The Psychology of Small-Scale Gold Mining (Part 3)

This is the third and final post in this series. Hopefully, some of you have gained new insight into one aspect of small-scale gold prospecting and mining that's sorely neglected by most other "experts" on the subject. At least that's my hope.


Being upbeat, positive, and maintaining an optimistic outlook is not an easy task these days. To a great extent we are surrounded by negativity in the media (news, films, books, TV, etc.) as well as by many individuals in our work-a-day worlds whose sole intent and purpose seems to be to drag us down with their own sinking ships (including our elected officials). This may seem a harsh outlook on my part but if you look around hard enough I believe you'll find the truth in my words.

Gold Concentrates
Gold Pans
Gold Prospecting Books
Sure, I've come across my share of naysayers and "Debbie Downers" during my 35 years as a small-scale gold prospector and miner. There was a time in my own life when I was as negative as negative could be in my general life view but one area I never fell prey to in this regard was my mining activities. In fact, you could say that gold mining and prospecting kept my own negativity at bay and ultimately held me on a steady course of optimism when it came to doing what I love the most.

Gold miners and prospectors are eternal optimists. We have to be, if you think on this for a moment. Who else but ourselves would endure the hardships, frustrations, and disappointments that are part and parcel of small-scale gold mining? I'm talking about tribulations that would bring the average Joes and couch potatoes out there to their knees, boo-hoo-hoo'ing like little kids who'd just scraped their knees at the school playground.

In all honesty, the psychological trait of eternal optimism is a must for any gold miner or prospector worth his or her own salt. Some say "You are what you think." As trite as this saying can be, it's true. If all you envision is negative results or failures no matter what you do, then by God that's what you'll end up with in the long run. On the other hand, if you keep a smile on your face and an optimistic outlook, good things will come your way eventually, including the gold. That's one thing I love about small-scale miners in general...despite their own flaws and weaknesses (and we all have them) they are always looking ahead to better days on that stream or in that dry wash. After all, it's that inherent optimism within us that keeps us shoveling dirt and looking for color around the next bend.

Generosity of Spirit

I believe that all human beings are innately selfish to some degree or another, but most of us are able to transcend the "Me, me, me!" attitude and reach out and help others, even if only occasionally. Gold miners and prospectors are, as a group, some of the most selfless and helpful people you'll ever come across and we should all be thankful for that. Sure, I've known a few selfish and self-absorbed mining assholes in my day but they were the exception and never the rule.

This generosity of spirit in miners and prospectors surfaces in many ways, most typically in the form of helping novices or "newbies" out through instruction and direction. But I've also seen miners share what little they had with "down-and-outers" to help them get by. Hell, I've done this myself on more than one occasion. You may not realize what that cup of coffee you offer, or that meal, or that tankful of gas can mean to someone just starting out or under some sort of duress, mining or otherwise.

Of course, your generosity of spirit should be tempered to fit the occasion or the individual. Not everyone who asks for help needs it and there are those in the mining realm who are looking to take advantage of any situation where your good nature comes into play. My view here is that all of you are smart enough to see through that sort of BS and apply your own generosity of spirit where it's most needed and most appreciated. If you want to succeed as a small-scale miner (and as a person) you'll have to step away from yourself sooner or later and lend a helping hand to others with your experience, knowledge, and anything else that may be needed. In other words, stay tough where you need to be tough and be kind where it matters most.

Finally, Here's a little something that my friend "Muskrat" sent along that I think is appropriate to this series of posts:

"Old Miners Never Die"

"Old miners never die, they just drift away.
They drift on to better ground that needs no timber, or bolts, or pumps;
To ground that drills like ice cream, breaks like glass, and mucks like popcorn.
They mine in stopes where the oilers are always full, the bits always sharp;
A place where the steels never shank and compressors never die on the last hole.
The equipment is always new and there's no powder smoke;
The whiskey flows like water and they're never broke.
Your tonnage has been met and you've topped the board;
So drift on pard...your memory will always live in our hearts."

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2013

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