5 Tips for Finding More Placer Gold

If you're a recreational or small-scale miner who is disappointed with your current results and want to find more placer gold, then consider the following tips I've outlined here as "polite" suggestions:

1. Work Harder

You are not going to recover very much gold anytime, anywhere if you are lazy or continually take the path of least resistance when you are out in the field. Face the facts here. Gold mining is very hard work and those flakes, fines, and nuggets are not going to jump into your gold pan out of the clear blue.

If you want more gold you must expend additional effort to get more gold, pure and simple. And you won't do it by plopping your rear on an upturned 5-gallon bucket and watching others work. Trust me on this. In 30 years of mining in all sorts of terrain and conditions, I've seen plenty of gold recovered. And the folks who always got the most gold over time were, like it or not, those who consistently worked the hardest.

2. Go Where Others Don't or Won't

I've mentioned this tip in at least one other post but it holds just as true here. If you are a creature of habit (which most humans are, by the way), you will tend pursue your mining endeavors in easily accessible areas or locations. This is OK of and by itself, but in the long run your gold poke will not be greatly increased because every other Tom, Dick, and Harriet is working the same, plowed-over ground that you are currently working.

Try doing a bit of research first and identify gold-bearing areas that may be a bit more remote or harder to reach than those you now currently mine. Perhaps this means driving farther or taking unpaved roads. Maybe it means you'll have to pack yourself and your gear in. If that's what it takes and your age, health, and physical condition permit it, then that's what you should do. There's a simple axiom here: the easier it is to reach a gold-mining locale, the greater the crowds, the more the ground has been "beaten to death," and the less gold you will recover in the long run.

3. Sample Properly

This is another refrain you've heard from me before. So don't do like many recreational miners do, which is to set up mining gear (sluice, dry washer, dredge, and so on) and immediately start running material without first having sampled properly to get an actual, based-in-solid-fact idea of where the best gold values are in your mining location. Just because a section of bench gravels "looks good" doesn't mean it will produce much gold, no matter how many hours you run that material and no matter how strong your sense of wishful thinking is. Sample first, then mine. Want me to repeat that? Sample first, then mine.

4. Work to Bedrock Whenever Possible

This tip has nothing to do with rocket science whatsoever. It's as straightforward and as simple as can be. Invariably, bedrock is where you will find the best gold in most locations, wet or dry (although dry placers often throw a monkey wrench in the works due to intermittent water flow). The problem is that bedrock in most gold-bearing locations is often covered by a layer (or successive layers) of overburden rock and gravel that can be as shallow as 6 inches, or as deep as 20 feet or more.

No, I don't expect you to shovel or dredge off 20 feet of overburden (but imagine the potential gold finds if you did!). That's too much work for one person, including myself. But I think you get the idea here. You always have choices out in the field when mining. You can look at those easy-to-reach bench gravels and say to yourself "well, I probably won't get a lot of gold there but I'll probably get some, and I won't have to break my back doing it" or you can instead tell yourself "that overburden may take me more than one or two trips to clear, but when I do I bet there's some nice gold sitting down there in those cracks and crevices."

Have dreams of finding good amounts of coarse gold pieces, larger flakes, and maybe some small-to-medium sized nuggets? Then start clearing off that overburden and get down to bedrock. And once there, clean every crack, crevice, and fissure you see so completely that they shine.

5. Move More Material

Want to know a secret that the big mining companies have known for a long, long time? Move more material. Large mining concerns can profitably work ground (depending on the spot price of gold) that carries less than 1 troy ounce of gold per ton of material processed! What does that mean to you, the small-scale or recreational miner? It means the same thing, only on a much, much smaller scale.

If you want more gold, move more gold-bearing dirt. That is, process larger amounts of gold-bearing gravel through your equipment, wet or dry, motorized or not. If the area you're working averages, let's say, 2-3 pennyweights of placer gold per cubic yard of material processed, then the more cubic yards you process over time the more gold you will recover. More material, more gold. Beautiful in its simplicity, isn't it?

Have you already noticed that these 5 tips are interrelated and how they complement one another? Yes, you do? Very good! I'm proud of you. Remember, there is always a method to my madness here at "Bedrock Dreams" and my ultimate goal is to provide you with up-to-date, useful information that will make you a more successful and productive miner.

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2008