Gold Drywashing Tips, Part 1

As Fall's cooler weather approaches many small-scale and recreational miners will be packing up their drywashers and heading for those desert gold placer areas they had to abandon during the intense heat of Summer. For those of you out there looking to do just that, here are some dry washing tips I think will help you become even more successful in your dry placer mining endeavors:

Don't Forget the Gas, Spare Parts, and Tools

If you're planning on running a motorized dry washer of any type, make sure you carry at least one replacement part for the major components of your machine minus the motor, that is (come to think of it, if you have a spare motor, bring that along too). These include, but are not limited to belts, pulleys, batteries, spark plugs, filters, batteries, hoses, and assorted hardware.

Along with those spare parts bring an adequate tool set for effecting any and all field repairs and plenty of gas to run that Briggs & Stratton engine that powers your puffer dry washer (if you own a motorized puffer, that is). I learned the tool lesson the hard way at Southern California's Potholes District way back in the early 1980s when a successful run of 2 days was shut down by the simple lack of an allen wrench set. What's the bottom line here? Like the boy scouts like to say, "be prepared."

"Did You Bring the Water?"

God forbid you should have this question asked you by your mining partner after arriving on site in the middle of the Mojave after a 4-or 5- hour drive. Worse yet is asking yourself this question. So always load up plenty of water before heading out to dry washer territory. Double check and crosscheck and verify that you not only have more water than you'll probably need, but also that you actually loaded it into the truck or van. Not only does your personal health and safety depend on this, so does your ability to pan those gold concentrates when it comes time for "cleaning up."

Look for What the Oldtimers May Have Missed

The oldtimers, bless their desert gold hearts, were very good at what they did, but they weren't always that good. Quite often their dry placer mining activities were notoriously inefficient. What does this mean to you? It means that running older, coarser dry washer tailings through your own dry washer may prove more productive ($$$) than you can presently imagine. Even though I am not a tailings pile "fanatic" myself, I've seen some pretty exceptional finds recovered from old dry wash tailings at places that were snubbed or ignored by other miners because they were deemed "worked out."

So one of the first things you should do with your little puffer, or your little electrostatic, or your little hand-crank dry washer is spend an hour or 2 or 3 sampling some of these oldtimer tailings to see what turns up (I do as a matter of course). It may be very little and if it is, leave those tailings for better ground. But after a few test runs you just might be surprised to find some coarse pieces, flakes, and maybe even a small nugget or two staring back at you in the upper part of your riffle tray. If this is the case, keep shoveling and downplay your finds when asked if you're getting anything good. Why? The very first commandment of mining (and treasure hunting in general) is this:

"Thou shalt keep thy mouth shut when finding the good stuff."

(If I have to explain why this is so to you, then perhaps you'd be interested in buying a gold claim or two in Kansas.)

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2008