What the Old Timers Taught Me About Gold Mining (Part 7B)

(Old mining sites like Golden, New Mexico lay scattered throughout the American West and Southwest.)

As I mentioned before in this series of posts about my old-timer mentors, the lessons I learned from them about small-scale gold prospecting and mining have proven invaluable over the years. In this post I'll be passing on some of the tips I learned from them about placer gold and placer mining.

Follow the Path of Least Resistance

By the time I came under the tutelage of my two mentors they already had nearly 100 years of combined gold prospecting and mining experience under their belts. This sort of personal resource and experience is no longer the rule, but the exception and I consider myself fortunate indeed to have met and worked alongside these old-school gentlemen.

Gold Concentrates
Gold Concentrators
Both of these miners were adept at gold prospecting and mining in just about any form you could imagine except nugget shooting with a metal detector. They weren't averse to "new-fangled" approaches to finding gold, but they were used to doing things the old way. As I myself have learned over time, there's something to be said for that.

"Gold is Damn Heavy"

One of the biggest concerns they had about placer mining "newbies" (like me at the time) was their failure to understand the basic physics of gold deposition in streams and washes. "Gold can be fickle," I was told, "but it generally falls just where it's supposed to."

They put this precept another way" "Follow the path of least resistance. Think of yourself as a piece of gold bein' carried downstream...now once that rush of fast water stops just where do you think you'll come to rest?" This sort of visualization approach is nothing new and many of you out there probably practice it already. That said, you should never underestimate its usefulness to you out in the field.

I was also instructed to "Imagine all that gold movin' in high water or a flash flood. You got flour gold suspended up high and bigger flakes in the middle. Down below, them 'chunkers' and nuggets are bouncin' along the bottom until that heavy water flow stops or somethin' gets in the way. Gold is damn heavy for its size. Them bigger pieces will dig deeper and deeper until they get caught up in somethin' or can't move down any more."

It's All About Fundamentals

I have to tell you all here and now that in my first few  years of placer mining I failed to grasp just how significant this simple precept was. I tended to be a "skimmer," trying to find a little bit of color here and there near the surface where it might be more readily available as opposed to doing the hard work necessary to get to the better stuff. I wasn't a lazy ass...back then I just wanted instant gratification (like so many other Americans these days).

(Think these old timers are just "skimming? Better think again...)

Grasping fundamentals like this may sound like child's play to some of you, but I can't tell you how many would-be placer miners I've come across over the course of 33+ years who:

1) Just blew this whole idea off for whatever idiotic reason, or

2) Simply didn't know their asses from the proverbial hole in the ground.

As the best coaches in the wide world of sports like to say, "It's all about fundamentals." If you're not willing to learn the fundamentals first and use solid bedrock to build your mining knowledge and expertise upon...well, brothers and sisters, you're riding a runaway train to frustration and disappointment.

There's more to come, so stay tuned.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "What the Old Timers Taught Me (Part 7A)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

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