Mining Tips From an Old Timer (Part 6)

Now that I've gotten the last post out of my system somewhat, it's time for this old timer to drop a few more pearls of mining wisdom your way. Or something along those lines I guess.

16. Gold sniping can be profitable.

There are some small-scale gold miners I know who've never done any gold sniping (shallow or underwater) whatsoever. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the majority of these are "desert rat" types who typically work with dry washers or who primarily run motorized recovery gear in wet placer environments. Sometimes the terms "crevicing" and "sniping" are used in overlap fashion and I myself am guilty of this. But the truth of the matter is that gold sniping is a highly specialized form of crevicing that takes place only where water (and hopefully) shallow or exposed bedrock is available. I know you can argue this point if you care to, but I think you understand what I'm trying to say here. Basically, it's all "toe-mate-toes" or "toe-maw-toes" hyperbole...take your pick. Anyway, for those who are willing to learn the trade, gold sniping can be very profitable. In numerous instances I've seen adept bedrock snipers in California's Motherlode Region make a killing while highbankers and dredgers were struggling to even out for the day. The reason for this (aside from knowledge and experience) is the simple fact that an experienced gold sniper is directly targeting spots or locations where gold can be expected to be concentrated due to stream hydrology and the laws of deposition physics. Dredgers (and small-scale miners in general) are also on this wavelength but their strategy is about moving lots of of dirt to hopefully reach and recover similar concentrations. Understand that this doesn't mean gold snipers ALWAYS beat out the mining machinery operators because they don't. But I've seen them do it enough times (and I have done it myself as well) that it should give you pause for serious thought about the gold recovery potential of an adept sniper.

 (Sniped placer gold.)

Like everything else in mining, gold sniping isn't easy but here's the good's cheap! The cost of getting yourself geared up with what you need (wetsuit, hood, booties, snorkel and mask, snipe tube, suction tube, crevicing tools, etc.) is far, far less than the thousands you'll pay for fancy dredges and highbankers (and the like). Moreover, as long as you're reasonably fit and not afraid of being in the water gold sniping is viable for men and women of nearly all ages except the very young and perhaps the very old. I'll also tell you this. There is nothing in the world more exciting than looking through your mask underwater and seeing bright, shiny placer gold nuggets, flakes, or chunkers crammed into cracks and crevices or laying atop bedrock just waiting to be picked up. It's an absolute joy, believe me. The only caution I'd throw out here to temper that joy is this: gold sniping (especially underwater versus shallow water) has its inherent dangers or risks. So your best bet is to remain the very smart person you already are and buddy up with someone else if you want to go gold sniping underwater.

17. Go big or go home.

I don't care what level of experience you're at as a small-scale gold miner, prospector, "fossicker," or nugget shooter. Either go big or go home. This doesn't mean I'm suggesting you invest every dime you have for one big roll of the dice to go for the gold and it surely doesn't mean you have to sell the kids to human traffickers to get a grubstake to make that roll. What it means is that whatever you do from a mining or prospecting standpoint should be done to the best of your ability, making optimum use of your existing knowledge without any half-assed approaches or measures. In other words, always do the very best you can no matter what you're doing out there...swinging a gold detector, eating dust dry washing, sniping, panning, highbanking, dredging, sluicing, or even running expensive commercial gear and the very best you can and give it everything you have each and every time you're doing it. And while you're at it, nix on the bitching, whining, and complaining. Just man and woman up and get the job done the best way you know how. That's the true spirit of mining. Facing difficulty, adversity, and many instances disappointment with a smile on your face and a promise to the universe that you'll do better next time. Stay positive and remain focused on the task at hand and the universe will deliver back in kind. If you carry this attitude with you into (and out) of the gold fields you'll not only be a better miner but a better person as well...after all, being a gold miner or a prospector doesn't mean you have to be a flaming asshole or an arrogant SOB. Ultimately, going big means you'll go home with more gold in the long run and others will eventually look at you with unlimited respect for your abilities and your integrity as an individual and as a miner. Be a BIG person always, not small minded or mean spirited. Both in and out of the gold fields. Got that? Good.

18. Watch your angles and slopes.

This is the difference between the old sourdoughs and veteran miners out there and the greenhorns, newbies, and just plain lazy asses (these latter are in a different category than the first two because they know better). The former know how important the yaw (angle degree to right or left) and degree or angle of slope (degree of verticality) are to setting up mining equipment properly and getting the most from that gear in terms of efficiency at gold recovery. The latter often don't have a least until they learn otherwise. Even a lowly gold pan can be used incorrectly. Ever thought of that? Just get too steep a slope on that puppy and watch the gold get washed away. You see, even the slightest maladjustment in the yaw angle and/or degree of slope on a sluice box, dry washer, highbanker, or any other piece of mining equipment can have negative consequences on your ability to get more gold. Did I just say "can have"??? Let me change that to "will have."

 (Even a sluice box requires a good eye and steady hand to set up properly.)

Although there are some general rules for set-up yaw and slope angles it's been my experience over time that each mining location and situation calls for custom adjustments to some extent or another. Additionally, learning the proper set up-angles and slopes for mining gear is not something best taught in a book or even this blog...they're best learned by hands-on experience or on-the-job training (OJT) or mentoring. Some of you newcomers may be wondering what all the fuss is about slopes and yaw angles and here's my answer to you. If you're actually thinking that way then you have a lot to learn and I recommend you get on the straight and narrow path right away. Gold mining may seem quite simple stripped to its basics (and in some ways it is) but the fact of the matter is learning the finer points is what separates the men from the boys and the girls from the women. I'll even take this idea a step farther. I can tell what sort of small-scale miner I'm dealing with by watching that same someone set up their mining equipment. So could any small-scale gold miner worth his or her own salt. But subjective considerations like this aren't really what matters. What matters is getting the gold, not losing it. So learn the proper set-up slopes and angles.

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

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  1. JR, Dad always said "If a job is worth doing, it's worth doing right. No matter what it is, do your best. Then if it doesn't work out, you can hold your head up high and know it wasn't your fault". Good advice for life in general, not just gold mining.

  2. Setting up a sluice has always been a difficult task for me. I have never been able to just look at the water flow and say that's the angle. I have to tinker endlessly for about 15 minutes while I'm washing dirt through it. I was taught by old timers who never classified a thing. They washed the big rocks off in the hole and tossed them out. Rubbing them down if there was a clay layer, Anything less than 3 inches went into the box. At first I was concerned that gold must be washing out. They plopped the tailing from the front of the sluice back into the box, and some back in a pan. There was no gold. Unconventional but effective all the same. Buckets got damn heavy though. 20 years later I still have to tinker around with the water flow while dirt is in the box, but now I am more apt to classify my dirt down or fill the buckets with less material. Whether it's wisdom or age I couldn't say, but my back thanks me heartily.

  3. It always takes a few minutes to get your box set up and running properly. That never changes. Just gets easier with time and experience Jeff.


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