Hey guys, I am pleased to announce that West Coast Placer is starting a mining club. There have been a number of inquiries from people who want to prospect and mine on WCP claims. So we’re starting a club that will provide the opportunity for members to use our claims.
Club members will have access to all of West Coast Placer’s claims. Currently that includes 12 placer claims and two mineral claims in BC. Access to some of my partner’s claims is also available. We have claims all over BC including the Tulameen, Similkameen, Fraser River, Cariboo and Kootenays.
Members will be able to work the claims as if they own them. You can run a sluice, pans or whatever you want. Of course members can keep all the gold that they find.
You will be able to camp on the claims in tents or with an RV (where accessible). Family members are automatically included in your membership. Gold panning is a great activity for the whole family, kids love it. You can bring your friends too, the more the merrier.
There are a few obligations that will have to be met.
The first rule of prospecting club is you do not talk about prospecting club. Just kidding I had to throw that in there.
Members must follow all the regulations regarding placer mining in BC. If you don’t know all the regs don’t worry, information will be provided.
Activities will have to be recorded. This will help with our reports to the MTO. It’s not much work, just keep some notes on the work that you do. Keep track of things like, hours spent working, size and location of holes, and take pictures. This information will also be shared with the group.
If you plan on running a sluice or highbanker you will need to have a Free Miner’s Certificate. If you need help getting one, just ask.
There will be an annual fee of $50. Why a fee? That is required to limit club membership to people who are truly interested. $50 is pretty much free compared to similar clubs. The others are looking for $300 and up. We’re not interested in making money off of memberships.
As a member you will also have the opportunity for instruction in the art of gold prospecting. This is great for novice miners. You can join myself and more experienced members on prospecting trips. That is the best way to learn, you can watch youtube videos and read books all day but nothing beats hands on training.
Members will have support from experienced miners. You can even get help with your own MTO reports for your own personal claims. You can ask advice at any time and we’ll try our best to get back to you as soon as possible.
As a member you will be entitled to a discount on the purchase any of West Coast Placer’s claims. There will be more perks as the club grows.
If you are interested please send an email through the WCP contact form on this link, Contact Form. Please share any suggestions or comments that you might have.
Is the world running out of gold? That seems to be a common theme in investment circles in recent years. This eye catching article on Visual Capitalist estimates that we’ll be out of gold by 2030. This article based on a report from Goldman Sachs claims we’d hit “peak gold” in 2015, GoldCore. Peak gold is the same idea as peak oil. Where the peak is the moment when maximum world production is reached and declines from then on, eventually reaching zero production. Unlike oil though gold is not used up in consumption. It is typically stashed away in a vault or worn as jewellery.
Estimates for all the gold in the world mined to date hover around 165,000 metric tons. Some estimates go as high as 1 million tons but most experts would agree that under 200,000 is accurate. World gold supplies are difficult to quantify. That is because gold reserves are not always reported accurately. Over 50% of gold above ground is used for jewellery which makes it difficult to track. Gold rings, necklaces and such can change hands without any records. About 35% is stored as bullion for investments and reserves. Large holders of gold give misleading numbers regarding their reserves, presumably for security reasons but who knows?
The United States, Germany, Italy and France are the worlds largest holders of gold respectively. Each has their share of controversy surrounding their claimed gold deposits. There are conspiracy theories about the amount of gold stored in Fort Knox. Some believe it is empty and the government is just pretending its full of gold. Without seeing it for ourselves we’ll just have to accept the disclosed numbers.
To further add uncertainty to global gold production small scale miners do not typically report their take. This is especially true in third world countries. A lot of gold is mined in this way, primarily placer but hard rock as well.
How much gold is left in the ground? Nobody really knows. Mining companies of all sizes spend their exploration budget to map out potential deposits. They are a long ways from mapping the entire earth. The peak gold estimates are based on proven and indicated reserves that are reported by public mining companies.
There is no shortage of gold on earth. The problem is that it is much deeper than we can mine. Current scientific theories estimate that there is enough gold in the core to cover the surface of the earth with a 4 meter thick layer of pure gold. The density of the core is measured using several techniques including seismic geophysics. Seismic waves are measured from earthquakes all over the world. The wave properties change as they pass through the liquid outer core and the super dense inner core. S-waves can’t travel through liquid, that is how the outer core is mapped. The density of the inner core is greater than iron at 5,515 kg/m3. Clearly there are large amounts of substances that are heavier than iron to achieve that density.
We are limited to several thousand meters below the surface as far as mining is concerned. Check out this blog post on the origins of gold.
Lets do a little math. The average concentration of gold in Earth’s crust is estimated to be between 0.0011 ppm(source) and 0.0031 ppm(source). Now we can calculate the volume of the portion of the crust which can potentially be mined. The deepest gold mine in the World is TauTona Mine in South Africa which reaches 3.9 kilometers below ground. The TauTona mine, operated by AngloGold Ashanti, is a gold mine so its a good yard stick for how deep we can go.
