("What is" ain't necessarily "what was.")
One opportunity you won't find much discussion about in gold prospecting books or on other online sites is essentially based on the tendency by all of us to look at "what is" and not at "what was." Sufficiently confused at this point are you? Then read on.
More Gold Potential?
Now why is is it other mining and prospecting sources don't bring this potential to your attention? I don't think it stems from some evil plot by dream merchants to sell you yet another bill of goods, but is more than likely based on ignorance or a lack of thoroughness on their part. You see, most dream merchants are better equipped to feed you half truths that bring in the money than they are in steering you to new possibilities in small-scale mining. It's easier (and much more profitable) to say things like "Find an ounce of gold a day!" or to sell you questionable maps with "X" marking the spot to fabulous riches hidden away in the gravels of ancient gold-bearing stream beds than it is to put you onto mining alternatives, especially if the latter don't result in immediate or increased sales. Yep, I'm digressing here a bit and also taking another shot at that small minority of disreputable types in the small-scale mining community, but don't get me wrong. There are plenty of honest, forthright types out there as well who will give you good value for your dollar and have no hidden agendas when it comes to steering you to the gold. But even many of these folks don't focus much on looking at "what was" as opposed to "what is." Now I bet you're really confused. Why? Because we are often told to focus on the now and let the past go in terms of life in general. By and large this is very good advice, but when it comes to small-scale gold mining you may want to try looking at things in just the opposite fashion. Along or near that stream, wash, or arroyo "what was" may hold more gold potential than "what is."
OK, enough mystery. Let me give you a prime example of what I call the "what is" versus "what was" concept:
- The current location, course, flow, and overall configuration of that stream or wash you're working and the obstructions and/or bedrock associated with it, as well as its deposition hydrology.
- The location, course, flow, and overall configuration of that same stream or wash; it's obstructions or bedrock, and its deposition hydrology 25, 50, 100, 500, 1,000 or a million years ago.
(Where was that stream wayyyyy back when?)
What Are You Seeing?
Now you're getting the picture aren't you? What's the classic (and best) example of what I just outlined above? Ancient river beds like the "Great Blue Lead" in California. The "Lead" is composed of those rich Tertiary gold-bearing gravels described so well by geologist and researcher Waldemar Lindgren in his famous book, The Tertiary Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California. Oh, by the way, you Oregon miners would do well to read one of Lindgren's other classic works, The Gold Belt of the Blue Mountains of Oregon. Lindgren was nothing short of brilliant when it came to the scientific analysis and exposition of gold bearing deposits and areas, so when great minds speak you best listen. Anyhoo, the point I'm trying to make here is that what you're seeing out there right now ("what is") is not necessarily a reflection of the past ("what was"). I'll take this even farther. That little bit of placer gold you're currently eking out in those bench gravels could be only a poor substitute for richer, coarser gold laying within your grasp. That stretch of stream you're working right now may be quite recent in overall history. However, most streams change course over time. Even in desert or dry placers ancient rivers once flourished and ran freely with volumes of water only imagined today. Where are those old streams and rivers, or how did the existing stream you're on change over time? Most importantly, where is the gold those old configurations left behind?
(Rivers once ran freely...)
Get With It
No, I'm not making this easy for you. That's because I want you to use that mind and brain power of yours to start finding "what was" (or what may have been) solutions to the problems of "what is" in your mining efforts. I will bet you a dollar to a donut that each and every creek, river, stream, wash, gully, or arroyo you've worked in your small-scale mining career has undergone some type of change over the years, the centuries, or the eons. How much of that history do you really know? Just how much of that geologic history have you researched? See? You want the gold all right, but some of you out there don't want to do the extra work required to get it or perhaps find something far, far better. At least that's my read. So do yourself a favor gold-wise and start getting with it. You're so focused on "what is" that you can't see the forest for the trees (i.e., the "what was"). Just as every little chapter of your life history ("what was") has contributed to who you are now ("what is"), so it goes with those streams, washes, and arroyos. Do your really think they've been in that very same spot, with similar water flow, and with the exact same configuration for decades, or centuries, or millenia? I seriously doubt it, brothers and sisters. You see, that's the essence of taking things a step farther and learning the importance of "what was" as opposed to "what is."
I'll leave you to mull all this over. Maybe that light bulb will turn on or, alternately, become all the brighter.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org