Over a year of planning went into this event, and we were definitely blessed by great weather and a dedicated group of volunteers, family, staff and friends who helped make the 2016 Gold Prospecting and Mining Summit a success.
I arrived in Placerville, California, on April 13 to begin working on the to-do list for this event and met prospectors from Nevada, Washington and Idaho who had already arrived and were camped out at the fairgrounds. We were able to expand to 52 exhibitors and vendors at the fairgrounds, but we’ll have to explore some other options if we do this again in two years because we had another 14 exhibitors on a waiting list.
The event officially started on Friday, April 15, when I met up with about 170 miners and would-be prospectors at 7:00am in Auburn, California, and we headed off in one very long train of vehicles for the placer training site. Volunteers and instructors were waiting for us upon our arrival and got everyone parked. Over half of the attendees had brought metal detectors and we split them up by brand for some group instruction, followed by individual instruction for those who needed it. Some focused on the exposed bedrock areas of this old hydraulic mining property while others headed off into the brush-covered hillsides.
While some attendees had previous experience with their metal detectors, others were brand new to this form of prospecting.
Brian Bartholemew, owner of this patented mining property, and his crew did an outstanding job getting it prepped for us in advance. Unfortunately Brian had a family emergency and could not join us for the training classes. Not only were the roads in good shape, but a few fresh bedrock areas had been scraped with a loader for easier access to the gold.
Those interested in high banking headed over to the high banking stations for instruction or to set up their own equipment near one of the many settling ponds, while others just settled in by the panning tubs for a leisure afternoon of gold panning, and the crew brought gold-bearing material to each station. Many of the attendees brought their own hand tools and buckets, but we also had plenty of tools, buckets and pans available for those who took a flight out to attend the class.
A few nuggets were recovered by prospectors armed with metal detectors, and everyone seemed to be enjoying and learning from the experience.
There was plenty of small gold recovered. A few nuggets were also found by those who cleaned out some of the bedrock crevices.
While the training class was underway, we had other family members, volunteers and staff at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds assisting vendors as they prepared for the vendor/exhibitor/lecture portion of the event, which was set to begin on Saturday.
I had to cut out early from the Friday hands-on class so I could assist at the fairgrounds as well. I later learned that a couple decent nuggets were recovered after I left.
This was our fourth Gold Prospecting and Mining Summit, and just like the previous events, I had a bit of anxiety leading up to Saturday morning. We had done even more advertising than previous years, and I was finally able to relax a little when I saw the line of people waiting to get in when we opened the doors at 10:00am.
It took a combined effort to get everyone in the door in time for the first lecture at 10:30am. Senior writer and miner Don Robinson started off the lectures with his talk on “How to Research a Promising Location for Gold Prospecting.” It was a packed house. The lecture hall held 270 chairs. The overflow area outside where we set up additional chairs, video and audio feeds was needed for his lecture and a few of the others.
We shuttled each presenter outside soon after they completed their talk so they could continue to answer questions and we could stay on schedule.
Next up was Associate Editor Chris Ralph, who covered “Staking and Holding Mining Claims.” Charles Watson was scheduled to speak afterward on “Current Regulations and Permitting,” but he had a family member in the hospital and couldn’t make it. He was kind enough to email his completed Power Point presentation that morning and Chris did a fine job delivering it on Charles’ behalf.
Chris was a busy guy, providing training at our placer mining classes and lecturing on four topics over two days. His additional topics included “Basic Gold Prospecting Techniques” and “Mineral Identification.”
Professor George Wheeldon delivered a talk on “Old Mines: Hazards & Benefits for the Amateur Prospector,” which was followed by financial columnist Leonard Melman’s presentation about “Gold & Precious Metals Markets.”
I gave my presentation on “The Power of Mining Districts: Restoring Access & Returning to Reasonable Regulation.” Clark Pearson, northern director for Public Lands for the People, and Joe Martori, founder of the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council, joined me in answering all of the questions attendees had about getting their Mining District organized if it’s in disarray. (I plan to put an audio track together with my Power Point and make it available soon to those who would like to view it along with the supporting documents mentioned in the presentation.)
Well-known metal detecting enthusiast Steve Herschbach spoke on “Metal Detecting for Gold.” He gave a presentation for us at our Mining Summit two years ago, and just like last time I found him outside answering everyone’s questions long after his talk. In fact, I snapped a picture when I discovered he was still patiently answering those questions two hours after completing his presentation!
Next up was Dr. Thom Seal, Professor of Mining, Mineral Processing and Metallurgical Engineering, and Director of the Institute for Mineral Resource Studies at the Mackay School of Mines in Reno, Nevada. Thom was the former manager of metallurgical technology and a senior metallurgist for Newmont Mining before he moved into teaching. His presentation was on “Principles of Gravity Separation.”
The last session on Sunday was something I decided to add this time around. It was the “Ask The Experts: Question and Answer Session,” designed to allow anyone to ask any question they didn’t get answered during the Mining Summit and to get answers they might not be able to get anywhere else. The panel included Associate Editor Chris Ralph, Clark Pearson of PLP, Pat Keene of Keene Engineering, our financial columnist Leonard Melman, Joe Martori of MMAC, and Dr. Thom Seal.
We fielded all types of questions and I don’t believe there were any that couldn’t be answered. It was during this time that I realized what a blessing it was to have Dr. Seal at the event. There were some complex mineral processing questions that I didn’t have the slightest clue how to answer, but he was able to provide precise answers down to the temperatures and reaction times required for certain steps.
