Tips for Running an Efficient Sluice Box (Part 1)


One of My All-Time Favorites

You know, I’ve been doing this gold mining thing for over three decades now and in that time I’ve used just about every piece of small-scale mining gear out there, including drywashers, rocker boxes, suction dredges, and high bankers. Each of these has its own intrinsic value and operational efficiency and each is a valuable piece of equipment when applied in the appropriate environment and set up properly.

Yet one of my all-time favorite pieces of mining gear is one of the oldest and most functionally basic: the sluice box. That said, I’ve often been surprised out in the field by other would-be miners who apparently didn’t seem to understand how to set up or run their sluice boxes correctly and efficiently.

So here is my first installment on tips for running an efficient sluice box:

1) Make sure you have enough water flow. Seems like a “no brainer,” right? Well brothers and sisters you’d be surprised….trust me on that. Sluice boxes are totally dependent on the amount, depth, and speed of the water flowing through them to carry the lighter materials down the length of the box and back out into the stream while concentrating the heavy black sands and gold at the upper end of the box and behind the riffles. Misalign one of those 3 hydrological factors already mentioned and you’ll either pack your box up with crap or run the “goodies” right out the far end.

2) Use the right box “set” angle. This tip is coincidental to the previous admonition. Use too steep an angle when you first set your sluice box up and you’ll watch a good part of your gold go racing back to where it came from. Use too flat an angle and your box will back up and refuse to budge.

3) Make sure your sluice box is anchored securely. How you do this varies…sometimes you have to wedge the box between big rocks, sometimes you have to hold it down with big rocks across the top width, sometimes you have to shovel rocks and gravel in tight along the length of the box's sides, sometimes you have to….well, you know. Whatever it takes to keep that puppy from taking off downstream on you.

4) Don’t run your best material when setting up your box. C'mon now, use your head…common mining sense dictates that you don’t run gold-bearing material through your sluice box while you’re trying to get it set up correctly. Use what’s typically at hand; the top-most stream gravels and rock right around you until things are copacetic. And if you get lucky and find some nice flakes in that overburden you’re standing on well, hell…you’re having a damn good day, aren’t you?

There are more tips coming, so don't stay away too long. Good luck to one and all.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Rocks in My Head:" a Prospector and Miner in the Making"

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2011

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