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About Us » Writers » Dr. Ralph E. Pray
Dr. Ralph E. Pray (Senior Writer (retired))
Dr. Ralph E. Pray was the owner and operator of the Mineral Research Laboratory in Monrovia, California.  He passed away in May, 2014.
Articles by Dr. Ralph E. Pray
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Suggestions for claim jumpers

January 2011 (Vol. 80, No. 5)
Prospectors Beat Mining Claim Tax

Early in 2006, two prospectors, joint owners of unpermitted mining claims in San Bernardino County, California, were confronted by the County Tax Collector with stiff taxes amounting to hundreds of dollars for the “possessory right” to own mining claims in that county.

February 2007 (Vol. 76, No.6)
How to Prospect for Silver Field Tests You Can Use to Detect the Hidden Metal

Don’t bother eyeballing that rock for silver! Even if it’s high grade you’ll not see the familiar dime or quarter coin color. Native silver is almost as rare as brass ore. Well, if it’s so hard to find, is silver worth looking for? You bet! Just check the latest prices—and they may go higher.

May 2006 (Vol. 75, No. 9)
Dredging Below the Homestake

What better place to dredge for gold in the early 1970s than downhill from the largest gold mine in the US? Gold prices were rising, and it was a good time and place to shop for a prospect.

April 2005 (Vol. 74, No. 8)
The First Mine in America

Many people, mostly New Mexico Native Americans, but including this miner, wear turquoise from the first mine in America. I took my blue stones from the old mine by hand labor, underground, a half century ago.

August 2005 (Vol. 74, No. 12)
A Working Arrastra

If everything you see, the men, the animals, the crude mechanism that grinds gold from rock, everything around you, looks to be from centuries ago, if the mysterious sound you hear is pure history and the smell around you is primitive, if the earth beneath your feet quivers with untold strangeness; and, the taste in your mouth sweeps time out of mind then, if all of this happens at once, if every one of your five senses has taken you into the past, then you’ve traveled back in time.

April 2004 (Vol. 73, No. 8)
The Old Dutch Cleanser Mine

The naturally occurring white scouring powder called Old Dutch Cleanser, originally from Kern County, California, is a household helper known throughout America. As a sink, stove, and tub cleaner, the abrasive pumicite is one of...

January 2003 (Vol. 72, No. 5)
A Unique Prospecting Method

In 1948, I lived alone in the Cerrillos Mountains south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the Tom Payne Mine. When lead and zinc metal prices suddenly took a nosedive, our ore and concentrate shipments from the Payne to the ASARCO smelter...

April 2003 (Vol. 72, No. 8)
Prospecting for Iron in Alaska

The solo prospector in his canvas field clothes and skin-thick skiff is still king of the rain forest in southeastern Alaska. Even with all the highly trained field people and their helicopters, it is he who ventures forth across ocean water and in the bush to search for new wealth hidden beneath the green carpet of the vast Tongass Forest.

July 2003 (Vol. 72, No. 11)
The First Prospectors

Who were the earliest prospectors in the Western Hemisphere? Is there any way to tell?

April 2002 (Vol. 71, No. 8)
Picks & Pans: Mining Tungsten Ore—A Case History

In 1977, when the price of tungsten hit one of its highs, three of us formed U.S. Western Mines to look for scheelite, the mineral ore of tungsten. Union Carbide Corporation was purchasing raw tungsten ore at...

May 2002 (Vol. 71, No. 9)
The Fire Assay of Fly Eyes

Colorado-Utah-Wyoming oil shale was first reliably discovered to contain gold and silver by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in the 1920s. Although most of this vast shale resource, up to 1,000 feet in thickness, contained nil or barely detectable values, many brown shale samples fire assayed here over the past thirty years have yielded up to 0.02 ounces per ton (opt) Au and 2.0 opt Ag.

July 2002 (Vol. 71, No. 11)
Gold Garbage: Scams New & Old

Here’s what actually happened, described in the case file documents: Based on a precious metal assay certificate signed by a registered southwest assayer, the sellers, in consideration of the payment of over $53 million, transfer over 185,000 troy ounces stored in a warehouse to a company based in Norway. This document was signed and notarized in a southwest town, and was publicly distributed in 2001. Guess what?! The  warehouse floor concrete may have a higher gold assay than the concentrates sitting above it valued at fifty-three million.

October 2002 (Vol. 72, No. 2)
The Furnace Atmosphere During the Fire Assay

It has been claimed that the introduction of excess air to the assay furnace during sample fusion can materially increase the gold yield. Testimony by expert witnesses for the defense in recent federal hearings dealing with the dependability of the gold fire assay includes data purported to show this.

January 2001 (Vol. 70, No. 5)
Picks & Pans: How to Succeed in a Small Mine, A Case History: 1990-2000

The first requirement for a successful mine operation is a market for the product, metallic or nonmetallic. The second requirement is to deliver a quality salable product...

May 2001 (Vol. 70, No. 9)
A Silver Opportunity

For any foot-loose prospector betting the price of silver goes up, there’s a promising piece of public land open for location in Nevada’s challenging Esmeralda County.

September 2001 (Vol. 71, No. 1)
The Manson Mine

The Manson Mine. That’s what they called it in Ballarat in 1969. The name stuck even after Crazy Charlie Manson and the girls got hauled out of California’s Panamint Range behind Ballarat in handcuffs and ended up in prison for the Tate-LaBianca murders.

November 2001 (Vol. 71, No. 3)
Small Mine Selective Blasting

Drill holes in a mineralized vein often penetrate hidden layers of poor ore which, after blasting, end up diluting the production quality. Disseminated gold ores carrying two ounces per ton may be identical in appearance to adjacent vein material...

January 2000 (Vol. 69, No. 5)
Evaluating a Placer Discovery

Gold mineralization is usually first noted in an area by examining material weathered from the source and liberated or washed downhill from it.

March 2000 (Vol. 69, No. 7)
Placer Testing with Large Samples

Of all the difficult gold placer sites to evaluate, none can compare with trying to dig to bedrock through twenty or thirty feet of soaked overburden through which water is slowly seeping downgrade.

June 2000 (Vol. 69, No. 10)
Fake Assays & Assayers

There may be as many crooked gold assayers in the Southwestern U.S. as there are self-employed honest ones. Right now it looks that way. What can be done to stop the crooks? Why do the scams continue? How can you tell the difference between the good guys and the half-assayers? Who are the crooked ones? Where are they?

September 2000 (Vol. 70, No. 1)
The Trapiches of Chile

In Chile, the trapiche (tra-peach-ee) method of milling gold ore began more than 400 years ago. The first trapiche, also known as a Chilean mill, was a stone wheel weighing two or three tons rotating on an axle.

October 2000 (Vol. 70, No. 2)
Successful Mineral Property Promotion

Before you invite anyone to look at your mining claims, whether it's to find yourself a partner, to secure operating capital, or to interest a mining company, there are rock-bottom, basic requirements to consider.

March 1999 (Vol. 68, No. 7)
Desert Bonanza

If you think all the vein gold near the surface has been dug up—think again! A weekend prospector recently came into the lab with a shoe-box full of samples that were from ten to fifty percent native crystalline gold on dirty white quartz.

July 1999 (Vol. 68, No. 11)
Pullin' the Pin

I first saw Pioche, Nevada while hitch-hiking into town in an old Ford with three good tires and one wheel hammered to an ugly steel disc on fifty miles of blacktop.

November 1999 (Vol. 69, No. 3)