There's No Such Thing as Failure in Small-Scale Gold Mining

Small-scale gold mining can be a real challenge at times. Frustration, disappointment, and the urge to throw in the towel are always lurking about. It's part and parcel of the game I guess, but I'm here to tell you no matter how your prospecting and mining activities are going just keep on keeping on. In the long run, it ain't nothin' but a thing.

Right from the get go the message you should take away from this post is this:

There's no such thing as failure in small-scale gold mining.

Each and every minute you spent prospecting and mining is a positive, no matter how poorly you might do on any given occasion. Ideally, we all want to get the gold and lots of it. But the truth of the matter is that we small-scale guys and gals often have to struggle mightily to get even small amounts of gold. That's the reality of the matter so you newbies and greenhorns out there should take note. Striking it rich may be the golden dream dancing around in your heads but chances are you'll work your asses off for very little yellow...most of the time, anyway. But I digress. Even the worst days mining (like fishing!) are better than any given work day where you're stuck going through the motions at some job you aren't crazy about (or even hate, God forbid).

Winning Proposition

Here's why I believe there's no such thing as failure when you're prospecting and mining. First of all, you're out and about doing something you love to do, right? 'Cause if you don't love small-scale gold mining then you're in the wrong place Bub (or Bubette). Enjoying what you do is the key...being passionate about something. I'm passionate about gold prospecting and mining and everything associated with it. I imagine most of you feel exactly the same way. So how can you call something you dearly love a failure whatever the results of any given day, week, month, or year? Next, everything you see, hear, read, study, and do that's mining-related is a plus. The results really don't matter in the long run because it's all good and it's all contributing to your knowledge and experience as a small-scale prospector and gold miner. That's a winning proposition, not a losing one.

Only Fools and Idiots

We all make mistakes in this life. We screw up at times, do stupid things, or forget that the medium is not necessarily the message. Small-scale gold prospecting and mining is no different. What you might perceive as a big mistake in your mining approach is in truth, a plus. It's a big time learning opportunity. A chance to man or woman up, admit the error in your ways, and learn and grow from the experience. Only a fool or an idiot persists in doing the same things the same ways over and over again and expecting different results (or in this case, more gold). That's just plain craziness, brothers and sisters. Each and every mistake you make provides a golden opportunity to learn, adjust, and a miner and as a human being. So seize those learning opportunities each and every time they arise. And in small-scale gold mining those opportunities abound.

 (Mistakes provide a golden opportunity to learn and adjust.)

Here's another thing. Stop beating yourself up for not being whatever you think you should be or the fact you haven't produced gold in prodigious amounts yet. It is what it is. Gold mining is, as always, a lot of hard work for very little return. You can only do what you can do. So quit feeling bad about yourself or what you're doing and simply get with the program, knowing all the while you're willing to do whatever it takes to make things work for you. By focusing on what you need to learn, you not only grow as a miner but as a person and create greater good for yourself and those around you.

Old Habits Die Hard

Mistakes? What mistakes? They're ALL learning opportunities brothers and sisters. Each and every one of them, no matter how large or small or how painful they may be. Learn from those mistakes you make running that dredge or dry washer or swinging that gold detector. And make them you will, sooner or later. It ain't the end of the world though. You have the power and courage within to face any challenge, no matter how bad or untimely those challenges may be. That's true in gold mining and prospecting as well as in that twisting path we call life. So just suck it up and motor on. Be willing to learn as you go and change accordingly. Old habits may die hard but that doesn't mean you have to remain stuck in the rut of making the same errors over and over again. Then bull shitting yourself that everything's OK just the way it is. Trust ain't.

I Learn by Two-by-Four

I sit in judgment of no one, least of all you. I've screwed up more times in my life than I care to count and I've made some pretty bonehead moves from a mining and prospecting standpoint as well. I've always been a hard learner in the sense of getting the messages I need to get. I usually get the message after I've been whacked upside the head with a two-by-four twenty or thirty times. But here's the deal...when I finally get the message I act on it totally and completely. I do whatever it takes to get the job done and then move forward. So will you.

(How I learn...)

So the next time things go awry out there in the diggings, do your best to get a line on why things went a kilter. Then make the necessary changes to your gear, set up, or approach so you can move forward again and get that yellow metal. Ditto for the abundant gold life has to offer.

Hang in there troops!

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

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Oh yes J.R. I get that! after running for 7 days found my gold take wasn't what I had hoped. Very frustrating, Why? because my gut said change the sluice slope but my arrogance said naw its all right. End of the day, half my gold went out the end of the box. At least I can go back and rework the tailings.

    1. Well by God you learned though didn't you? That's what counts my friend.

  2. JR, great advice, not only for gold mining, but all things in life.
    Remember the show on TV I told you about on Bodie California? Well I've been thinking about that. Every show or movie I have ever seen shows the dirt poor prospector digging up pan fulls of gold nuggets the size of marbles or bigger. How many times have you seen the TV prospector find a huge nugget and bite it to test if it's gold? OK, now in real life....have you EVER seen anyone have to bite a nugget to tell if it's gold?? Fools gold may fool the new comer, but when you see real gold, you know it's real gold! How 'bout the football size nugget on "Pale Rider"? He must be tough holding it in one hand and his whiskey bottle in the other! No wonder folks new to this game get discouraged so easy when they find out in real life flour fine gold is more the "norm" than one ounce nuggets. If you really could get 5-6 marble size nuggets to a pan, it wouldn't be worth $1,000 an ounce! I know some places are better than others but finding flakes the size of these letters is doing better than average. Most all of us start out with a buckskin bag to hold all our gold nuggets instead if a glass vial, an eye dropper and a pair of tweezers to pick up the "big stuff". I recall someone writing once about the baby food jar he planed to fill on his first outing....been there......Well, anyway.......

  3. Very well said Gary and you're absolutely right on the money.


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