(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