On Dry Washers, Desert Gold, and Working Dry Ground (Part 2)
(This beautiful photo taken near Randsburg, California by miner Dan T. reminds me of a landscape oil painting.)
My first post on this topic has generated a good number of e-mails and comments. Both of the latter provide good material for the Bedrock Dreams mining mill, so I'll be addressing those directly in this post, as well as rambling on in my usual inimitable style.
(Note: All of the photos included in this post were sent in by Dan T., who definitely has an artist's eye and a miner's heart. Great job Dan...thanks much!)
Let me preface things by stating that NO, I don't think dry washers and dry washing are suitable for every small-scale gold mining environment. For example, if you're working up in Alaska, the Yukon, or an Amazon rain forest a dry washer is probably not going to do you much good since the material you run through it has to be absolutely dry to establish any sort of recovery efficiency at all. What I was trying to get across in the previous post was the simple fact that I believe you should know and be comfortable with ANY small-scale gear or equipment that can be employed to good effect in your mining endeavors.
A secondary theme that I was attempting to communicate (and not very well, I'm afraid) is that desert and dry placer areas in general are places of great beauty, peace, and contentment for those who are able to fully discern those attributes. Yes, these types of areas are also harsh and potentially dangerous in certain instances, but if you know the score and are properly prepared, desert placer mining experience adds a whole new dimension to your existing gold prospecting and mining skills. Is it easy? No, it's not. So if you're a "newbie" to mining or a perennial couch potato harboring get-rich-quick dreams of mining gold in the desert, you'll soon be disabused of those notions. For the umpteenth time, gold mining is very hard work for typically very small returns.
(Dan's mining "pard" M.D. swinging his detector as sunset approaches the desert.)
OK, onward and upward. Here are some comments submitted by Dan T. (our miner and artiste with a camera):
"Not Much of a Player"
"My prospecting partners and I think of dry washing as just ONE of our tools. A baseball player who can only catch, or a golfer that only drives the ball 300 yards is not much of a player. The gold is different every place we prospect. Some places I like to wet wash (most call it recirculation), some places we metal detect, and other places we dry wash. Often it can be more specific."
(Slightly oxidized quartz...there's a lot of this lying on slopes, terraces, and the alluvial plain around Randsburg. Photo courtesy Dan T.)
"In Barstow (Dagget area) a blower dry washer works well. But at Randsburg a 'puffer' works best. A wet washer at Randsburg must be set up correctly or clay will clog up the riffles. And if the clay at Randsburg isn't crushed (say using a cement mixer) you may lose gold even in a 'puffer.' Then there is the subject of dead air space...I hope J.R. touches on that as he is a much better writer than I. J.R. you have a gift with words...a true wordsmith."
Dan is absolutely correct here. A dry washer is a single tool but a miner who could put one to good use and for whatever reason chooses not to is missing part of the overall mining equation. (A well-rounded miner is what again?) More importantly, Dan touches on a fundamental gold prospecting and mining premise that many fail to grasp: no two gold locations (even within a specific district or region) are exactly the same. Each will have its unique characteristics and challenges, and each may require a totally different approach or, at the very least, a variation in equipment and how that gear is employed in the field. To illustrate this point, Dan has mentioned that a "puffer" dry washer is better in certain locations while a blower or hydrostatic machine will be a better choice in others.
(Sunset over the desert. Photo courtesy Dan T.)
I realize that some of you out there are not sure about all this and that the likelihood of you ever using a dry washer or working dry placer ground is slim to none. That's OK. What's important is that you learn something here...perhaps something that you may be able to rely on or apply in your future mining efforts. Knowledge is power my friends, but in gold mining it's everything.
Once again, my thanks to Dan T. for his beautiful photos and for commenting. No worries Dan, we'll get to the subject of "dead air" in my next post.
Good luck to all.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2013
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org