Hard Lessons: What I've Learned in 30+ Years as a Small-Scale Gold Miner (Part 2)

(Now if I only had a couple thousand flakes like this in my pan I'd be in business!)

As I stated in the first post of this series, I tend to learn things the hard way. Hopefully, a few of the small-scale mining lessons I'm about to impart will save you from a similar fate.

Your overall gold take will be tied directly to the amount of effort you're willing to expend to get it. In my view, one of the more unfortunate aspects of our contemporary society is that so many people expect something for nothing. Handouts (government or otherwise) seem to be the rule rather than the exception and old-time values like commitment and plain hard work are sneered at and avoided at all costs. But I'll tell you here and now in no uncertain terms that if you bring that sort of attitude into your small-scale or recreational mining activities YOU WILL FAIL MISERABLY and rightly so.

Mining Equipment
Wolverine Boots

If you want to become adept at mining or increase the skills you already have you're gonna have to work at it, plain and simple. The more time, effort , and work you put in, the more gold you'll get. A very simple and elegant equation. This not only includes actual time out in the field prospecting or mining, but time spent studying, researching, and being mentored (if you're lucky enough to have a good mining mentor, that is). There's an old gold mining adage that states "to get more gold you have to move more dirt." How true that is. And guess who's gonna move that dirt? Yep, you guessed right. YOU. Not some government bureaucrat or career welfare case looking for another handout.

The miner who talks the loudest and the mostest is not necessarily the greatest. One great thing about small-scale mining is that it brings you into contact with other miners as well as their partners, friends, family members, supporters, and suppliers. By and large the mining community is composed of really good, decent, and honest people who will go out of their way to be helpful and tell you what's what. Usually these folks are pretty quiet and not given to telling tall tales or running you over with their BS. So in this instance, quiet is good. But when you come across those miners (and you will come across them, don't worry) who slap you on the back like a long-lost friend and then starting working their jaws faster and louder than a light machine gun about how great they are, the thousands of ounces of gold they've recovered, and how you're doing everything wrong turn tail and run like hell! If you don't, these bozos will waste all of your precious mining time and steer you every which way except the right way.

"Don't leave home without it." I've touched on this particular theme elsewhere in "Bedrock Dreams" but it's so important I just have to throw it in here again. MAKE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN you have everything you need before you leave home for any mining endeavor, no matter if that's a one-day outing or a long-term field operation. Make a list (or lists) of all the supplies, equipment, tools, clothing, maps, food, pans, buckets, camping gear, spare parts, supporting materials, etc., that you'll need and then double, triple, and quadruple check your home, garage, and vehicle for all that stuff before heading out. I'm telling you here and now that if you don't do this each and every time you set out you're gonna end up one unhappy miner at some point. Trust me, I know....been there, done that.

The good gold is nearly always deeper. Placer gold mining is not rocket science but that said it's still a must that you have some working knowledge of stream or wash hydrology and the physics of gold deposition. There are exceptions to every rule and good gold is sometimes found close to the surface or in unusually "easy" recovery contexts but don't let that fact lure you into complacency or laziness. The good gold is NEARLY ALWAYS DEEPER down, resting on bedrock, false bedrock, or any other impermeable layer. You want nuggets, coarser gold, larger pockets or paystreaks? Dig deeper.

That's it for this round. Good luck to you.

(c) J.R. 2010

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