Start Small and Keep Your Focus (Plus a Rant or Two)

 (Someone got the gold!)

One thing many newcomers to small-scale gold mining think is that they have to have all sorts of gear and equipment to get started. I'm here to tell you that this is a big mistake on the front end. No matter where you are in the small-scale gold mining hierarchy here's a tip for you: start small and keep your focus as time goes on. You'll get your gold.

In a Nutshell

You know, there are about as many approaches to small-scale gold prospecting and mining as there are purveyors of mining gear and equipment...yep, those dream merchants you hear me rant and rave about occasionally. Let me qualify the latter for you. Most gold prospecting shop owners and sellers of mining gear are fine, upstanding folks who are as honest as the day is long. OK that said, let me re-focus. There's a time and place for purchasing expensive gold-grabbing gear and early on in your mining career is NOT the time to be doing that.

 (There's a time and a place for expensive gear.)

Hells bells...I know successful gold prospectors and miners who've spent their entire lives with the most rudimentary equipment you can imagine. So you don't have to be rigged out like some of those miners (I use the term loosely here) you see tearing up the countryside with heavy equipment on TV. By the way, in my book what those reality TV "stars" are doing is called commercial mining, not small-scale mining as it's known in its purest form. As a miner myself, I hope each and every one of those D-8 drivers, rock truck pilots, and excavator jockeys strikes it rich because gold mining is hard work no matter how you slice it and no matter what scale you pursue it at. But commercial gold mining ain't my thing and never will be...I don't care how much damn gold those guys get. I love what I do and I don't want to sacrifice that love for money I can't take with me to the other side or fleeting "stardom" that ultimately only causes egos to balloon and people to lose their perspective on what's truly important in this brief life of ours. There it is in a nutshell.

Know How Blessed You Are?

Now you newbies and greenhorns out there listen up to someone who knows and who's always had to learn the hard way. All you need on the front end of this thing of ours is a gold pan, a classifier, and a few basic hand tools. Maybe a pick and shovel and a five-gallon bucket would help. That's about it. If you're fat with cash and bound and determined to buy that $6,000 suction dredge, pick up a $1,200 dry washer, and wrap your greedy little hands around a $3,500 gold detector you can go head on and do that but you'll be more lost than a wandering lamb in the wild and all that expensive gear isn't going to do you one damn bit of good unless a real gold prospector or miner comes along, puts your nose in the gold, and shows you the "how to's" of all that pricy gear. Otherwise you might as well stand on a Florida beach facing the ocean during a hurricane and piss into the wind. You'll be about as effective at getting the gold with no knowledge or experience behind you. Am I being too rough here? Ah, poor thing...I'm sorry...NOT! This is tough love I'm teaching, not the utter BS the dream merchants or the TV producers want to force down your throat.

Those of you out there with very thin wallets are really better off than those newbies with lots of folding green to throw away. You can't afford all that fancy gear and must live hand-to-mouth as it pertains to small-scale gold mining. Do you know how blessed you are? Yep, you better believe it. You'll be starting small from the beginning and maybe...just more time passes you'll garner enough gold in your poke to start up scaling gear-wise. As you work your way up the mining food chain this way there's also an incidental benefit that will come your way. It's called experience. And with that experience will come greater knowledge and with that greater knowledge will come even more experience and expertise. Then, and only then, will your money be well-spent when you slap it down on the counter and buy that expensive mining equipment. So start small and keep your dreams big.

Focus, Focus, Focus

If you look around just about anywhere in your daily life you're bound to see people who just can't seem to get it together, who seem to run hither and thither like chickens with their heads cut off. You know what causes this behavior? A total lack of focus. Sure, a bit of discipline or some sort of regimen would help these folks as well, but both of those things are based on guess what? Yep. You guessed it...the ability to focus. As you go about your mining and prospecting activities you should always maintain a high level of focus on the job at hand. Focus, focus, focus. Do that and throw in a good measure of positive thinking and "can do" attitude and nothing will stop you from getting the gold. Sure, you'll hit the proverbial brick wall at times and there may be no small number of disappointments along the way, but if you focus your will and your efforts to the task at hand you'll emerge victorious in the long run.

Remember, the only limitations you have are those you place on yourself.

Best of luck out there.

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

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR, as always, you are right on target with this one. Trust your equipment, trust your equipment, TRUST YOUR EQUIPMENT! When you are not finding much, or maybe nothing at all, it is easy to put the blame on your equipment and not yourself. We all think "why is this not working" then we read about the newest, and greatest gizmo and convince ourselves we need to buy it. Only thing is it doesn't find you anymore than before, so then we are off to the next greatest thing. You don't need a fancy gold pan with deep riffles built into it or what ever. Many of the early day miners used an old tin plate or frying pan and did just fine. If you are not finding the gold, maybe it just isn't there, or maybe you need to try a different spot. Listen to advice from others and JR's Bedrock Dreams. Remember every penny you spend on equipment puts you farther in the hole. Those old timers used handmade wooden sluice boxes and rockers, not $300 aluminum ones. When you find more and decide you like doing this, invest in better equipment, but don't over do it! I fell into this trap, both with gold pans and coyote hunting calls. I have gone back to using my old tin pan instead of the fancy plastic ones and a squeaker toy my dog shredded to hunt coyotes! Both work as well or better than the high priced stuff! Thanks JR! Gary


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