ATTENTION: Fellow Hard Rock Prospectors
Are you finding GOLD on your lode mining claim or are you going home empty handed after each visit to your claim(s)? If that is the case, here are a few tips that we use that should increase your GOLD recovery considerably.
1. We suggest you walk your claim over and become familiar with the location of desert washes, gulches, high points like ridges & hills, vein outcrops and shear zones. Locate your claim corners so you will know your claim boundaries.
2. Locate, sample and record the locations of all exposed quartz veins, iron stained shear zones, foot wall and hanging wall rock and inspect for visible gold or sulfides. You might crush and screen say minus 80 mesh and pan these samples. Or send the samples off to a quality lab.
3. You will find many gold bearing zones covered with a thin layer of alluvial cover. Many of the so called juicy exposed outcrops have been sampled and prospected for over 100 years. Don't expect to hit the Mother Lode on the surface. Many areas have been overlooked or recently exposed by our desert monsoon storms. Walk the main washes, smaller washes and gulches for freshly exposed and likely looking vein material.
4. If you have a problem locating a gold bearing vein or zone on the surface use the same procedure you would use in locating a placer gold pay streak. Remember that fine gold can travel for miles. Pay more attention to chunky, ragged pieces especially if they have small particles of quartz or host rock attached.
5. From this point on prospect as if you were looking for placer gold. The thinking here is all rough, ragged gold had to originate somewhere; be it a vein, shear zone, a nearby stock-works, etc. If you hit a concealed rich gold bearing vein stop and start mining. If not, proceed as you would looking for placer gold as the placer gold is highly likely to lead you to that rich vein you seek. This was the same method the old timers used to trace placers to the rich lodes.
6. Dig down to bedrock or false bedrock (caliche) and take a sample, minus .25 inch material screened. Three to five pounds should do. Note: If you must dig deeper then say 3 feet, abandon that location (you’re not digging a grave or trying to reach China) and look for a spot where bedrock slopes into the sandy wash as close to your original sample site as possible. Mark the site or enter the GPS coordinates in a note book. Mark your sample bag as #1.
7. Move up the drainage or dry desert wash no more than 100 feet and take sample #2. Mark the location as above. Continue up the drainage, sampling as close as possible to 100 foot intervals as you can. Always note changes in soil color or bedrock as it can be very important. Mineralization is often red, reddish brown to yellow or yellow brown and is a very valuable clue in prospecting for gold and other minerals. Be watchful for rusty quartz stringers and veins cutting these often highly fractured zones. Eventually you will reach the end of your claim or a ridge or hill top. Stop, do not proceed further. The ornery old codger who has the adjacent claim might give you a load of buckshot for trespassing.
9. Process your samples in the order you took them starting with #1. You can do this with a gold pan or say a spiral gold wheel. If you are using a Gold Wheel feed it slowly, do not overfeed. Examine your concentrates with a hand lens or loupe magnifier. Again, look for coarse, ragged gold with occasional pieces of quartz or bedrock attached. Now say #1 has little or no visible gold, #2 has a few tiny specks, #3 has numerous fines and 1 picker, #4 has 3 pickers and many fines, #5 has just a few fines, #6 the same or less.
10. Your next step is take a sample say 50 feet below and another 50 feet above the richest sample site. In our example, it is #4 so I would number these next samples 3.5 and 4.5. Depending on the results, your efforts have probably located the hottest spot in that drainage. This may be either a placer pay streak or the vein you seek. The vein or zone may be 6 inches thick or hundreds of feet. Check for color of soil and change in bedrock. Often you will see smaller side drainage's or gulches in this HOT area. Do not ignore these as generally you will not need to dig as deep to hit bedrock or your vein(s) will be exposed. Check all gulches on both sides of the main drainage in that #4 area, say on 25 or 50-foot intervals. Remember to mark all locations and sample sacks.
For example, let’s say your main drainage was running east-west and you have a nice gulch at site #4, draining from south to north. Your first sample site might be numbered #S-1 or #S-25 if on 25-foot intervals. Your next might be #S-2 or #S-50. Repeat if you have another gulch on the opposite side of the main drainage or near site #4. If the gulch or small wash forks, sample both forks. The same applies for your main drainage that might fork. This often happens as you move up slope so be prepared to change your numbering system and keep good notes.
11. Process all samples taken from these feeder gulches or smaller washes. Once this work is completed you should have identified your hottest spot be it the main drainage,a feeder gulch or both.
12. Now is the time to get serious with a large dry-washer or a high banker if you have a nearby water source and a water recovery system. The idea here is to expose as much bedrock as possible and study the color or stain in the bedrock and pay attention to tiny quartz veins and veinlets. I use a dry-washer for testing a large volume of dry material and a Desert Fox Spiral Gold Wheel that I can run for several days on 5 gallons of water to process the few pounds of gold bearing concentrates. I also use a shop vacuum to suck up the material from bedrock cracks, crevices and fractures.NOTE: This is where much of your placer gold should be.
13. If you have located a rich gold bearing zone now is the time to decide if you are going to mine, lease or sell it. Remember that hard rock mining is hard, dirty, often dangerous work. You will need permits, expensive equipment and experienced miners. Also consider that hard rock mining has made more huge fortunes than placer miningever will except on TV in Alaska.