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

 (Any sample tag will do as long as you have the correct info recorded.)

For those of you interested in increasing your productivity and overall gold recoveries, sampling is a fundamental practice you should familiarize yourself with. In this post, I'll be closing out this series on gold sampling so please read on.

PHASE III. Sample Gathering, Identification, and Analysis

Identification: You could follow every tip and step I've suggested in this series to the absolute letter, but if you fail to properly tag or identify your samples guess what? You're pretty much hosed.

Gold Concentrates
Gold Pans
Gold Prospecting Books

Why is this? I'm not going to insult your intelligence here because you know full well why. But just imagine your chagrin when one or two of those samples (lode or placer) indicate potentially rich diggings and you don't remember (or know) where the hell they came from. My, my, my...are you gonna be one unhappy camper.

Think I'm just joking around here? Nope...even yours truly, the great J.R., the legend in his own mind, the self-proclaimed gold miner extraordinaire, the adviser to millions (well, hundreds anyway...), screwed this issue up BIG TIME at a point early in my prospecting and mining career. I can tell you with total honesty and clarity that this sampling mistake still haunts me fact, it pains me terribly to even think about it 30 years later. Absolute truth...don't even ask me about it.

Make Sure You Know

So when you take those samples, separate them, bag them, ID them, and record them using any logical system that works for you personally. Simple letter-number systems work well, like A1, A2, A3, and so on. A in  this case represents the exact location and 1, 2, and 3 various assigned depths. A2-L would be the second spot or location, the second depth down, and taken from a set distance to the left of A2. I think you get the ain't rocket science by any stretch.

Be sure to record each sample in a small notebook or via a mini-recorder, GPS, or whatever. Just make sure you know where each and every sample came from before you start running the samples yourself or take them to be assayed or processed elsewhere.

Handle Analysis Yourself or...?

So how does sample analysis work? That depends in a great part on what sort of info or data you want and what your current capabilities and resources are. You can probably handle most of your small-scale placer samples yourself unless you're looking to deal strictly with recovering microdot gold from black sands where more sophisticated analyses methods are required.

 (Fire sample assays awaiting analysis.)

A goodly number of hard-rock gold miners have the knowledge, gear, and capabilities for analyzing samples they take, but most will have their samples assayed by private firms specializing in chemical and fire assaying. For those of you wanting to crush ore samples and do your own analyses (or save a step at the assayers), one thing to remember is to "quarter" your pulverized samples (at minimum). Assayers will sometimes reduce the samples to eighths, sixteenths, or even beyond (see photo above)...this adds accuracy to the end data. I suspect you know the importance of good data now, don't you?

An Impatient Lot

I'll be truthful yet again here...I've not known too many small-scale gold prospectors or miners over the decades who had the mettle, discipline, or patience to do what I'm saying here in terms of sampling. Prospectors and miners hate being regimented and don't respond well (in most instances) to lots of structure or "by-the-book" discipline. We're an impatient lot overall, myself included.

But there's a method to this sampling "madness" and, if applied conscientiously over time, it'll bring rewards down the road. Remember, I blew it once and learned a hard lesson on the importance of sampling, identification, and recording data-significant info. So in this case, I recommend you do as I say...NOT as I once did!

Good luck out there.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Gold Sampling: a 3-Phase Plan of Attack (Part 7)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2013

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. I guess this is the reason behind a lot of the "Lost Gold Stories", that go something like this. A prospector stumbled across an outcroping of rich ore, but was unable to find it again. Lucky for me, I never find much anyway!! Thanks for the advice JR, I'll pay a bit more attention from now on! Gary

  2. Gary...I learned a brutal lesson this...and that mistake cost me big time. Best, J.R.

  3. J.R.,
    Glad to hear I was not the only "rookie" miner, when I "outed" myself in your last posting, for not sampling properly. Running "willie-nillie" only happened once or twice....before I was schooled by "regular" on proper sampling. Thanks for giving me a few new ideas and variations I can use in my own adventures. Keep up the good work!!

  4. Thank you for your support and kind words. Best, J.R.

  5. jr could you write a bit on how to calculate the gold content
    in a drill test hole. is it as simple as mg of gold per hole
    and multiply the wt of dirt and mg of gold per hole and extrapolate?

  6. That's a great idea. Give me a bit of time and I'll work up a post on this topic. Thanks for bringing this important aspect of sampling up. J.R.

  7. in the words of tony beets of gold rush alaska.
    if you dont drill and know exactly how much is in each hole
    and where on your claim it is your just treasure hunting!

  8. Well based on what I've seen and know, Tony Beets knows how to get gold and lots of it. He's absolutely correct about sampling...which is one big reason he's so successful as a miner. Thanks for the comment, J.R.


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