lot.

If this type of mining seems appealing, don’t just sit on a boulder with a fishing rod in one hand and a pan in the other. Find yourself an old wetsuit, mask, snorkel, crack hammer, a few crack hooks, and jump in. As soon as you uncover your own first piece of gold, you will know how I feel about sniping.

If you find me out mining on the river, I will always have a little time to talk. See you out there!