Most of the time here in Bedrock Dreams I pass on information on what you should do when it comes to small-scale gold mining and prospecting. In this post I'll be listing what you DON'T want to do. It's tough love time folks but I know that most of you are up to the task at hand, despite the fact you may have heard all this before.
1. Don't buy lots of fancy and expensive equipment or gear when you're just starting out. Yep, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Don't throw your hard-earned money away on all sorts of crap you don't really need if you're a newbie or greenhorn. It's like putting the cart before the horse. You need to learn the basics first and gather some journeyman skills and knowledge. Heed what I say on this issue, OK? I know what I'm talking about.
2. Don't get claim hustled. Yes, there are plenty of hustlers in the gold mining game. This is especially true when it comes to buying mining claims. If you're headed in that direction and committed to that course of action then know this...buyer beware. I wish I could print all the sad e-mails I've received over the years from earnest souls such as yourself who went this route and got burned. Some got burned to the tunes of thousands and, in once case, tens of thousands of dollars. I shit you not. So you better know what you're getting into on the front end and who the hell you're dealing with. DO YOUR RESEARCH up front and learn everything you can about the seller(s) before laying down your cash. Are there reputable claim sellers out there? Yes, there are. But I could count the number I know on one hand.
3. Don't expect to get rich from small-scale gold mining. I should amend this admonition by including commercial mining as well. If you're coming into this thing of ours with dreams of wealth dancing before your eyes you best wake up and smell the coffee. Yes, gold mining can be rewarding and, on occasion, profitable. But most of us rarely are able to put money in the bank from our mining and prospecting efforts. You come into this circle of miners because you love it, not because you expect to become rich. If you want to become wealthy try something else, 'cause small-scale gold mining ain't the way. Sometimes the truth hurts.
4. Don't alienate those in the small-scale mining community. Most, if not all, of you reading this are fine, upstanding people. But if you operate from an untrammeled ego, are a bullshitter supreme, an inveterate liar, or a "taker" instead of a "giver," then you best just keep plodding along that path of manipulation you're already on. We don't want you among us and no matter how slick you are once we learn your game you'll be dead to us all. So take your shit elsewhere if you're operating on the dark side.
5. Don't expect others to do the hard work for you. This is an indirect follow on to Number 4. Gold mining in any form is extremely hard work for very small returns the majority of the time. You best be able to hump your gear and work like a Third World laborer if you want to put some yellow metal in your poke. In other words, lazy asses and non-hackers should move on down the road. Moreover, expect to do the work yourself because no one else is gonna do it for you no matter how much you beg, plead, or cajole. Got it?
(You'll work like a Third World laborer.)
6. Don't believe everything the dream merchants tell you. There are plenty of folks out there purveying gold prospecting and mining gear, books, maps, and everything else under the sun related to mining. Most of these people are upstanding and honest, and will give you a fair shake in any business transaction you have with them. But there is a narrow spectrum of these folks who will sell you anything and everything (they hope all at once) in their inventory whether you really need it or not. Oh, and they'll sell you "the dream" while doing so. What's the dream? That you'll find an "ounce a day," that their maps will lead you to riches that King Solomon himself would have been envious of, that their "gold locator" will point the way to a massive gold vein from 30 miles away, or that overly expensive gold dredge they want to sell you will pay for itself the first few days you use it. Like P.T. Barnum once said, "There's a sucker born every minute." Don't be one of them.
7. Don't do things half-assed. One of the worst things you can do in small-scale gold mining and prospecting is doing things half-assed. That means being lazy, not being thorough, rushing things, or just plain acting like a scatter brain. Take care and take pride in what you do. I don't care if you're just panning for a little color. Do it right the first time. If you follow this simple rule I guarantee you'll get more gold in the end.
8. Don't buy inferior gear or equipment. This relates to Number 1 and some of you are already shaking your heads in confusion. No, you don't need the fancy and expensive stuff (especially when you're starting out) but you do want to buy the best and the most-proven gear YOU CAN AFFORD. If you can't afford it, then design and build it yourself if you're so inclined. I built my first sluice box and rocker (yes, I know...not rocket science) but those basic pieces of gear that I wrought with my own hands worked every bit as good anything I could have purchased at the time. I was short on cash in those days, you see. Now I could buy the best of the best if I wanted to, but I'm still using gear I was using 36+ years ago when I was just starting out. If you can't be new school then be old school. The yellow will come regardless. Just try and work with the most reliable gear you can afford to purchase (or build).
(If you can't afford quality then build quality.)
9. Don't shoot your mouth off about good finds. If you hit the "big one" or recover something spectacular learn to keep your mouth shut. Just recently some lucky miner in California recovered a beautiful nugget just under 20 ounces. Now his name is all over the place and every Tom, Dick, Harriet and ne'r-do-well out there knows about it...and him. I know that it's human nature to want to have bragging rights and to strut your stuff but if you're one of those non-thinking ego-driven "star" wannabes you're gonna shit in your own nest by advertising your good finds. I can't emphasize this enough to you. What would I have done if I'd been that lucky California miner? I'd of kept my mouth shut, first of all. I would have kept my name and mug off the TV and out of the papers. I would have approached specimen collectors discreetly and sold the damn thing. Most importantly, I would have kept the circle of those "in the know" as small as possible. Why? If you have to ask this question I can only shake my head in sadness. If you find something good or locate a rich spot KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. Only bad things can happen otherwise. Trust me, because it happened to me 30 years ago...
10. Don't depend solely on your intellect and knowledge when it comes to mining and prospecting. Those two things are very valuable assets and you should depend on them always. But don't neglect your intuition, your "gut feelings" when it comes to getting the gold. More often than not that little voice within you that tells you to move to another spot or dig around that particular boulder is telling you something and you best heed it. Sure, many times things won't "pan out" but when they do you'll be glad you listened to yourself. So if you get a strong gut feeling go with it.
11. Don't believe everything you hear. You'll hear a lot of good stories in the small-scale mining community and every other dude or dudette out there is just oozing with advice and tips, myself included. Learn to filter what you hear and don't accept everything at face value. Gold miners can be great bullshitters so you best keep your BS radar up and running. I've heard some pretty tall mining tales over the years and although some of them were accurate most were sheer fantasy or an attempt by the yarn spinner to pull the wool over your eyes. You should know by now that I am NO BSer. In fact I've taken a lot of shots from people for telling it like it is and over the years I've raised the ire of a number of dream merchants and claim hustlers to the point of being threatened with legal action. That should indicate to you that I hold the truth sacred, no matter how painful it may be to those who don't want to hear it.
12. Don't be a selfish ass. Be the good person you are. That's all you have to do. Be generous with your time and expertise, and help newcomers out when and where you can. We have enough assholes in this world right now and we sure as hell don't need another one. Let the light within you shine brightly and allow it to illuminate the hearts and minds of others who so desperately seek that help. Who knows, you may be the person that makes a real difference in their lives, mining or otherwise. That's REAL gold there.
Hang tough and keep the faith.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2016
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org