10 Tips for Smart Miners: Expect the Unexpected

(Desert wash in early to mid flood stage.)

Tip 7. Expect the Unexpected.

If you’ve spent any amount of real time doing your thing as a small-scale or recreational miner you should already be programmed to expect the unexpected. Like life in general, gold mining is full of monkey wrenches and curve balls and if you aren’t prepared for those moments you’re gonna end up one unhappy camper (or worse…).

What sort of monkey wrenches and curves balls? Here are the two I find most significant:

Weather: It should go without saying that weather is the single-most important issue affecting your mining endeavors anytime anywhere. Seasons are one thing but localized wind, rain, snow, lightning, sleet, hail, and high heat events are something else again. ALWAYS have a handle on the weather before setting out and make sure you are prepared for any contingency.

Mining Equipment

In more remote placer areas (wet or dry) make sure you have appropriate clothing, food, water, and either a “store-bought” or home-made emergency kit that contains appropriate items like a fire starter, tent tube, space blanket, etc. Many miners both past and present have been injured or killed in adverse weather events…don’t you be one of those foolish unfortunates. All the gold in the world isn’t worth losing your life for and that’s a fact.

Flooding, Flash Floods: Those of you who have been out there prospecting or mining when flooding or flash flooding occurs know just how quickly water or wash conditions can change during heavy rain or thunderstorm downpour events. You also know how important it is to get yourself and your gear to higher ground when flooding does occur (with the emphasis on saving YOURSELF rather than your gear).

In my day I’ve seen dredges, highbankers, sluice boxes, and even hundreds of dollars worth of hard-earned gold concentrates swept away during river flooding. I’ve also stood a safe distance away from a desert drywash staring open mouthed as roaring flash flood waters swept Volkswagen Beetle-sized boulders (and just about everything else) downstream. The bottom line, brothers and sisters, is that flooding is dangerous as hell and desert-type flash flooding is the most dangerous of all. That’s the down side.

The up side is that all that nice yellow gold gets stirred up, moved, and re-deposited during flood events of any type (and when it does, you want to try your damnedest to be the first guy or gal on scene immediately afterward). A few years back when California’s North Yuba River flooded to some of the highest levels in recent times, many outstanding placer gold pockets and nice nuggets were recovered after flood waters receded. I have also seen this happen here in New Mexico as well as in southeastern California “back in the day” when I was still working desert placers there.

That’s it for now good people. Be safe.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: “Watching Prospecting TV, YouTube Mining Videos, and Your Rear End (Part 3)”


© J.R. 2010

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com