A Short Course on Hard Rock Gold (Part 7)

 (A nice chunk of hard rock ore.)

Before I continue with this series of posts I want to make sure I stress one aspect of hard rock gold mining (and mining in general). It may not be the most enjoyable topic, but it needs to be brought to light just the same.

Safety is the Key Issue

Whether you're actually trying to make a go of hard rock gold mining or just exploring old mine sites, safety is the key issue. Your safety and the safety of those with you. Due to its very nature, hard rock mining presents potential safety risks in more ways than I can count. These include risks from operating pneumatic or hydraulic equipment, handling explosives, cave ins, collapses, bad air, being trapped, and so on. I'm sure you can think of other potential scenarios as well.

Any prospective miner who ventures into the interior of the earth faces the possibility of Murphy's Law going into effect. This can happen even in the most carefully run operations, let alone those that are half-assed or operating on a shoestring budget (the latter being where most of us are, I suspect). Don't assume anything when you're involved in hard rock mining ventures, especially if those assumptions are tied together with a devil-may-care attitude that says, "It ain't gonna happen to me." It can and will if you persist in that sort of attitude and don't do your best to ensure that safety is first and foremost.

Take a Deep Breath

If you're seriously thinking about getting into hard rock gold mining of any sort with a minimum of prior experience or knowledge, it's imperative that you link or pard up with someone who does have that experience and knowledge. Not only will this provide a better opportunity for success, but it will help ensure that your life and limb remains intact. We all want to go home to our families after the day is done and your wife and kids want you home as well, despite the periodic bickering and foibles that come hand-in-hand with relationships and raising children.

I know I'm often rough on federal or state governmental agencies like the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and their spate of sometimes ridiculous rules that often represent a bizarre form of schizophrenia. But if you can look past the BS bureaucratic aspects to the true heart of the matter, it's all about safety first. Or at least that's what was envisioned on the front end. So the next time you find yourself dealing with the safety "nazis," understand that if what you're being forced to do is truly about keeping you and your pards safe, just take a deep breath and go with the flow. It's better than being shut down, push come to shove.

Want to Roll the Dice?

Sure, I realize most of you out there (and myself as well) aren't looking to open up a hard rock gold mining operation anytime soon. That's fine. All of this safety stuff still applies. It applies to those weekend trips to that old mining district littered with coyote holes and old mine shafts. How so, you ask?

(Stay the hell out!)

Here's how my friends. Old mine sites may be fun places to visit, explore, and prowl around but they are dangerous as hell! Much more dangerous than a fully operating hard rock mining venture. Those old mines are full of danger and if you're oblivious to that fact then you're not the smart guys and gals I think you are. The potential for injury and yes, even death, for the foolish and unwary who deliberately choose to enter old adits, shafts, and tunnels is beyond the pale...no drama here, just the straight poop.

"Up the Flume" One Day

If you want to roll the dice on the chance you won't go home on a given day, then keep on entering those rickety old shafts where a collapse is just a shout away. Maybe you'll take a slip or tumble headfirst down into the dark bowels of the earth where no one can hear you scream...if you're still capable of screaming that is. I'm not even going to elaborate on bad air pockets, poisonous snakes, or other potentially harmful critters. It just isn't worth it...dying to prove you're some sort of macho explorer or to grab a handful of gold ore is total crap. I can't express that any more clearly.

If you're curious as to why I'm lecturing you in this regard it's simply because I want you alive and in one piece. So does your family. Yes, we're all going "up the flume" one of these days but please don't speed up that natural process, OK?

Be smart, be safe...

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2013


  1. Jim, funny how this subject came up at this time. I don't know if you conciously or subconciously thought about it...but in the last month....a local miner...(65 years young) died on a weekend scouting run to his claim....in the CA motherlode. I also saw that a couple of miners at the Canadian / US border died as well in mining accidents. That's more in a few weeks....than I can remember in the last 20 years. Maybe it was because the "news" called my attention to their searches...but thre result was the same.....dead. So your timing is right....your topic is right...and your advise is 100% correct!!

