Gold Ore Prospecting Tips, Part 2

In an earlier post on this subject I presented you with a number of old-timer gold ore prospecting tips. Here is more of what the old timers looked for or understood when they were prospecting:

1) Areas similar in physical appearance, topography, and geology to other gold-bearing locations or regions: again, despite their lack of formal scientific education, the old timers had a fundamental understanding of geological and topographical features and how these elements often indicated the presence of precious metals mineralization. So when they came across terrain or geology similar in physical appearance to other gold-bearing regions, they examined these areas closely for signs of gold or other precious metals.

During the California Gold Rush this type of event happened frequently as miners became more experienced in identifying "gold signs." As they spread north, south, east, and west from the initial gold discovery at Coloma, they made new gold discoveries (Southern Motherlode mines, Trinity River, Klamath River, Southern Oregon, and so on). A classic example of this is the '49er from Australia who, upon returning home, decided to prospect an area possessing uncanny physical and geological similarities to the California goldfields. The end result? Australia's first large-scale gold rush and the ultimate production of millions of ounces of placer and lode gold.

2) Locations where gold had already been found: coincidentally, unless they were total "greenhorns," the old timers didn't waste their time searching for gold where it didn't exist. They either prospected locales that looked similar (as mentioned above) to other gold-bearing areas or spent their time prospecting for additional pockets, paystreaks, lodes, or veins in areas that already had a proven track record for producing gold in quantity.

You too, should apply this old-timer prospecting rule to your own hunt for placer gold or gold ore. Many newcomers to gold mining become "blinded" by gold fever and begin seeing the yellow metal in the most unlikely locations, from the broad plains of central Kansas to their own backyards in Dubuque or Minneapolis (a bit of an exaggeration, but true none the less)! There's an old adage in gold mining circles: "If you want to find gold, go where gold is found."

3) Not all ores contained visible precious metal: it took a great deal of trial and error but the old timers eventually learned that not all gold or silver ores contained visible precious metal. Although they preferred prospecting for (and mining) what they termed "free-milling" ores where the visible gold (or silver) could be extracted by crushing and concentrating, they also became adept at identifying potential "refractory" ores.

These types of ore bodies required physical or chemical assay to identify their worth. In case you haven't already guessed, these are the sulphide or telluride ores that were (and are) so common in many parts of the West, including a number of famously rich mining areas in Colorado. I've seen a number of samples of these types of ores firsthand, and you would not have any idea of their true value if you didn't know what to look for or took the time to have them assayed or chemically analyzed.

"Knowledge is Power"
Anyway, just a few more tips for you to remember as you go about your recreational or small-scale gold mining activities. Remember, the old timers did their "thing" for specific reasons based on experiential knowledge. You too should bring the full brunt of your mining experience to bear when prospecting for gold ore (or prospecting period). A tiny bit of scientific knowledge wouldn't hurt either.

Like they say, "Knowledge is power."

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2008