Gold Prospecting and Mining Summit
June 2011 by Chris RalphIt’s been a long time coming, but it finally happened—the first Prospecting and Mining Summit is now complete. Not long after I first joined the Prospecting and Mining Journal staff, we started talking about it—the ideas, possibilities, and concepts—for our first prospector trade show.
For years the magazine has been a vendor at various mining shows and conventions, but never the sponsor of our own show. Cumulatively, the staff and writers of the Journal offer a tremendous range of expertise. The vendors who advertise with us likewise offer not only the very finest in prospecting related services and equipment, but they also hold a vast amount of mining knowledge and experience themselves. The idea, as simple as it is, was to bring together the large and growing readership of the Prospecting and Mining Journal with the expertise offered by the authors and vendors who make the magazine the great publication it has been for so many decades. There was no doubt that such a gathering would be a prospector’s gathering like nothing ever before it.
It was a simple enough idea, but there were a lot of details that needed to be worked out, and we knew that to do it properly it would be a major undertaking. Periodic discussions brought up various ideas; we wanted to provide the very best information and training seminars and we wanted to offer actual hands-on training for those who wanted to learn the basic skills of prospecting. We wanted to have the very best vendors and equipment available so that people could shop and compare, learn and get ideas for their own prospecting efforts. We felt the equipment on display should cover the full range of items as simple as a plastic gold pan through dredges and metal detectors, all the way up to commercial-scale trommels and tables.
There have been a whole lot of gold shows over the years, but we wanted to put on something different; something better, new and improved, that would really give people what they wanted to see and learn.
We considered a number of possible locations and Editor Scott Harn put a lot of time into checking out the possibilities of various places. We finally came up with Placerville, California as the ideal location. Not far from Sacramento, in the heart of the Mother Lode, what better location could you possibly have for a gathering of miners than a county called El Dorado and a town with nuggets in its very name!?
Because the magazine needs to be published on a certain schedule, we were limited on the range of dates each month that were available to hold the show. We ended up selecting April 23-24 for the vendor show, with April 25 as the date for our hands -on, in-the-field training day. Unfortunately, we did not initially suspect that this was Easter weekend, because the date for Easter moves around, and it is normally held earlier in the spring. So the scheduling for Easter weekend was an accident, but we were well into the planning stage and fully committed by the time we realized the conflict. In spite of this, a large percentage of the potential vendors made plans to attend the Summit.
I admit I was eager for the show from the very start and had been looking forward to it since we first booked the date. I enjoy meeting and talking with people at the gold shows, and we were going to get a chance to meet with our own readers, face-to-face, and talk about prospecting. What a great opportunity it would be. I spread the word wherever I could, and we did quite a bit of advertising to let folks know about the event. Just a few days before the show, gold hit a price of $1,500 per ounce for the first time—the highest price it had ever been in history—and that just added to the excitement.
Still, because this was our first show, when the time came for the show to begin, no one really knew exactly how many folks would show up to attend—we had no prior record or experience to compare it with. It’s a whole lot different to put on a show and be responsible for it than it is to just show up and participate. So there were a few butterflies flying around in the stomachs of those involved. We had a great crew of volunteers working the show—Scott and Sally brought a group of friends and family, I brought my father, Don Robinson had a large group of folks from the Mother Lode Goldhounds, and Ed Vass and the Gold Country Treasure Seekers also came to our aid. Whatever uncertainties remained, we had the people we needed to get the job done, and we were ready.
It didn’t take long on that Saturday morning for the butterflies to settle down because we could see from the approximately 600 folks lining up before the doors opened that the Summit was going to be a huge success. The TV cameras for the “Good Day Sacramento” program rolled up, and I gave them their interview, explaining that there was indeed gold still to be found in “them thar hills.” I showed the television viewers some of the modern mining equipment we had on display. The TV station in turn spread the word to the public that the Prospecting and Mining Summit was open to all and would explain just how folks can go into the hills and find their own natural gold.
In spite of the rainy weather, that first Saturday was extremely busy, with over 2,000 folks showing up to attend the Summit. We leased two buildings because of the expected demand—one was set up for the vendors and the other for the seminars. While many of the attendees were from Northern California, we had attendees from all across the United States, some from as far away as New York and Florida. A significant number drove in from the western states, including Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Colorado. No matter where they came from, the aisles were jammed with folks who were eager to learn more about prospecting for gold.
The seminar section was unique as well. Rather than just offering a few sessions, we had a busy schedule of 5 hours of informative presentations each day. We set up the room with a large screen and digital projector with seating for 200. All but one of the seminars were done with the projector using photos and graphics, which enhanced the presentations. The other strong point was that after each presentation folks had the chance to ask questions afterward and chat with the instructors.