    In the ignorance of my youth....and very early in my mining career.....I did the unthinkable.....and went into an old mine in Riverside County. I believe it was a silver mine....near Corona, CA. Well needless to say....after the "DARE".... I went in....pretty far I might ad.....only to twist my anckle very badly in the watery slush that made up the floor of the shaft. On that particular day I was lucky. The 2 others I was with.....heard me calling out from inside the mine shaft.....got the medical kit / flashlights etc and came to my rescue. "DUMB ASS" is all I can say now looking back. NO STUPID BET OR GREED IS WORTH YOUR LIFE...as you stated above. So....I hope the others don't have to learn the hardway.....like I did.......but at least the other "dumb asses" I went with saved my hide that day. For that I am forever greatful!! That's it for today....stay safe out there!

  2. I couldn't have said it better nor given a better example my friend. Thanks for your lucid and highly appropriate comments here. J.R.

  3. Anytime I'm tempted to go into one of these old holes, I talk myself out of it using logic. "if there was anything of value in that hole, they'd still be in there digging for it." and "the guy who made this hole quit digging for a reason. either it became unsafe and he died in it, or he got all the good ore and moved on." nobody would quit otherwise, simple logic. Curiosity is a powerful motivator, but we all know what curiosity did to the cat........and some humans too.

  4. Well said Bo. Your logic is flawless here and I couldn't agree more. Best, J.R.

  5. Hello Jim, Well......I guess I'm stupid. If there are no timbers, and the rock is solid, I do go in a ways most times. I don't go in real far, but more than I probably should. I like caves better than mines, I figure a cave has been there a million years but a mine people dug. I don't trust what people do very often. Most of the mines I have gone into, don't go very far,but some do. I worry more about bad air,poison gas, explosive gas and things like that. I won't stay long or go very far. If it is timbered, I won't go in at all. Like the last guy Bo wrote,"curiosity killed the cat" and I'm not ready to go just yet! Gary

    1. Nope, you're not the stupid type Gary. Best to stay out of those laces, as you rightly say. J.R.

  6. I almost croaked while panning for gold in a creek one day locally !!! We were in a narrow, shallow creek off of Gold Mine road, test panning under a bridge. I walked out from under the bridge to the west about 40 feet and all of a sudden I could NOT breathe in or out, like the wind was knocked out of me, duh what??? I quick and ran back the other way and the same thing happened out the east end of the bridge. I quick and jumped up and out of the narrow streambed and yelled at my partner to come along. He claims he never experienced any breathing issues. We were driving back and it nailed me again where hills surrounded a low spot in the road. There was an Ammonia tank in the farm field next to the creek. Could that have been the source of my breathing difficulties? Would I have died or just passed out if I had stayed in the creek bed pondering, I wonder?

    -Tom V.

    1. Well, ammonia is lighter than air and doesn't typically settle in low-lying areas so I doubt that was your issue in this instance. But stranger things have happened. Glad you came out of things OK regardless. Thanks for commenting, J.R.

  7. Hey J.R., enjoyed the current series on hard rock mining , lots of " food for thought " there. Hope you are doing well with all the medical stuff lately. I know what you have been up against . Recently been through the whole cardiac testing business myself. No problems gladly. Seems I'm healthy as a fifty year old horse ! Ha ,Ha . Anyway wanted to thank you for the work you do here through out the year and wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas.

    1. Glad your cardiac issues were nonexistent too Al. Sure cost a hell of a lot of $$$ to find out though. Thanks for the good words about the series. Hope you, the Missus, and the kids are all well and happy. Have a great Holiday my friend! J.R.

  8. Solid rock walls and overhangs in old mines are 100 times better than timbered ones...but they're all "iffy' when it comes down to it. You worry about the right things, for sure. No sense speeding up the process of leaving this earth, that's for sure. Thanks for the comments, J.R.


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