Pocket Gold Mining (Part 1)

(Old-time pocket miners were pretty much loners.)

I know you've all heard about placer gold pockets and paystreaks but how many of you out there know anything about pocket gold mining? It's pretty much a lost art these days, but most old timers knew how to pocket mine and some even used this placer mining technique exclusively.

Opinions are Like What?

Before I get into the heart of the matter here, let me state an opinion (and you know what opinions are like right?). You probably won't hear or read much about pocket mining from most of the self-proclaimed gold mining gurus around these days. "Why is that, J.R.," you ask? Well, more than likely it's because these folks don't know diddly squat about pocket mining themselves. How's that for starters? To take things a step further, many of the self-proclaimed experts and dream merchants out there tend to "parrot" one another in terms of what they have to say and what they have to teach you about small-scale gold mining. It's the "Do this and then do that and then do it again," school of learning.

If you think I'm being a bit too harsh in this regard, I suggest you hit some other online gold prospecting or mining sites and see if this isn't so. Rarely do these people come up with anything that's truly going to add to your existing mining expertise. Granted, many aspects of small-scale gold mining are repetitive by nature and a certain amount of "parroting" can't be helped (and I'm just as guilty as the rest in certain instances). I'll tell you this though...I try my best to go the extra mile to expand your existing knowledge by presenting the same basic information in a different light, by introducing you to totally new techniques and methods, and by giving you important historical reference points that broaden your overall mining horizons.

Anyhoo, now that's off my chest we're back to pocket mining. I'm going to assume that each and every one of you out there (grizzled old sourdoughs and greenhorns alike) know what the hell a paystreak is. So I'm not going to belabor that point.

Placer Gold Pockets

Using the most basic definition, placer gold pockets are isolated locations or spots in a stream, dry wash, or along benches, terraces, or hillsides where gold has been concentrated by erosion, stream hydraulics and deposition factors, flash flooding, or larger-scale events such as significant earth movements, mudslides, or other natural mechanisms. Under the right sorts of circumstances, placer gold will be transported to or collected in dense accumulations known as "pockets." Pockets can be found at bedrock, just above bedrock, on "false" bedrocks, or entrained anywhere from a few inches under the surface all the way down to bedrock. As I've already alluded, they can also be found in placer locations where adjoining bench gravels, terraces, or hillsides exist. As an addendum here, pockets are also part and parcel of lode or vein gold mining, although comparing hard-rock pockets to placer pockets is like comparing apples to oranges or liberals to sane people (see how I snuck that last one in?!).

 ("Now where's that pocket?")

Pockets are typically caused by the mechanisms I've already described but how they end up where they end up can be the result of depressions or cracks in bedrock, large (man-made or natural) obstacles above or below the surface, hollows or cavelets in the local terrain, or simply because the force moving them suddenly went kaput! and dropped them wherever it decided. Sometimes pockets can be the result of more than one of these deposition factors and pockets can also occur on multiple vertical layers in nearly the same spot or in a latitudinal configuration, one close to the next. What does this really mean? It means you could find multiple pockets at depth, pockets close by side-to-side, or alternately...a solitary pocket with no cousins, aunts, or uncles nearby or further down the blade of your shovel or suction hose intake.

A Mystery of Sorts

Placer gold pockets are a mystery of sorts and they can drive you stark raving mad if you spend too much time thinking about them or looking for them. They can be both extremely frustrating and wonderfully rewarding.That's why many old timers went for the steady goods to be had by "regular" mining methods and techniques and pooh-poohed pocket mining. In fact, many old time gold prospectors and miners were crazier than loons (in the broadest sense, anyway) but to them, pocket hunters and pocket miners were the REAL crazy ones! Go figure.

Most old-time pocket miners lived at the subsistence level and quite often their credit bills with local merchants and erstwhile pards were longer than their beards. You see, placer gold pocket hunting is true "hit-or-miss" mining that puts you in the feast or famine mode. I've read accounts of old-time pocket miners who worked like dogs day after miserable day in all sorts of weather for six to eight months without finding enough gold to feed and clothe themselves and then one morning hit a pocket worth hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars. Then it was clear the decks time and let the party begin! Drinks for the house, wild women, new duds, steak dinners at the local hotel, and then bust out time again searching for food scraps behind the local flophouse.

A Gambler's Gamble

If gold mining is, by and large, a gamble and we as small-scale miners are gamblers who try to beat the house odds by counting cards at blackjack or betting the pass line at craps, then pocket miners were the Bingo and Keno players of their day. They liked taking a gambler's gamble. Just like those two games, you don't win often but if you do win, you win BIG. And "hitting it big" is the essential core of pocket mining. But it's all relative my friends. What's big to you? A few grams? A few ounces? A troy pound? See what I mean about gold pockets? You could put a few bucks in your pocket or thousands if things work in your favor. Find multiple pockets in close proximity to one another and you might just be able to pay that mortgage off. They're hellish things gold pockets...hellish things.

Now that we have that established, in my next post I'll tell you how to go about finding gold pockets. I know I've painted a somewhat jaundiced picture of pocket mining but don't let my sardonic humor dissuade you. Actually, pocket hunting is a perfectly valid means for getting the gold...especially these days when you want to maximize your gold recovery potential over a short period of time.

Hang tough out there.

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015

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


  1. I have said it before and will say it again. JR your the man. The best prospecting schooling around. Bar none. Love your honesty. Love the fact that we are not pumped full of the same old incestuous pool of information while being barraged by advertisements of worthless reinvented mining equipment adds. Oh lets not forget the false hope of joining our association where "some" members find enough gold to make there house payments. Enough said. I will get off my soap box now. Before I do though Jim, thanks for just being honest and being one hell of a writer also.
    Ok on to the subject. My mentor other than Jim also names Jim told me that when he was a kid there was a miner that chased pockets. He was so good that he could find Epithermal pockets that were as small as a pensile in width and maybe 2 to 10 feet long. Jim Straight also told me about Epithermal pods. Some as small as a bucket and some as big as bath tub....full of gold. Said most of us are to lazy to go find them, but there still out there for the taking. This past weekend in Randsburg 8 grams were pulled out in less than 2 hours. About 10 full buckets. Nice day NICE pocket. Listen Learn then go Look.
    Thanks once more for real information. Hoping and praying we all can get together for a Jamboree.

  2. Hello Jim, I had to laugh.....I thought you were talking about the other type of" Pocket Mining"....you know the one....where the "dream merchants" mine the pockets of hopeful,get rich quick prospectors! (or hunters,trappers.....)
    Then I really had to laugh....."liberals and sane people"....I love it!! Keep up the good work!


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