Since I have been visiting old gold mines and gold mining areas and gold claim locations I figured I ought to devote some time to gold prospecting. Bear in mind I am strictly referring to recreational prospecting. I always carry a gold pan in my backpack and practically always do a bit of half hearted panning on most hikes. I guess if I ever actually found a speck of gold my efforts would get ratcheted up to a more serious category. I always was a rock hound and one time about a century ago I even semi-seriously considered becoming a geologist. I guess even back then I should have been more serious because studying wasn’t my strong suit and I settled for a minor in geography where all I had to do was memorize stuff. Definitely easier than studying. Anyway gold wasn’t worth such a ridiculous amount back then and I figured the 49ers already picked up most of it anyway so why bother. It turns out that those old boys didn’t find it all. In fact some experts estimate that there is more unfound gold than gold that has already been found. Okay I suspect some of those experts are selling mining equipment and claims and maps to lost gold mines but even if they are half right that still leaves a lot of the yellow shiny stuff out there somewhere. You just have to look harder because the easy to find gold really has already been found. That means getting educated.
http://www.prospectorsparadise.com/side-about-gold/side-geology.html This is an informative website concerning the geology of gold. The following is also taken from the same source: Gold is a relatively rare native metallic element and it ranks 58th in abundance among the 92 natural elements that make up the earth’s crust. Gold is one of the most wildy distributed elements and has been commercially mined in every continent except Antarctica. It has been located on 90% of the earths surface. Thirty-two states have recorded significant commercial production. Recreational gold prospectors can expect to find gold in practically every state.
Okay you got the gold bug and are poking around out in the boondocks. What are you looking for? Nice shiny gold nuggets, flecks, grains, etc. Guess what? Not all gold ore looks like gold. You better look at some pictures on this website: http://nevada-outback-gems.com/prospect/gold_specimen/Gold_ores.htm
Where can you prospect for gold in Arizona? This website has some ideas: http://nevada-outback-gems.com/prospecting_info/Arizona_Prospecting.htm I suggest reading up on Arizona mining history and then going to the areas where gold was found already. You could also join one of several prospecting clubs that hold claims for their members to work. These clubs charge a membership fee but you get to keep all the gold you find. Here are links to some of them: http://www.arizonagoldprospectors.org/
You might want to go it alone. How do you find out if there is a mining claim on the area you want to prospect? Start by visiting: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/res/pub_room.html You definitely don’t want to be prospecting on somebody else’s claim without their permission. Some of these guys still pack guns so you don’t want to rile them up. Usually there are some claim markers but sometimes they get run over and knocked down or a flash flood carries them away. So get a good map and locate your prospective prospecting area and then do a record search at the local BLM office or online if you figure out how to do it. So far I’m having mixed results so good luck with that. You need to get the legal land description (LLD) and one place to find that is at Geo-communicator. Here you can find section numbers and range and township numbers which is how land in practically every state is described. http://www.geocommunicator.gov/blmMap/Map.jsp?MAP=SiteMapper
So what happens if you find a great place and want to claim it so nobody else can come in and mine the gold you know is there? You could file your own claim. How do I file a mining claim? Get some stakes and stick em in the ground—no wait you probably ought to read what this website says first. http://www.blm.gov/lr2000/about.htm#MC
Whew! This is a bunch of info. to absorb. We aint done yet though. Nope you still have to learn how to use a metal detector if you are going nugget shooting; or get a high banker or some kind of dry washer thing-a-ma-bob that separates the gold from the dirt with no or very little water. Remember we are in the desert so using sluice boxes that require plenty of water probably isn’t going to work out. Remember all of these devices including the simple gold pan work because gold is heavier than practically everything that is found with it. The heavy stuff works itself to the bottom and the lighter stuff is shaken or washed or blown away.
Actually the same principle naturally accumulated gold deposits so placer miners found gold in places that running water slowed down and dropped the gold it was carrying. This gold was weathered out of a lode deposit somewhere upstream. Miners found these lode deposits which were usually in veins or streaks in exposed rock layers and followed them underground. The gold was originally deposited in these veins by natural occurring geological processes that forced gold rich material located in the earth’s mantle up into the earth’s crust. Yeah, this is beginning to look like studying.
I read somewhere that there is enough gold in the earth’s mantle to cover the entire surface of the earth several inches deep, or was that several feet? Whichever, that’s a gob of gold. All we have to do is dig down a few hundred miles to get to it. Of course if people ever do something impossible like that then there would be so much gold that it wouldn’t be worth much anymore. So we have to be content with finding what nature left in the crust.
Recreational gold prospecting is what people with a lot of time to kill do. It’s all about the thrill of the hunt. It can be hard work and it can be expensive if you buy some of the high tech gadgets on the market. Don’t do it if you think you are going to get filthy rich because you probably only have as good a chance as winning the lottery. Do it because it is fun!
Remember I said gold prospecting can be expensive. You can do it pretty cheaply too. I use a couple gold pans I bought thirty years ago for a couple bucks. Then I cobbled together a classifying screen out of left over stuff I already had. Same with the rocker I built out of scrap lumber that was lying around in the back yard. Okay I admit I was out there considering throwing this stuff away because somebody told me I better start cleaning up the backyard. I hate throwing stuff away so there you have it. The tools I already had because a long time ago I actually worked for a living. I bought a bunch of these powerful magnets years ago because I liked playing around with black sand which turns out to be mainly magnetite. I found the black sand when I was pretending to pan for gold. It’s heavy too but not as heavy as gold. The only thing lacking is a good 4X4 vehicle that I don’t need to worry about banging up. Translation: an old beater 4X4 pickup. I’m working on it. Stay tuned.
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