We also had an “Ask The Experts” booth in the venue that was manned by Mike Bowers, president of the Mother Lode Goldhounds, and Ray Mills, who is working on his second book on detecting for gold and is one of our senior writers. Both are well-known metal detecting enthusiasts with a vast knowledge of many subjects related to finding gold. Dr. Seal joined them to answer questions for a portion of Saturday and Sunday. There was a suggested donation of $2 to get your questions answered, though it certainly was not required. All money collected went into a bucket and was donated to Public Lands for the People. In fact, Dr. Seal has been a long-time supporter of PLP and the “suggested donation” part was his idea.
Speaking of PLP, proceeds from the raffle we held at the end of each day went to this group of volunteers who have been tirelessly fighting for our rights and numerous vendors donated prizes—thank you!
Vendors offered assay and processing services, gold prospecting trips, gold, gems, minerals, books, pans, classifying screens, picks, high bankers, drywashers, detectors, bowls, tables, jigs, trommels, crushing equipment, small washplants, and more.
It was a great experience meeting our loyal readers face-to-face and also helping those who were brand new to gold prospecting.
I met prospectors and miners who travelled to the event from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and from Canada. (I might be missing a state or two.)
When Sunday evening came to a close it was time to clean up, pack up, and head out to get ready for the next set of hands-on classes. We held a second day of placer training on Monday in addition to an “Intro to Underground Mining Class” at a separate location.
Another 165 or so miners met in Auburn for the placer mining class along with 50 for the underground class. Ron and Forrest Gribble led the undergrounders on their way first, then we followed with our caravan to the placer class a short time later. My brother and I stayed at the back of the wagon train to catch any stragglers or lost attendees. Sure enough, we watched as a group of miners turned off too early, following parents who were apparently dropping their kids off at school. But they realized the error right away and caught back up to our slow moving train of vehicles.
The second placer training class was much like the first—beautiful weather, good gold and a bunch of happy prospectors. We had a few extra detecting instructors from the pool of volunteers and vendors who were able to come out on Monday, so the ratio of students to instructors was a bit better than Friday. I loaned out my two detectors, and another volunteer did the same.
We made a run over to the underground class at midday to deliver lunch to the instructors and volunteers there, and then headed back to the placer class for a few more hours.
Chad Lewis of Sacramento got into a good bedrock seam on Monday and was pulling out small chunks of bedrock with embedded gold from the lower pit. Mark Dayton of El Dorado was about ten yards away on the same line, but his spot had some visible quartz mixed in. He’s a knowledgeable gold prospector who was also the on-site paramedic in case we needed his services. (We didn’t, thankfully.)
Mark was pulling out some decent gold too, but then stepped away and handed over his spot to Gabe Porter, a young man from Aptos, California who had arrived with his father on Sunday morning to volunteer their services at the fairgrounds. Ray Mills, Alex Dolbeare and I went over to observe and lend a hand.
I used my detector to help Gabe head in the right direction while Ray provided advice on how and where to dig. Gabe used a pick to break apart the seam and plucked out some visible gold as he went, recovering some very nice small nuggets. We had to remind Gabe to take breaks and gave him some water. He rarely took a break for what seemed like two hours, and he definitely caught “gold fever.”
I had to head back to the fairgrounds to finish up some paperwork and pick up the last load as Alex was helping Gabe pan out his gold.
It was an exhausting week, but very satisfying after all the positive comments we received.
I know many of you would like us to hold this event every year, but we have a small staff and it’s very challenging to pull this off even on a two-year cycle.
I also know many would like to see us try another location; however, the training classes have become an integral part of the experience. The two private properties we use are only a few miles apart and I don’t know of anyone else who would let several hundred students come onto their property and take their gold!
The Gold Country Treasure Seekers and the Mother Lode Goldhounds combined provided over 50 volunteers and the event would be impossible without their continued support. A few provided expert instruction while others worked behind the scenes to make everything flow smoothly.
Brian Bartholomew and Don Robinson provided the venues for our hands-on training classes. Their assistance, and the help from their crews, made the classes a huge success.
Thank you to our speakers and presenters for some awesome presentations, and for their help and expertise throughout the event: Don Robinson, Professor George Wheeldon, Leonard Melman, Steve Herschbach, Clark Pearson, Joe Martori, Pat Keene, Charlie Watson, Dr. Thom Seal, and last but not least, Chris Ralph.
There was a group of volunteers who travelled a great distance or flew in just to volunteer, including Ray Mills, Mike and Bobbie Newell, Dan and Sandy Fergot, Bill Ralph, Brent and Gabe Porter, and Dan Repke.
Thank you to the Union Mine High School Music Boosters for a great job serving up food at the fairgrounds, and to John and his staff at the Old Town Grill for catering a fantastic dinner for our staff, volunteers and vendors on Saturday night.
Thank you to Jim McCullough for hanging out an extra day to assist with detecting instruction.
To my family: Steve, Alyssa, Kyle, Seven, Allison, Riley, Breanna, and my wife, Sally—you guys rock! Even our five-year-old daughter, Bianca, helped me load boxes that were equivalent to half her weight.
And to our friends the Kings: Brian, Christina, Celia and Christian—I don’t know all the activities you did with Bianca when she was with you guys, but you did awesome job wearing her out.
We hope to see you all in two years at our 2018 Gold Prospecting and Mining Summit.
Our second year’s Summit, held over five days in mid-May, was even bigger and better than last year’s gathering. We had more vendors, more hands-on classes and a very full slate of lectures and presentations. Over 2,300 prospectors attended...