In our first seminar session, which started only an hour after the doors opened, we had 350 people pack in to hear Don Robinson talk about how to locate a promising location for finding gold. It was standing room only, but Don went into great detail about using maps and old reports to put together clues and information about places to find gold. Don gave some good examples from his experiences showing exactly how he’d done just that, and successfully found some very nice gold. Well, seeing that so many people wanted to hear these informative lecturers, we brought in a large number of additional chairs, bringing the seminar seating capacity to 380. Still, in some of the seminars, if you didn’t get in to the building a little before things got started, you would have to stand along the wall. I am sure that in a few of our sessions, we got close to 400 individuals.
Next up was Leonard Melman, our longtime commentator on the precious metals markets, who spoke on the disastrous consequences of the free printing of unbacked, fiat cash. Leonard and his wife travelled all the way from Canada to be a part of the show. In his presentation, he pointed to a number of examples from the pages of history, where governments have printed large amounts of paper money in an attempt to support their economies, much as we are doing today in the United States. He clearly showed how these practices lead to a loss of confidence in the value of the currency by the citizens, and eventually to excessive inflation.
Leonard was followed by Professor George Wheeldon, who spoke on the rich Tertiary river gravels of the Mother Lode area. With slides and maps, he provided details on a number of channels that were in the Placerville area near the Prospecting and Mining Summit. The gravels of these ancient rivers yielded a significant percentage of the gold mined in California, and the presentation showed that good potential resources still remain.
My only panic of the day occurred at this point in the show when the lights in my projector failed. It wouldn’t turn on or indicate anything, and I was trying to figure out how we could do our presentations without the projector or how much time it might take to get a new one. We soon figured out that the breaker on the power panel had been tripped. Once the power was back on, all was fine and the disaster was averted.
I did the last two seminars of the day, and the first was on the basics of gold prospecting. I went through how there is still plenty of gold out there to be found, and the types of equipment available. I went through the basic types of prospecting, from panning and sluice boxes up to dredges and metal detectors, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each. I finished up by discussing the basics of how to recognize and read gold deposits out in the field.
My second talk was on staking mining claims—a wonderful right to own minerals and one of the few good opportunities our government still gives us. I talked a bit about US mining law and how it works and the basics of how anyone can stake, maintain and own their own mining claim. Part of this is work in the field, erecting monuments and claim corners, but just as important is the proper filing of all the necessary paperwork.
The skies really opened up late in the afternoon on Saturday, and the water poured down. In spite of the weather, Saturday was extremely successful. The attendees had a chance to see all the latest equipment offered for sale and chat with experienced prospectors from our staff as well as the vendors. Lots of new equipment was purchased, and many of the vendors had excellent sales.
Sunday was Easter and we held a short devotion for the vendors who arrived early, with some special songs by the younger girls in the volunteer group. With Sunday being a special religious and family oriented holiday, attendance was down a little, but we still had over 750 people participating.
Attendance in the seminars was still packed. I started out Sunday morning with a talk on rocks and mineral identification. Lots of prospectors see various rocks and minerals in the field and wonder what they are. We talked about the basics of different types of rocks and minerals and how to recognize and identify them in the field, with a slide show of different minerals that might typically be found with precious metal ore deposits.
Next I spoke on gold in California and Nevada—or to be more exact, the regional geology of California and Nevada and the geologic forces that created a situation where California and Nevada are the two states in the US richest in gold, both having produced more than 100 million ounces of the precious yellow stuff. The deposits of the two are of different types, but both were caused by the same tectonic processes along the western coast of the US.
Because we had lots of interest in the topic of prospecting with a metal detector, we had two seminars on the various aspects of successful nugget detecting. Kevin Hoagland of Minelab gave the first talk on using a detector to find gold. He focused on the importance of maintaining a proper ground balance at all times, as well as digging all targets and knowing the operations of your machine.
In part two, I spoke on the importance of research to get your coil over a nugget. There is a load of information out there to help the prospector in his quest, but it can be difficult to assemble and use. I talked about GPS, topographic maps, satellite photos, geologic maps and old reports—but most importantly how to integrate them all together to find those spots with good, near surface gold.
Finally in our last seminar of the day, Patrick Fagan spoke on current mining regulations. There is no question that small-scale miners all over the US are facing regulatory challenges, and we need to learn how to better handle and cope with the difficult situation we face.
Both during and after the event, we received many compliments about the quality of our volunteers and staff. We couldn’t have pulled off this event without the tremendous help we received from the Mother Lode Goldhounds, Gold Country Treasure Seekers and the El Dorado County Fairgrounds staff. The total attendance for the Summit was great, with a little over 2,800 participating in the two-day event, and it was just as successful for the vendors, with a few completely sold out of product while others only had a very limited amount of product left after the show.
For those who were able to attend this year, we hope you found the Prospector and Mining Summit all you expected and more. Next year we hope to build on what we have started and make the event even bigger and better. We have tentatively scheduled a date for next year’s show and we want you to know it’s not going to be on Easter weekend! The exact date and times will be announced here in the Prospecting and Mining Journal once things have been finalized. We hope you’ll be able to join us next year for all the very best in training and equipment.
Expert Instruction • The Latest Equipment
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