Hard Lessons: What I've Learned in 30+ Years as a Small-Scale Gold Miner (Part 5)

No piece of gold-bearing ground is ever completely worked out. I don’t care whether you’re slaving on some mining club’s piss-poor, hard-scrabble claim that has been turned over by countless others who came before you or you’ve been told by any number of self-proclaimed “experts” that the ground you’re on is absolutely sterile. There’s still good gold to be found there. So if you’re one of those folks who’ve contacted me with sob story after sob story about the crappy ground you’re limited to, then take heart (and while you’re at it, quit your whining).

Now what I’m NOT saying here is that it’ll be easy to find and recover that good gold, however. You’ll need to be smart, industrious, patient, and exacting in your mining approach and you’ll probably end up working harder than any 3 or 4 other miners combined. But the pay off will be a nice nugget or two (or even three or four), a bypassed gold pocket that’ll pay for all that mining gear you shelled out for in the past, or full-on bragging rights when you show those around you what they failed to discern and recover because they were either too lazy or too busy complaining. I can give you literally dozens of examples of this little truth in my own mining experience as well as in that of other miners. Beat that ground, don’t let it beat you.

Take on the difficult tasks. This admonition follows hard on the heels of the previous one. If you want to get that gold, get more gold, get bigger gold, then by gosh and by golly you’re going to have to get off your dead ass and man or woman up. How so? By busting your hump when and where others have refused to, by taking your mining approach to its logical conclusion, and by working locations or areas that put others off for any number of reasons. Interestingly enough, mining “wannabes” (and many mining novices) can find plenty of reasons why NOT to do something that’ll require that extra effort. Your duty is to find reasons why you SHOULD do it.

I remember many years ago staring at a section of bench gravels that sat up a steep slope some distance away and was completely covered by a network of brambles, thorns, and various and other sundry forms of unfriendly flora. At the time I was doing my own version of the “newbie” thing, trying to tease a tiny bit of color here and there out of the easy-to-work spots that wouldn’t try my patience or cause me too much effort. One of the oldtimers who was mentoring me at the time barely restrained himself from planting a size 12 boot in my nether regions and ordered me to “get off my ass” (forthwith, I might add) and clear a section of those bench gravels away. Well, that I did after much blood, sweat, toil, and tears. The upshot was this: that section of bench gravels gave us run after run of good gold, including a half dozen or more small nuggets. That spot was good because everyone else before had deemed it too difficult or too much hassle to get at. The light bulb went on in my head after that.

Don't listen to the "dream merchants." There's always going to be someone out there trying to sell you something you may or may not need to carry on your mining avocation. Aside from the real scam artists and hustlers (people you should avoid like the Black Plague), your average, everyday prospecting/mining shop owner or purveyor of mining gear is a pretty good guy or gal just trying to turn a buck or two. But even these folks sometimes show a propensity for laying it on thick with the "dream merchant" routine, so be forewarned. Invariably, they will be quick to play up the potential benefits of mining (and incidentally, buying their gear) while downplaying the hardships and difficulties. So don't get sold a bill of goods...don't listen to the "dream merchants."

By now you know I tell it like it is. Unlike others out there, I don’t believe in blowing smoke up your rear end and playing patty cake with you about how easy it is to find gold and “strike it rich.”

Mining’s a tough gig, but guess what? I think you’re up to the challenge.


If you liked this post, you may want to read: “Hard Lessons: What I've Learned in 30+ Years as a Small-Scale Gold Miner (Part 4)”

© J.R. 2011

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


  1. I agree with you J.R. and I have worked myself raw just to expose a shelf. Some paid off like our Blackberry site and some not. But the three things that make my digging easier is........my sons! Yep gave them the fever and the knowledge now all I have to do is point. Ahhh the good life of fatherhood.

  2. I hear ya Greg! My son is studying for his B.S. in geology...he'll mine if you ask, but he loves rocks more than gold. Go figure.... J.R.


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