The volume of the earth (approximated as a sphere) is 1,086,832,411,937 cubic kilometres. The calculated volume for the earth with 4km stripped off the top is 1,084,788,886,213 km3. Subtracting the two and using the average abundance of 0.0031 ppm we arrive at 6.3 billion cubic meters of gold in the top 4km of the crust. One more calculation, gold has a known density of 19.3 tons per m3. Which gives us a total mass of 122,264,143,828 or 122 billion metric tons. That is a lot of gold.
Our calculated estimate of 122 billion metric tons of theoretical gold includes the entire surface of the earth. Currently we are not equipped to mine the oceans, although technology is advancing quickly. Check out this article on sub-sea mining robots, LINK. The same processes that accumulate gold into deposits occur in the ocean just as they do on land. With 71% of the surface covered by ocean that is a significant area that is yet to be explored.
Lets adjust our estimate to account for only continental land which can be mined with today’s technology. So by subtracting the oceans we are left with 35 billion tons of gold on dry land.
Global production throughout the entirety of human history is 165,000 metric tons as previously mentioned. So in a very theoretical sense we have mined 0.00047% of the world’s surface gold. That’s very encouraging. Although not all of that gold is accumulated in mineable deposits. Typically you need at least 0.5 ppm to make a mine profitable. Depending on logistics, location, overburden and other factors that cut off grade can rise quite steeply. So all of that 35 billion tons is not really available to us.
Once gold is discovered it will be mined. We are too greedy to leave it in the ground. Take a look at the gold rushes of North America between 1849-1900. There are some great blog posts on the subject here, Gold Rushes. The hoard of gold hungry prospectors would descend on a creek once a discovery was made. They would move in, erect a town and mine it for all its worth. Within 2-3 years all the easy gold is gone and only the tenacious miners would remain to mine the small gold. The rush would continue elsewhere and repeat the cycle. The same thing happens with hard rock mining but on a longer time scale.
Peak gold takes this phenomena into account. Much like peak oil we’ve picked the low hanging fruit wherever it has been found. Gold is a little different because it is very hard to find. When it comes to oil reserves the big ones stick out like a sore thumb.
Typically it takes about 20 years to go from discovery to full scale gold mine. That involves all the steps to test a property using prospecting, geophysics, and diamond drilling. Delineating the reserve and all the stuff that it takes to build a modern mine (permits, studies, infrastructure and so on).
With the current state of the mineral exploration that 20 year lead time is going to come back to bite us. Over the last few years mineral exploration has dropped off to the point that it is almost non-existent. That seems counter-intuitive if we are running out of gold. Exploration is a high risk investment and people don’t take the risk unless commodity prices are high. The good news is that when prices spike again like they did in 2010 there will be a massive feeding frenzy.
So we’ve estimated that within 4000m of the surface of Earth’s crust there is 35 billion tons of gold. With a remaining 87 billion under the ocean. Only a small portion of that is concentrated enough to mine. Its a big world out there and we’ve only properly explored small pockets of it. The super easy stuff is largely gone but with advancements in technology and some ingenuity its there for the taking. For those explorers who are willing to put on their thinking cap and step outside of their comfort zone there is a bonanza waiting for us.
In the summer of 2010 I was hired to work with a team to find hard rock gold in the Klondike. We explored a group of claims on the Indian River.
My crew stayed at a camp operated by a character called Big Al. That name might sound familiar because he has been featured on the popular TV show Yukon Gold on the History Channel. Of course at that time we had no idea he was going to be a celebrity. During the trip we heard a rumour that Hoffmans working a few claims over were filming for a TV show, it turned out to be the hit series Gold Rush on Discovery. We were surrounded by gold mining TV stars but didn’t know it yet.
The Klondike is a place that has a very storied history and was the site of the greatest gold rush of them all. California, Oregon, and British Columbia had their gold rushes and stories but the Klondike was like no other. Between 1896 and 1899 over 100,000 adventurers made the journey from all over the world to the largely uninhabited Yukon territory in search of gold. What made this rush different is the long journeys and overall inexperience of the Argonauts. At the time of discovery El Dorado and Bonanza creek were the richest creeks in the world. Some claims on El Dorado were getting $27 to the pan once they hit the pay streak. That is equivalent to about $750 per pan in today’s money.
My team met up in Whitehorse the capitol city of the Yukon Territory in early August 2010. We then rounded up some remaining gear and drove in a rented truck up to Dawson City. As you arive in Dawson City you can see the remains of over 100 years of placer gold mining. Before you reach the town you can see large tailings piles lining the sides of the highway. When looked at from above they look like something that was produced by a giant insect. The tailings piles were put there by humongous dredges that scoured the Klondike drainages until 1966. It is estimated that each of the dredges were producing as much as 800 ounces of gold per day!
