What the Old Timers Taught Me About Gold Mining (Part 3)

(I make it a point these days to mentor when and where I can. Yours truly and "newbie" Bill M.)

I'll warn your right now that this series of posts may be lengthy. Why? Simply because the old timer info I'd like to pass along to you can't be summed up in two or three posts. So please bear with me...you may learn something along the way.


As simple, direct, and wide spread as this bit of advice is, it was one of the first lessons my two old timer mentors drilled into me. If you want to find and recover hard-rock or placer gold you need to be in areas, districts, regions, or locales that have either produced gold in the past or that contain likely gold-mineralized zones.

Gold Concentrates
Gold Pans
Gold Concentrators

Each week I receive at least one e-mail from a "Bedrock Dreams" reader asking me if there's gold where they are. The greatest percentage of these folks are "newbies" and they tend to live in areas or states where there are extremely limited (if not zero) opportunities for finding natural gold of any sort. I always feel bad when I have to burst their bubbles by telling them that they could pan a ton of gravel from that nearby creek and never find a lick of color. Hard on the heels of that admonition I tell them what my two mining mentors told me over 30 years ago, "Go where the gold is."

Nearly the Opposite is True

In the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s when these two outstanding individuals were becoming ever-more proficient at small-scale hard rock and placer gold mining, "going where the gold is" was a much easier proposition. Based on what these men told me and what I've researched and learned since, open mining areas were everywhere and a guy or gal could always find decent areas to work. You could work dry placer areas in the fall or early winter or spring, then shift gears and focus your efforts in wet placer districts scattered throughout the West. Hell, in most places you could even build a crude cabin or "hootch" to live in while you did your mining thing.

(If you can't find admiration for folks like this there's something wrong with you.)

There are numerous reasons why those of us today find nearly the opposite is true from what these two old timers experienced. For starters, how about growing populations (the "more rats in the cage" theory), increased bureaucracy and restrictions, radical environmental agendas, "public" lands being removed from public use, more private land and no trespassing signs, the current claim filing and scam frenzy...the list just goes on and on.

"Piddly" Little Deposits

Perhaps I digress a bit here, however. If we return to the admonition of "going where the gold is," my mentors believed that good gold ground could be had in nearly every context, no matter how limited in size or scale that ground might be if you used your mining "common sense" and were willing to work harder than those around you. They were also the first to tell me that many small, unworked placers and lodes were still to be found in the West and Southwest off the beaten path, only awaiting "a keen eye and a steady hand."

I was told the reason these placers or lodes were left unworked involved a number of reasons. From an old timer's standpoint when gold was $35.00 a troy ounce they just weren't feasible or profitable enough to justify the time, effort, and misery to locate and work them. Commercial mining companies passed these small deposits by as well...after all, 30, 50, or even 100 troy ounces wasn't what they were after and they couldn't make a profit from "piddly" little deposits like that. With today's gold prices running close to $1,700 a troy ounce, the gold potential of those remote or shallow deposits takes on new meaning, doesn't it?

So don't waste your time trying to find gold where it isn't. We're not in Kansas anymore Toto. Go where the gold is and who knows? Maybe you'll have the "keen eye and steady hand" that finds one of those small patches of virgin ground these two old timers alluded to...

Best of luck.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "What the Old Timers Taught Me About Gold Mining (Part 1)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

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