Finding Gold Isn't All That Hard (Part 1)

 (Let's talk gold.)

OK it's back to small-scale gold mining and prospecting. I appreciate the comments regarding my previous post and rest assured I'll forge ahead with that project and hopefully get my book published at some point. Now let's talk gold.

What IS Difficult

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the title of this post didn't raise an eyebrow or two out there. But the truth of the matter is that finding gold isn't all that hard. In fact, even the greenest of newcomers can expect to find a show of color in their gold pans providing they are in an area that has a proven, historical track record of producing placer gold. Finding lode gold isn't nearly as easy, but it too can be found if you're in a decent mineralized region with known production and have a modicum of knowledge. No, finding gold isn't that difficult. What IS difficult is finding and recovering gold in greater quantity or coarseness (i.e., nuggets, "chunkers," and the like). Even the greenest turnip that just fell off the truck can chase down that glint of gold in the pan, but that same newbie is probably gonna play hell getting lots of gold or bigger gold. Sure, luck sometimes intervenes and even the dimmest of bulbs hits a decent score now and then, but those occasions are rare indeed.

 (We all rode that turnip truck at one point or another.)

Of Gold and Monkeys

Now I'm not singling out those of you who are new to small-scale mining and prospecting nor am I trying to dissuade you from continuing on in this great tradition of ours. In fact, just the opposite is true. I encourage you to join us veterans and old timers in keeping this tradition alive and passing along your knowledge to the next generation of small-scale gold miners. But having been a greenhorn myself way back when I can pretty much state with reasonable truth that even in my greenest days I could always find a bit of color once my handlers pointed me in the right direction at a proven spot. It's sort of like some of those TV reality show miners who may not have known their asses from a hole in the ground about prospecting and mining when they first set foot in Alaska, but it really didn't matter. Put a monkey on proven gold ground in a good gold area and I guarantee that chimp will turn up a fleck of gold somewhere. No, I'm not comparing you newbies out there to monkeys, just a select few of those TV reality types. That said, even those TV mining "stars" learned that finding some gold is not the hard part, but getting lots of it is. So it is for each and every one of us small-scale guys and gals. See where I'm going with this? (You greenhorns should pay particular attention.) It's not finding gold that's the bane of our existence as small-scale miners, it's getting lots of it. Nuggets and chunkers are great and exciting to find, but as I've said before I'd rather have a couple-three troy ounces of fine gold in my poke than a half-ounce nugget. In an ideal mining world we'd all find lots of coarse, chunky gold with nuggets scattered throughout. That'd be the end of the story right then and there. But alas and alack that rarely happens in our world, sad to say.

(Even a monkey could find a bit of color on the right ground.)

So finding color right away isn't a big deal really. Finding grams or ounces of gold in a short period of time IS A BIG DEAL. So how do you go about that? (You veteran miners and old timers out there can take a nap at this juncture or get up from that easy chair and put the dog outside. You already know this stuff.) Here's how you do it:

Learn every possible detail about a prospective gold location BEFORE you prospect or work it. 

Oh God, here we go again right? Old J.R.'s back to preaching his research sermon. Damn straight I am! Here's the basic deal one more time. You can load your gear in the truck and head for the nearest gold location and start panning away and I guarantee you're going to find a few specks of color or a nice flake or two. No research or study needed. But if you find that color and want lots more of it, you better get your mind right and hit the books (or get online). What are you looking for? Any and all info pertaining to that region, area, or location, including:
  • What's the area's geological history and lay out;
  • What were the types or amounts of gold recovered there;
  • Where did the gold come from;
  • How much gold was recovered or produced in that area?;
  • What techniques, methods, and equipment were used to recover it?; and
  •  How much potential does it still retain for you?
These are just a few of the sorts of questions you should be asking and answering if you're truly committed to getting more than just a few flecks or specks of color. You can do things half-assed and have fun or you can do things right and have fun. Whoa, hold up there. Let's look more closely at this equation:

Dt.50+Hf=<Au  (Do things half-assed + have fun = less gold)

 or alternately,

Dt100.0+Hf=>Au  (Do things right + have fun = more gold)

How's that for high math?

You've heard me say time and time and time again that small-scale gold mining is not for lazy asses. And it's not. There's mental work that needs doing as surely as the physical work required. Anyone can heft a pick or shovel or wield a gold pan and get a bit of gold. But you're going to have to walk that extra mile if you want to get REALLY GOOD at this game and get lots of gold or bigger gold or both.

Think on that for a bit...

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2016

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. It's a good idea to look over an area that you want to try. Think about what it once looked like and how it may have changed from previous prospecting activity. Where in front of you has not been disturbed? What would have been looked over because it entailed more effort? This is particularly important where large scale equipment is known to have been used, such as bucket dredges. Also keep in mind that everyone else from the past has gone for the easy pickings. Take the time to study the surrounding rock structures. Also envision how the area may have changed through the eons, such as where a river bed was could have been as it shifted and cut downward. I call this visual research, for lack of a better term.

  2. Yep, the first thing I do is "eyeball" things. I'll either stand there or sit and spend a half hour or more sometimes trying to get a visual "line" on things.


  3. I wish sometimes we had access to information like that over here in Scotland ☺
    We have to start from scratch finding our own locations which have no and never have had any history of gold occurrence let alone mining. Lol.
    It's tough, for example knowing 5 miles away as the crow flies from one location, I can find pannable almost surface gold. Where as I can only find great quantities of black sand and not even a little fly poop of gold. It messes with your head. 😧

  4. Believe me my Scottish friend, gold has messed with my head numerous times over the course of 36 years! Hang in there and keep up the good fight. That yellow metal will find its way to you.


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