July 2013 by Joe ChmielYou couldn’t ask more from a late winter’s day in February in the Mojave Desert: clear sky, 70-degree temperatures, the gentlest of breezes and...GOLD!
I like to hunt club claims, and I find that by maneuvering my coil between rocks and bushes I can sometimes pick out a nugget—or five or six—that others have missed. On this particular day, I was doing my usual thing, picking off nuggets up to 1/2-gram in size. However, my prospecting partner, instead of skimming along the surface, seemed to be lingering extra long in just one place. In fact, he was practically camped on this single spot, digging, detecting, recovering, and repeating the process.
It occurred to me that he might have found a cluster of extra tiny nuggets, the type that only his VLF (very low frequency) detector can pick up. Or maybe he was having trouble pinpointing the responses his detector was giving him. Whatever it was, I knew I had better stay busy if I were to keep up.
Of course I became so engrossed in what I was doing that I failed to notice that for a full two hours my partner had been trying to get my attention to come join him, and he was in a bit of a dilemma about this. On the one hand, he could leave his spot and come get me (running the risk of other nearby nuggetshooters jumping his hole) or he could yell to me to come over (thereby signalling to everyone around that there was something worthwhile to be had). Well, he did neither—he chose to wait until I finally noticed his subtle gesturing and walked over to see what was up.
I was surprised to see that he had a two-foot deep hole going and had already collected about 15 grams worth of nuggets. As for me, I was barely over one gram for my day’s efforts.
Seeing as I was swinging a different VLF detector that wouldn’t interfere with his, he suggested that I dig a hole about 10 feet away from him to see if I might find a similar pocket. It was late in the day and I was already a bit worn out, so I was not looking forward to digging in the blind hope of hitting a pay streak.
But dig I did—and without the benefit of a detector signal, mind you. Picking my way through the bedrock, my hope of hitting a gold-bearing pocket was fading with the late afternoon sun. As soon as I got under the bedrock and into a soft layer I stuck the coil of my detector into the hole. Wham! A solid “zeet-zeet” from the side of the hole greeted my ears, and turning the discriminator function on yielded a solid indication for gold on the detector’s readout.
I furiously started pulling material out of the side wall and putting it in my scoop. It didn’t take long to discover that the source of the scream was from a one-ounce chunk of rock. Almost no gold was immediately visible due the rock being encased in a hardened caliche crust, but one corner gave away its secret. An exposed area of yellow metal indicated that this was indeed a temporary treatment for my gold fever!
I wanted to jump up and down, but because of the other detectorists in the area, I had to play it cool. The prize was slipped quietly into my pouch with no celebration. It was only upon later inspection that I could see this rock was ribboned with gold!
The total weight was just over an ounce, and with some cleaning it will end up under an ounce. But still, finding a specimen piece of this size was a real treat. Oh yeah—the hole held a couple more tiny nuggets and nothing else.
So I guess this was sort of a backwards find. Instead of beeping a target and digging a hole, I dug a hole and then beeped the target. Gold is indeed where you find it!
The high prices for gold and silver are exciting and certainly have revolutionized the prospecting and mining scene. New interest in gold and silver mining is springing up from every corner, from individual prospectors armed with gold pans to exploration and mining companies working to set up multimillion dollar commercial operations producing hundreds of thousands of ounces per year. The idea of getting riches from rocks is one that motivates a lot of folks all over the globe. It’s an exciting time, but this excitement brings out another side...
Within a few minutes I got my first signal and dug out a small flake about three grains.
I’d start the day by crawling out of my dome tent, cooking up some Spam and eggs, and heating water for instant coffee on the Coleman stove.
Chances are better that both types of gold did not come from the same source. Let's look at the probable conditions to cause two types of gold in a placer.
Detectors have been around for decades now. And with thousands of them swinging, many of the best or at least most likely nugget places have seen a swinging coil. The part that amazes me is that so many nuggets still get pulled out of these seemingly pounded places.
Gold can potentially be found in all the glaciated areas of the Midwest, but to find it in any appreciable amount one needs to look to areas where the gold gets concentrated by more recent water flows.
Looking around, I could tell that this was an old hand-digging. As I walked around the perimeter of the digging I could see shovel and pick marks scratched on the clean, hard clay and bedrock.
The Bawl Mill • Ask the Experts • Ask the Experts • The Birimian Greenstone Belts of West Africa • Study Confirms Mercury Levels Safe in California's Gold Country • All About Quartz—Part II • The Pearce Mineralized Area, Dragoon Mountains, Arizona • An Alaskan in the Lower 48 • Romancing the Rock • Placer Channel Sampling • The Oquirrh Mountains, Utah • Melman on Gold & Silver • Mining Stock Quotes and Mineral & Metal Prices • Record $11 Million Fine for California Mine