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Prospecting, Then and Now

Prospectors from the 1850's until the early 1900's loaded their asses with picks, shovels, maybe a rifle, a gold pan and a skillet. Along with some beans, salt and molasses they headed to the hills. The lucky guys, ones with a little cash or a grubstake from a local merchant had some flour, coffee, salt pork and maybe a bottle of whisky for snake bite medicine. These old timers were a tough, hardy breed, able to live off the land while exploring much of the great American West. Many large mines active today were seen by these old timers and in most cases, they’d mine only the very rich outcrops or do some placer mining seeking gold.

In the early 1900's burros began being phased out as a fellow by the name of Henry Ford invented a 4-wheel gadget. This new mode of transportation was faster and carried more supplies. Wild burros can still be found, some were let loose and some outlived the old codgers in the harsh environment. There is no denying that transportation has come a long way allowing exploration of areas once untouchable. The ancient vehicles of the early 1900's where replaced by fast, often air-conditioned vehicles continuing to change the way man prospects. The Old Timers, except me, are all long gone. Now, even I have traded my horse over for a comfy 4 x 4 pickup with air conditioning and Country Western music playing on the radio. Occasionally I’m found on an ATV or in a helicopter to cover a few remote areas.

Along came World War I and then World War II creating a high demand for metals including copper, lead, iron and manganese. During this period mining was a very important industry. Since the mid 1950's many new metals have been or are currently being mined. Computers, phones, cars, planes, all needing their share. I still carry a topo map like I’ve always done, but nowadays I’ve already scouted out the roads and terrain on the magic box. You don’t hardly find me without a GPS device to record my location. When I go to recover gold, I prefer using a motorized gold wheel over a pan; times have changed.

Technology has changed our prospecting field considerably. Transportation has made even the most remote areas accessible. New instruments have made location targeting and gold recovery much easier. Quality labs are available to assay our discoveries. New minerals are being discovered and new uses for old minerals are being created. My method of prospecting has changed drastically over the years and if you wish to be successful you best be flexible also.

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