Gold Sampling: a 3-Phase Plan of Attack (Part 1)

(Alluvial placer gold sample trench.)

As most of you already know I place a very high value on the importance of sampling when it comes to gold mining. In my view, it doesn't matter if you're aiming to recover placer or hard-rock gold...the importance of proper sampling remains the same regardless of the mining context.

Before I continue along this vein (pun intended!), I don't necessarily think you have to be a total sampling fanatic if you're a "weekend-warrior" type miner who only gets out in the field occasionally. Granted, you should be practicing good sampling techniques regardless, but in this series of posts I'm preaching primarily to those of you with mining goals that are extensive, long term, or approaching a commercial scale. In other words, you're looking to optimize your gold recovery potential and translate that into more money.

An Investigative Process

What I've learned over the years is that many would-be miners (hard rock and placer) don't relish the idea of the time and level of effort involved in gold sampling. They want to get right at things, start throwing dirt around, and immediately trying to coax color into their gold pans. Again, that's understandable to some degree if you're just into things for the fun aspect and not the financial one.

Gold Concentrates
Gold Concentrators

Here's a tip for you in this regard. Instead of looking at sampling as a necessary evil or drudgery of sorts, you may try viewing it as the single most critical factor to your success in any mining enterprise. Better yet, learn to view it as a type of investigative process where you're playing private eye just like those gumshoes you see on TV. You're gathering information, processing clues, and trying to determine where that noble metal culprit is hiding along with his or her brothers, sisters, and cousins.

Three-Phase Attack

Sampling is the best way to determine the economic viability of any mining operation, no matter how large or how small. Ultimately, what you're attempting to determine is how much gold you can expect to recover, on average, in a cubic yard of placer gravel or a ton of vein material. This pre-conditional knowledge helps you plan accordingly and includes everything from the mining approach you'll take, the equipment required for that approach, whether you'll need help (i.e., more workers), expenses, name it.

 (Sampling helps you determine the equipment you'll need.)

Experienced gold miners, mining consultants, and engineers tend to view sampling as a three-part function or plan of attack: you have an objectives phase, a sampling phase, and finally a sample analysis phase. I agree with this triad as well, but I think there are sampling issue subsets to each of these three main phases. We'll talk more about that later.

Until then, be safe and keep smiling.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Gold in New Zealand"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2013

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Hey JR, a friend was looking at buying one of those funny looking sluice/highbankers like in your last picture. Have you tried one of those? They look like they might work pretty good...or be just anouther gimmick. I'd be interested in talking to someone that has used one.

  2. Gary I have not used that rig nor do I know who makes it or even if its still around. Sorry I can't be of more help. J.R.

  3. Ok, well thanks anyhow. I kind of like the idea of haveing no riffles to catch rocks. This one looks like it relies on back eddies and deep matting. I saw it advertized a year or so ago, but I don't know where. A friend of mine wanted one, figgered I'd see how his worked, but he didn't buy either.

  4. J.R.
    That sluice is called a sidewinder. Don't know of anyone that's used one other than the inventor.

  5. Thanks Chuck, now we know what that thing is. Best, J.R.


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