Gold Prospecting & Mining Summit Exceeds Expectations
May 2014 by Scott HarnOur third event, the 2014 Gold Prospecting & Mining Summit in Placerville, California, exceeded our expectations.
We were unable to hold the event in 2013 due to a scheduling conflict, but it appears that problem turned into a benefit as more would-be prospectors and miners traveled greater distances to join us.
Planning for the four-day event began nearly a year in advance, and we had an idea it would be even bigger and better than ever when we had to start a waiting list for vendors. After a few trips to the Placerville Fairgrounds, we were able to reconfigure the layout and squeeze in a few more booth spaces, but there were, unfortunately, additional booth requests we just couldn’t accommodate.
I moved into a local hotel on the Wednesday before the event to assist in laying out the booths at the Placerville Fairgrounds, and I was amazed to find prospectors from several states were already camped out in their RVs.
The Mining Summit began on Friday with a hands-on placer mining training class at an old, privately-owned hydraulic mining site. There was a small amount of rain that morning, but all the attendees were excited to be there and the sprinkling of rain did not slow them down one bit.
Attendees had the opportunity to learn panning and power sluicing, and obtain some expert instruction on metal detecting for gold. In addition, a full placer operation, fed by a loader, was up and running at the site so attendees could get some instruction on how to set up this type of operation.
The participants brought numerous brands of detectors, from old White’s Coinmaster models to the latest VLF and pulse induction machines. Detectorists were split up by brand, and then again by model within the brand for group instruction. Those who desired more individual instruction were invited to hang around while those who felt comfortable with the first round of instruction headed off in search of gold.
Brian Bartholemew, owner of the mining site, had cleared off some virgin, gold-bearing bedrock areas prior to our arrival, so everyone had ample opportunity to find and take home some gold. Brian and his crew even brought gold-bearing material right to the power sluicing stations for those who wanted to give it a try, or the prospectors could collect and process their own material on-site. Many brought their own digging tools, but we had extras available for participants who flew in for the event.
Most of the gold at this location is small. Almost everyone recovered some gold, and a few prospectors found small nuggets.
We ran two of these placer hands-on classes, the first on Friday and a second on Monday. A few vendors came out to demo equipment as well, but most of the vendors who came out focused on finding their own gold. The Monday class had the benefit of warmer temperatures and no rain.
Our third hands-on class, also held on Monday, was called “Introduction to Underground Mining.” This class was limited to 45 students and took place at an underground mine. Participants learned about mining methods, explosives, safety, timbering and hard rock ore processing.
Approximately 410 participants took advantage of our hands-on training classes.
Most of the anxiety I had disappeared on Saturday morning when I saw nearly 500 people waiting to get in to the Mining Summit. Over 2,600 came through the doors Saturday and Sunday to hear the lectures and visit our exhibitors at the Placerville Fairgrounds.
The lectures covered a diverse spectrum of topics. Senior writer and miner Don Robinson presented “How to Locate a Promising Location for Gold Prospecting.” George Wheeldon spoke about the consequences of urbanizing historic mining districts, Leonard Melman covered gold and precious metals markets, Steve Herschbach covered metal detecting for gold, and Dr. Thom Seal presented “Principles of Gravity Separation.”
Charles Watson had a full plate, attending to his booth and presenting three topics. He covered current regulations and permitting, followed by claim jumping and protecting your claims. He finished up the weekend with an update on the Blue Lead gold mine project in Nevada County.
Associate Editor Chris Ralph delivered presentations on four topics, including staking and holding mining claims, basic gold prospecting techniques, mineral identification, and setting up a placer operation.
Our speakers made every effort to answer questions from the audience, and many of those discussions were moved outside so we could try to stay on schedule. I noticed that Steve Herschbach was still answering questions about metal detecting for gold over an hour after he had concluded his lecture!
We had to utilize our overflow seating area just outside the lecture hall for several of the presentations because all 300 seats inside were occupied. The overflow area was set up with a large screen television and speakers. The weather cooperated and it was quite comfortable.
Vendors brought in a huge variety of products from gold, minerals, gems and jewelry to pans, sluices, screens, high bankers and detectors, on up to backhoes, trommels and small washplants.
Fox40 News of Sacramento came by, and it was just my luck—Chris Ralph was busy, so I had to go on camera.
Attendees filled the aisles in the exhibit hall both days, and several vendors stated they ran out of products and had to take orders to be shipped when they returned home.
Saturday and Sunday both ended with a raffle, with thousands of dollars in prizes donated by the many vendors. The proceeds went to Public Lands for the People for the ongoing court battles they are waging to keep our public lands open.
One of the many benefits of this event is that we were able to meet many of our loyal readers and forum users. It was great to put a face with a name for the first time and to reconnect with long-time subscribers.
The most surprising thing to me was the distance some folks traveled to attend our event. All the Western states were represented, and I also met attendees from Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and New Hampshire—at least those are the states I remember. We also had participants from Canada, Germany, Finland and Russia!
Next we want to recognize Brian Bartholomew and Don Robinson for providing the venues for our hands-on training. Your assistance and instruction—and the help of your crews—was invaluable.
We also want to thank Mike Newell, Marian Reid, Bill Ralph, the Fergot family and the Kliewer family—they all traveled a good distance just to help out, and it was greatly appreciated.
We certainly cannot leave out the Placerville Fairgrounds staff, our guest speakers and instructors, our writers, our office staff, and the fourteen members of my family who made time in their busy schedules to make this event a success.
John at the Old Town Grille in Placerville catered our vendor and volunteer appreciation dinner on Saturday evening and the food was outstanding! The local Union Mine High School Music Boosters provided great food for our venue on Saturday and Sunday, which turned out to be a two-day fundraising record for their group.
And last, but not least, we want to thank our loyal advertisers and readers who continue to support ICMJs Prospecting and Mining Journal.
So, When Is The Next One?
We have also had suggestions about possibly trying another venue in another state, but it would be difficult if not impossible to find a better location than the heart of the Mother Lode with privately-owned training sites offered nearby, not to mention the caliber of instructors and volunteers available locally.
Our current plans are to return to the Placerville Fairgrounds in 2016. Yes, that is a two-year cycle. I know many of our vendors and attendees want us to make this a yearly event, but it’s nearly overwhelming for our staff, volunteers and family!
We will certainly let you know when we firm up the dates, and we hope to see you there!
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A number of crevices were still waiting to be cleaned out. A lot of the gold remaining in the pit was very fine sized, but a few small nuggets were also recovered.
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