Avoiding Common Mistakes: Tips for Novice Gold Miners (Part 3)

(Panning for gold in California, circa 1856.)

Gold Concentrates
Gold Pans
Gold Prospecting Books

Fairly Steep Learning Curves

Like most hobbies or pursuits of any true value, prospecting (the art of searching for gold) and gold mining (the art of recovering gold) have fairly steep learning curves, particularly if you're a novice. I can't tell you how many mining "newbies" I've known over the years who quit early on simply because they found things too difficult or they weren't willing to study, observe, and most importantly, listen.

Then too I've seen "newbies" drop by the wayside because they couldn't just deal with the plain old hard work involved in gold mining ("lazy asses" is the term I use for these types when I am feeling uncharitable). Oh, and let's not forget those novices who bail out because their false expectations of getting rich quick are dashed by the realities of just how much time and effort are involved in recovering small amounts of gold.

Whatever it Takes

So for those of you mining "newbies" out there who don't fall into the above categories, just how can you get up to speed quickly and efficiently? Yes, you can do it the hard way through study, trial and error, observation, hard work, and direct experience in the field over a number of years of time (let's say 5 years minimum).

By the way, there is nothing wrong with choosing this path. We all learn differently....some of us pick things up fairly quickly with minimal "supervision" while others require slow, deliberate instruction combined with direct field experience.

It really doesn't matter. In the end whatever it takes to increase your mining knowledge, skills, and expertise is the "right" path. But what I do want to suggest to you here is that is that some paths to mining proficiency are more direct, easier to digest, and reduce the overall length of time it takes to climb that "newbie" learning curve.

Tip Number 3: Get Yourself a Mentor

One of the best ways for you to learn the ropes, reduce your overall frustration levels, and actually get some gold in the process is to get yourself a mentor. What's a mentor? Simply an experienced miner with years of direct placer mining experience in both wet and dry placer environments. This should include (but not be limited to) near expert level experience with a range of mining methods and approaches, as well as equipment including everything from rockers to sluice boxes, highbankers and drywashers, and the Cadillac of small-scale mining gear, the suction dredge.

Get a Safety Kit and Stay Safe!

Your mentor should also have a working knowledge of hard rock prospecting and mining methods and techniques as well as more than passing knowledge of gold formation and mineralization, and gold ore geology. Find yourself a mentor with this sort of extensive gold mining knowledge and experience and you'll learn more in a month from that person than you would in a year otherwise. Trust me, been there, done that....

You may have already read my posts (the series titled "Finding Nuggets the Old Fashioned Way" http://goldbedrockgold.blogspot.com/2009/05/finding-nuggets-old-fashioned-way-part_29.html) about 2 mentors I had when I was a "newbie." Those 2 "miner's miners" taught me more about mining and prospecting in a few years than I could have learned on my own in a decade or more. With their instruction and assistance (as well as more than one well-deserved boot to my skinny butt) I got up to speed extremely quickly and could hold my own anywhere and anytime while other "newbies" around me were still trying to figure out how to set up a sluice box.

OK, I've made my point. Your task as a gold mining "newbie" is to find your own mentor(s). How and where can you do this?

Well, you may want to join a mining/prospecting club for starters. I am no great fan of these sorts of clubs myself, but that's my call. I tend not to like crowds when I am mining nor do I take instruction well from some club "grand poobah" or dream merchant who is looking to pick my pocket and fill his or her own in the process.

Now don't get me wrong here. There are some great mining/prospecting clubs out there and the good ones provide valuable resources to newcomers, including club claims, instruction, and mentoring. Notice how I emphasized this word?

You may also find a mentor(s) as I did simply by taking your hat in hand and politely asking for their assistance out in the field. You'll know who they are out there when you're out and about by their steady, no-BS demeanor, their thorough sampling techniques, their proficiency at setting up and running a range of mining equipment, and most importantly, their ability to get the gold.

The options are pretty much open when it comes to finding a mentor. Just use your imagination. Hell, if I had unlimited time and resources I'd mentor you myself.

P&S Fishing Tackle

Regardless of how, where, or when you find a mentor please remember this important point. The best way to learn is by keeping your ego in check, closing your mouth, and opening your eyes and ears.....

Good luck to all of my "newbie" friends out there.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Avoiding Common Mistakes: Tips for Novice Gold Miners (Part 2)"

(c) J.R. 2009

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