Common Gold Mining Myths and Misconceptions (Part 1)

(Canadian "Maple Leaf:" 1 troy ounce, .9999 fine, gold bullion "round.")

Black sand stringers always indicate the presence of placer gold.

No, not true. Although black sands containing ilmenite, magnetite, hematite, monoznite, and other heavy minerals are often associated with placer gold deposits, this is not true in every case. In non gold-bearing areas black sand “stringers” (narrow, lens-like deposits) can also be present either near the surface of a stream or wash (or beach) or deeper down as well. But you could pan or sluice areas like this all day and never recover a single grain of gold because the heavy minerals themselves exist where gold doesn’t.

Gold Prospecting Books
Gold Pans

Secondly, even in gold-bearing areas, surface showings of black sand mean nothing in the strictest sense and will contain little if any gold. Remember, gold is extremely dense and heavy. It’s what’s down deeper that counts and any efforts on your part to recover good gold values from surface showings of black sands will not be profitable in the either the short term or the long run.

Most of the world’s gold has already been recovered.

Actually this should be restated in the following manner: “Most of the world’s easy-to-get gold has already been recovered.” Although many mining club “poobahs” and purveyors of mining books and gear like to proclaim that nearly “75% of the world’s gold still awaits recovery” I think they are being a bit too optimistic in this regard.

What is true, however, is the fact that the oldtimers were notorious for taking the easy way out. They tended to “skim the cream” from richer surface placer deposits and then head for new ground, leaving much (if not most) of the harder to retrieve placer gold in place. Ditto for many smaller hard-rock or lode gold deposits. Yes, there is still plenty of gold out there. But this said, understand that most of it is going to take a level of effort to retrieve that is beyond the capability of most individual miners using small-scale equipment.

The gold you recover can be sold at the daily market “spot price” value.

Wrong. Like the locals used to say in Vietnam, “Nebbah hoppen, G.I.” The daily market (London, New York) “spot” prices for gold may be $1,200, $1,300, or $1,400 per troy ounce and you’ll get that (minus a buyer’s transaction “fee” or percentage) for a 1-ounce “round” (bullion coin) containing .999 pure gold. But if you try and sell an ounce of placer gold that is .875 fine you have a purity issue (on top of the transaction fee/percentage) that will make your hard-earned gold worth less than that bullion bar or coin.

Carhartt Wear

Oh, by the way…not every dealer in gold and silver will accept placer gold because it’s harder to deal with in the overall sense and must be refined, melted, cast, processed, etc. Most dealers, if they do accept placer gold at all, will want it in larger amounts and not in little drips and drabs. Finding a reputable and honest buyer for your placer (or hard rock) gold is often problematic but once you do get a good buyer, stay with them.

That’s it for now. Be safe out there and good luck to you all.

© J.R. 2011

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