John Elliott's Solar-Powered Suction Dredge (What is and What Isn't, Part 2)

 (Terrain in the Tusas.)

Sorry, but I really had to shift gears about the paystreak issue that was meant to be the heart of this series of posts. Why? Because yesterday I saw an amazing little invention. A solar-powered suction dredge! Yes, you heard right.

A Solar-Powered Dredge

Yesterday, Ernie Martinez (my mining pard) and I returned to the Tusas Region gold location we've been toying with off and on for the past year to try and pull a little color. Well we'd been at it for only a short time when an older gentleman (but some years younger than this old timer!) showed up. John Elliott is his name and he politely asked us if he could work near us, something every true small-scale prospector and miner worth his or her salt would do. You see, to muscle in on a spot that is already being worked by others is a big no-no in the small-scale mining community. You greenhorns and newbies out there remember that. It's one of the big, unspoken rules that real miners uphold and live by. Fishermen too, I suspect.

(Ernie hitting a section of bedrock.)

I told John that would be fine and mentioned that the area was open anyway. But it's what John said next that left me flabbergasted. He asked if we'd ever seen a solar-powered suction dredge at work since that's what he was about to use. After I got my jaw pushed back up into its normal position I told John I'd love to see his contraption. I must admit I was a bit skeptical at first but I'm open to just about anything new in moving gold dirt, truth be told. Well, it didn't take John very long to get his rig set up and running. I apologize, but I can't give you specifications or details on John's self-designed, do-it-yourself unit for proprietary reasons. If someone like John comes up with a good idea and brings it to fruition and asks that I not spill the beans on the details I'm gonna honor that request each and every time. Most of you out there already know that's just how I roll.

One Smart Cookie

I can tell you that John's little suction dredge uses a 1.5 inch nozzle intake, one of the smallest I've ever seen in use anywhere, anytime. It works like a champ but doesn't exactly tear up and move material as fast as suction dredges with larger intakes. But it DOES move material. The fact of the matter is that John's dredge works despite it's size. So the concept is solid. It's slicker than hell and I can't give him enough credit for what he's come up with. He's one smart cookie, that's for certain. It was amazing to watch that little unit work and without a SOUND. The only noise was the tumbling of the material as it passed through the house and splattered against the grizzly screen on his sluice box. Imagine that...a noiseless suction dredge! That aspect gives me lots of ideas for working areas that might not otherwise be feasible for working, if you get my drift.

(John Elliot.)

Suggestions and Considerations

Well one thing led to another and John and I had a brief discussion about his unit, which is still in the developmental stage. I suggested that if he could work out the various configuration bugs and increase the unit's power and suction to employ a 2.5-3.0 inch intake then the world was open to him. Obviously, the bigger intake and higher vacuum would mean you could move some serious material, akin to what a motorized (gasoline) powered 2.5-3.0 incher does. John's measured reply that his initial design (the current unit he's using) was designed to be small and lightweight so it could be backpacked in to remote locations. But he also agreed that a different, more powerful model might be a good idea as well. Another possibility I brought up was securing the sluice box onto a lightweight frame atop two small pontoons (inner tubes are shit for this type of use). That takes away from the portability factor but opens up the possibility of easily moving the dredge around in the water from spot-to-spot. Finally, I think John's concept and design could be deployed in a series of variants...the small, lightweight 1.5 inch backpack version, a backpack version with a slightly larger intake, and the pontoon variant with larger intake.

 (Ernie taking a breather.)

One More Thing

I know this. If John works out the kinks and comes up with a viable 2.5-3.0+ inch version of his solar-powered suction dredge I'll damn sure buy one. Ernie probably would too. I think John's come up with a highly marketable solution to the issues related to gas-driven dredges. Granted, the sun doesn't always shine but John has an answer for that as well...battery power. He demonstrated this to me yesterday by adding a battery to his unit for additional power. The battery could be used alone as well, I suspect. However, John's main focus is on solar power. So you see, miner's are "green" too (take that you enviro-Nazis out there). One more thing. John is also working on a solar-powered puffer dry washer set up too. That's pretty much a straight-shot idea, methinks. Using a solar panel to drive an electric motor that in turn powers the cam and pulley configuration of most puffers is as real as the day is long.

Onto Something

Forget the inconsequential paystreak info I was about to pass on. I had an unforgettable day yesterday seeing something totally new in my mining career, which is pushing 37 years now. John Elliott's onto something folks. And if you hear that from me you know it's solid because I'm not easily impressed when it comes to gold or the getting of it.

I'm planning on staying in contact with John as he develops his concept down the road. So stay tuned...

My best to all of you.

(c) Jim Rocha 2016

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Jr, wow, that seems like it might get around a lot of the BS Forest Nazi laws. The muddy creek water they complain about would still be there, but no oil or gas in the water. We all know there is very little of that if it's done right anyway, but convincing the G-men is another thing. Please follow up on this if possible. I am very interested, and I think many others would be as well. This guy might have hit "gold" before ever even digging! Gary

    1. Thanks for your interest. I made a significant change to the length of my discharge hose and got a significant increase in suction and a further reduction in weight. More to follow. John Elliott

  2. I agree totally Gary. John's onto something here.


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