The Fundamentals to Success as a Small-Scale Gold Miner (Conclusion)

In this post I'll be finalizing my ideas on the fundamentals of success for small-scale gold miners...something most of us are or aspire to be. You newcomers to gold mining and prospecting should take special note because getting this info down on the front end will expedite your chances of success and prevent you from making what I'll term (for lack of a better descriptor) stupid mistakes.

4. Having an Overall Mining Strategy or Plan

I know, I know. Some of you are shaking your heads  and saying, "Why do I need a mining plan or strategy? I just want to go out there, find some gold, and have a little fun." Well, if you're some sort of mining dilettante and don't care about how much gold you recover and how often you recover it, this is a valid question. In essence, it becomes your mining it or not. And what is that strategy? To run around here and there with no rhyme or reason like a chicken with its head cut off wishing and hoping that lightning will strike and you'll hit the "big one." Don't laugh. I've seen this attitude and approach played out hundreds of times in my mining and prospecting career. Sure, once in a great while someone with no action plan will get lucky and recover a nugget or two or even a nice little paystreak but the great majority of the time this sort of haphazard approach ends up delivering goose eggs...not yellow metal. As I've said before here in Bedrock Dreams being lucky or having the universe smile down on you is a plus when it comes to small-scale mining, but if you're totally dependent on luck to get your gold then you're gonna end up shit creek without a paddle in the end my friend.

A mining plan or strategy doesn't have to be complex or involved. It can be bare bones and straight to the point as long as it places reasonable parameters on your expectations and gets you working in a systematic way. Plans and strategies provide a logic base to work from that keeps you oriented toward getting the gold in the quickest and most efficient way possible, thereby increasing your chances at overall success. Contrast that type of systematic approach to the "Chicken Little" approach of running here and there mindlessly and you get an idea of what I'm talking about. By the same token, any mining plan or strategy is not etched in stone tablets. Often, situations in the field require you to flex or adapt your plan and when that happens you should be adaptable and flexible, all the while managing those variations in approach, equipment, and methods within the context of your overall plan...whatever that might be. So have a plan, no matter how basic that plan or strategy is. Make that plan fit the various contexts you're dealing with in a specific area or location and I guarantee you'll get more gold over the long haul and better gold at that. Oh, and one last thing. Have a back-up plan as well just in case things go awry out there.

5. Perform Proper Sampling

I don't care if you're a commercial miner or a small-scale guy or gal with a gold pan...sample, sample, and sample some more. Sampling is the best means of learning how much gold is around, how it's distributed, what form it's in, and the best way of getting at it and recovering the same. Another thing that literally drives me up the wall is when I see someone in the field recover a color or two in a gold pan and then without further adieu (or sampling effort), they busy themselves setting up mining equipment to run dirt all day hoping that their concentrates will be rich with yellow at the end of that day. Ye gods and little fishes! How dumb can a person be? It's a simple equation here. The more samples you take and the more diverse those samples are the better the knowledge gained and the greater your chances for success when you finally do set up that dry washer, sluice box, highbanker, or suction dredge. Thorough sampling separates the girls from the women and the men from the boys in the field. It shows who the "real" miners are and how inexperienced the wannabes are. In my career (such that it is) I've sampled for days before committing myself to setting up equipment and running material. You don't have to be that excessive but it ain't a bad idea in general terms.

 (Sample, sample, sample.)

How you sample is up to you. You could use your gold pan (a sampling and clean-up tool), auger or core samples, various short runs with your equipment, or shoveling and tagging samples for further analysis. Sampling should be an intrinsic and fundamental part of your overall mining plan, each and every time you set out to work an area. It's a form of logic flow meant to be used in conjunction with your overall mining knowledge and field experience. And it works from a success standpoint. So you have the choice of being a "Chicken Little" who eventually becomes an object of scorn or a miner who knows his or her stuff and is highly respected. Which would you rather be? If it isn't the latter maybe you should forgo gold mining and concentrate on playing the lottery.

6. Bring Along What You Need to Fix Your Gear 

This fundamental applies mostly to those of you running some sort of hand or battery driven or motorized mining equipment in the field. I absolutely guarantee you with 100% certainty that your gear will break down on you at some point and if you don't have the spare parts, tools, and minimum knowledge to effect repairs on that gear you'll be cussing up a storm and tearing your hair out (providing you still have some). I learned this lesson quite well early on in my mining career while dry washing in the southeastern California desert. I had to shut down my second day in the field when my main cam or pulley wheel started slipping and the puffer's bellows quit working. All for the lack of a simple Allen wrench. I shit you not. That's how dumb I was back in the day. It was a long and sorrowful drive me. So always have the means at your disposal to effect repairs or even slight modifications to your gear. Sure, this means lugging around more junk but it could make the difference between a successful mining outing and a complete humbug. So tools and spare parts (of those components likely to be problematic) are a must. Plan ahead and stay ahead of the game. That's all I'm gonna say on this subject. Be forewarned.

 (Remember those tools and spare parts.)

7. Love What You Do

You have to love what you're doing in this gold mining thing. It has to be the context where you feel the happiest and most fulfilled. The most enjoyable. If not, you shouldn't be reading this nor should you be aspiring to become a gold miner. It just ain't gonna work in the long run. When you love what you do it's a simple follow on that you'll get better and better at that enterprise. The bad days will bug you sure...maybe even deflate you some. You'll question your sanity at times and become so damn frustrated you'll want to scream. Those times are often followed by great high points like finding that first nugget, paystreak, or pocket. In other words it's all good. Just part of the process of prospecting and mining. However, if you're in this thing of ours thinking you're going to strike it rich and that's your prime motivator, well...hard times lie ahead for you. That's a certainty. If you love what you do it's not longer work, no matter how hard things might be to get done. It's in your blood. If it's not, move on down the road and try something else...

Peace to all.

(c) Jim Rocha 2017

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. j.r. there a way you could send me a jpg copy of the 'shit creek' image
    === suitable to print and with good resolution - so as to be a ble to enlarge/print to 8 x 10
    regards ... doug

    and thanks too - for all you do = i look forward to your postings

    1. I don't own that image Doug. Found it on Google Images.

  2. Hi Jim!
    You had to drive all the way home to get an allen wrench?
    Home must have not been too far away. Any auto parts or hardware store has those tools. Don't get mad..just sayin.
    Thanks for all of the great advice and it is obvious you know what you are doing. Since I'm new at this I can see myself making some of these mistakes.
    Especially finding a little color and thinking I hit the mother load!

    Sweet Home, Or.

  3. Where I was the nearest hardware store was in Arizona! I just got disgusted and went home a 4-hour drive...lesson learned.


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