Turning the Mining Behavior of the Old Timers to Your Advantage (Part 4)

 (It takes boots on the ground to get gold.)

Certain gold prospecting and mining behaviors practiced by the old timers could bring gold recovery opportunities your way. That road won't be easy but with time, effort, and patience those of you with determination and the will to succeed can come out on top.

"Bypassed" Ground

With gold ranging between $16.00 and $35.00 a troy ounce and supplies costly, the old timers had to work what they termed "paying ground." This meant they needed to recover enough gold from their placer and hard-rock mining operations to not only pay the bills, but hopefully salt a little gold away as "profit" or savings for a rainy day. Back in the day the more astute old timers had to be very selective about settling down to develop a placer or hard-rock claim.

Gold Prospecting 
Gold Pans

Over the course of time many old timers literally walked away from placers and lodes that they deemed unsuited for any number of reasons, including the following:
  • Not enough workable yardage or vein material.
  • Water source too far away.
  • Ground too difficult to work.
  • Gold values too spotty.
  • Accessibility.
  • Environment too hostile (Indians, thieves, corruption, dangerous animals, weather, and so on).
  • "Grass is greener" syndrome.
Let me elaborate on the first item in this list:

Not enough workable yardage or vein material: Unless they were operating from a standpoint of desperation, most savvy old timers wouldn't bother with placer or lode ground they estimated didn't contain enough gold to make things worthwhile for them. To elaborate once more, not all gold ground discovered was a Motherlode, or a Victoria, or a Yukon. Many small placers or lodes containing less than 100 ounces were prospected and sampled by the old timers, but not necessarily worked. In more instances than you may think, they walked away from these small discoveries in favor of better ground elsewhere. I call these abandoned discoveries "bypassed" placers or lodes and if located, they could mean good gold ground for you. After all, 20, 30, 60, or 100 troy ounces with gold at $1,500 looks pretty damn good to you and I, right?

(Areas like this can hold "bypassed" placers or lodes.)

I've found only one "bypassed" gold placer during the course of my 35+ years of  prospecting and mining. It was contained within a very small (and I mean small) area and composed primarily of tiny grains of gold. No, it wasn't a pocket...trust me, it was gold ground that had been "bypassed," probably for one or more of the reasons listed above. I don't tell you this to brag or toot my own horn but to point out that these "bypassed" locations do exist and many more are probably scattered around in various locations throughout the American west and southwest, as well as Alaska. Ditto for other countries and parts of the world.

Take it to the Bank

How do you find a "bypassed" placer or lode? It won't be easy but I'd put it this way: you'll need to do good research on the front end and then be willing and able to put your boots on the ground for long hours and many miles. For good measure, throw in a healthy amount of the "3 Ps" (patience, persistence, and perseverance) and of course, luck. "Bypassed" sites are a rarity these days but they're still out there.

Oh, one more thing...don't worry about big mining companies beating you to the punch here. They typically snub their noses at these smaller, "bypassed" placers or lodes. Unless greater mineralization can be verified or expectations of profitability can be proven, commercial mining operations won't waste a dime of their money on a "bypassed" location. You can take that to the bank with you.

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2013

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

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  1. Jim, very interesting stuff here. How would you go about looking for one of these overlooked spots? At today's prices, I would be thrilled with "just one ounce"! The amount I have finding so far,it will take me the rest of my life to find an ounce. It has been fun and I'll keep looking, but so far I'm loosing money doing this. Gary

  2. Again, the main things that might bring you to bypassed ground are A) research, and B) humping the boonies (lots of miles, lots of rough terrain...whatever it takes). I'm no expert on them but I do know they exist. Best of luck, J.R.

  3. Ok, thanks. I've been doing that, so far not much luck....then again, if it was easy it wouldn't be as much fun, would it??

  4. J.R.,
    So let me get this straight......research the claims made in the early days.....then research the claimant? Claims "officially" made,only to be abandoned after a short period of time? Well....that could go either way....right? So my question is besides physical signs of sampling...or old equip.....allot of the work is finding the claim and claim history correct?

    Although I personally love one of the previous blogs where the writer shared the "time line" so to speak of an old and some what successful miner. But.... you would have to have a personal log book or journal...with some kind of directions / map and someones desire for you to find his spots...which I don't have. So help me out here Jim...any thoughts? Be safe out there!

  5. Let's put it this way. As far as research you should pursue any and all sources...claim info, histories, diaries, journals, production records, and on and on. Just one small sentence or paragraph can tell the tale. However, when the Coffeys found their abutment outside Downieville, they sort of stumbled on it if I recall correctly. They used their eyes (and may have gotten a tip from a local). But it won't be an easy task and truthfully, the odds aren't good. I can't offer more than that and to say some of these old abutments still exist. Ultimately, whatever works, works in this regard. Good luck. J.R.

  6. I know one thing- it would be easier if we could prospect 24/7 365 days a year. That's one advantage over us the old timers had going for them. Granted we have automobiles now but at $4.00 a gallon we have to make each minute count just so it will still be fun.

  7. You hit a key point there. Going out on an occasional basis is tough...if you're on site a good deal of the time you get to know the ropes and most importantly...where the gold is and how to get it. Good comments. J.R.


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