(Searching for that color.)
In this post I'll be working my way around this topic and will eventually get to where I need to be. Again, there are numerous areas to explore and cover regarding small-scale gold mining fundamentals and my aim in this series of posts is to get at the core of the issue, not each and every facet of it. That would provide enough material for a small book, methinks. Anyway, allow me the privilege of "drifting" a bit herein.
All Things Considered
First things first. Once again, let me explain my take on the differences between what I call commercial mining and small-scale gold mining. I'm a small-scale gold miner and prospector and have been from the get go (nearly 40 years now). That means I go at things individually or with a pard (or two or three) using the most basic types of mining gear and equipment. The latter includes everything from a gold pan and sluice box to motorized equipment like a suction dredge, highbanker, or dry washer (I've never owned a trommel). Above all, I've never done what I do for profit or a solid return on my investment (although those are admirable goals within certain contexts). I've done it because I love doing it...and still do. It's in my blood. So, all things considered, if I'd gone into this thing of ours from a profit/loss standpoint I'd be pretty much dead broke and on the public dole. Since I've spent most of my mining career with my boots on the ground and pick and shovel in hand (not plopped down inside the cab of some diesel-belching, earth-moving monster) I can pretty much find color if color is there. No problem.
(Small-scale gold mining.)
In Other Words...
Commercial gold mining on the other hand IS a for-profit business enterprise involving a pretty substantial outlay of cash, time, equipment, personnel, and resources. It's an expensive proposition and is scale-able in the sense that commercial mining operations can range from "mom and pop" type endeavors right on up to the great big mining companies or corporations (Barrick, Newmont, GoldCorp, etc.) whose outlay runs into the many millions (if not billions) of dollars. Commercial gold mining requires various types of heavy equipment, support facilities, and in higher-end cases...geologists and chemists and technicians. The assorted and motley groups of those calling themselves miners (some are and some are not) on those reality TV shows about gold mining are commercial ventures, nothing more and nothing less. I hazard a guess that if a few of those folks were dragged out of the cabs of their bulldozers, excavators, or rock trucks and given a pan and a shovel and told to find gold where most of us small-scale guys and gals work they wouldn't be able to find color if it bit them on the ass. In other words, anyone, anywhere can call him or herself a miner but that doesn't mean they are. Moreover, a trained monkey with a gold pan could find gold on proven ground. So is it monkey or miner? Tomato or "toe-maw-toe?" Your guess is as good as mine in that regard...
(Commercial mining equipment.)
Truth Be Told
You know, most of the small-scale guys and gals I've known over the course of decades aren't money hungry bullies, obese incompetents using religion as a mask, arrogant little punks riding on the coat tails of their "grampas," or corporate execs in Brooks Brothers suits whose sole reason for being is the bottom line. No, not at all. Most small-scale folks I've known (and still know) are damn fine, down-to-earth individuals who would go out of their way to assist you, no matter the context...mining or otherwise. Now some of you out there might think I'm jealous of the success of those TV "miners" (very few of which are stand-up men or women). Truth be told, I could give a shit less about these "Hollywood" miners or their staged antics. What I do care about is the history and traditions of small-scale gold mining and the real miners and prospectors who KNEW their fundamentals and paved the way for the rest of us to carry on that history and those traditions.
One of the fundamental keys to success as a small-scale gold miner is who the hell you really are and what you would like to become. That takes honesty, persistence, and lots of plain old hard work...things that seem in short supply these days. Small-scale gold mining is not likely to bring great wealth or stardom your way. In fact, in very many respects it's a grist mill that will separate the wheat from the chaff each and every time. It's a way of thinking and acting wherein your fundamental knowledge and experience tells the final tale, no matter where you're working or what sort of gear you're using. It's a grind of sorts, but a good grind...one that will help you grow and become better at what you do, as well as making a better man or woman out of you. Making your life about gathering up buckets of money or attaining star status are fleeting goals at best. You may be the cat's meow now, but a few years down the road no one will remember your name. Oh, and all that cash? You aren't taking all that folding green with you once you step cross the Great Divide. Death is the great leveler, don't ya know? And that applies to kings, queens, presidents, and TV and movie stars just as it applies to you and I. So stay solid in your fundamentals, personally and from a mining standpoint.
Stick with what really counts in the end. Get good at it, enjoy it, and leave the right kind of legacy to future small-scale mining generations.
(c) Jim Rocha 2017
Questions? E-mail me at email@example.com