Dawson City is a cool town. The residents have maintained the look and feel of Dawson’s heyday during the Klondike gold rush. The streets are dirt with wood plank sidewalks. Most of the buildings are original in the downtown area and many commercial buildings have the false front that was the norm during the gold rush era. There is even a law that all signs have to be hand painted.
There are no corporate stores or businesses in Dawson. Everything is locally owned and operated. Some of the original establishments from the 1890s are still in operation today. Diamond Tooth Gerties is one such establishment which offers games of chance and nightly can can dancers 7 days a week. Anouther is Bombay Peggy’s which operated as a brothel during the gold rush. It has turned into a classy bed and breakfast now.
Dawson has several historic bars as well. One such bar is the Downtown Hotel. We stopped in there one night after visiting several other bars and took part in a local tradition. It is called the Sourtoe Cocktail. Only one of my crew was willing to take the shot with me. The Sourtoe Cocktail is a shot of Yukon Jack whiskey taken with an amputated human toe in the glass. They keep the toe in a jar of salt above the bar. Apparently the tradition started with a bootlegger losing his toe due to frostbite. I was informed that this was their 6th toe which makes you wonder where they new ones came from.
The Bonanza Creek Road is the main access to Indian Creek. Along this historic route there are plenty of relics of past mining adventures. Most notably the historic Dredge No. 4 which mined Bonanza Creek until 1959. There are other dredges as well and plenty of old heavy equipment that was abandoned by miners of the past. There are abandoned bulldozers, excavators, trucks and other random big machines. There is such a surplus of iron that many bridges use large dozer shovels as retaining walls.
We were tasked with finding the source of the placer gold in the Indian River. We stayed at Big Al’s camp and were exploring mineral claims that overlapped his placer claims. His knowledge of gold bearing benches as well as historical research was very important in our search. Likewise our findings were beneficial to Al in exploring new placer areas. Most of our time was spent exploring old miner’s trails on quads and by foot. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a great time.
We came across several old mine shafts and evidence of placer mining was everywhere. My crew participated in some of Big Al’s cleanups too. It was exciting to see the amount of gold that he was pulling out. We participated in all the steps of his cleanup process from cleaning the sluice to the concentrator jig and so on. At each stage a fair amount of rum was consumed it seemed fitting when surrounded by hundreds of ounces of gold.
In our hard rock exploration we employed several techniques utilizing traditional prospecting as well as soil sampling and statistical pebble counts. The soil sampling was conducted with helicopter support which made it a lot easier. We were bagging close to a hundred samples per day each which was more than we could carry in the bush. At the end of the day we’d chop out a helicopter landing area and radio the chopper. Then we’d pick up the samples that we cached during the day. Hard work but a lot of fun too.
We spent a total of six weeks prospecting the area. We took a lot of samples to be sent in for assay from all over the claims. Prospecting in the Yukon is similar to BC, there is not a lot of exposed rock around. Unlike the barren lands of the North West Territory and Nunavut there is plenty of forest and vegetation covering the rock. We spent a lot of time in the helicopter scoping out rock outcrops.
There seemed to be a correlation between the garnets that were showing up in the placer operation and high grade gold. When the placer miners hit the paystreak they got a lot of garnets with it. We started prospecting up a creek called “Ruby Creek” assuming it was named for the abundance of garnets. The hunch turned out be be right. We chased the garnets up to some large outcrops near the top of the mountain. The samples contained a lot of garnet but not a lot of gold.
From an old mineshaft that we found near a cabin we discovered that the miners hit a layer of pure quartz conglomerate. And it was loaded with gold. We then knew what to look for. The search for the source of the Klondike gold continued for several weeks. We encountered giant moose, grizzly bears, Northern Lights and some great people. On several occasions we thought we found the fabled mother lode but the samples returned disappointing assay results. Some of the more random samples showed the highest grades. They say gold is where you find it. We did not find the source of the klondike but we did manage to have a great time and got paid for it.
Prior to the gold rushes in BC this part of the country remained almost entirely unexplored. The Clovis people and their descendants the North American Indians were the first settlers of North America. The Clovis crossed the Beringia Land Bridge from Siberia to present day Alaska approximately 13,500 years ago. When Europeans began exploring the area, first by sea in the late 1700s and later by canoe, they encountered aboriginal groups covering much of the province. Many Indians had seen gold in creeks but had little use for it. They did not have the knowledge or motivation to mine gold until they came into contact with Europeans. After learning the value of gold to the British they began to mine it and trade for goods.
The Spanish explorers on the other hand were completely obsessed with the yellow metal. Spanish explorers were motivated primarily by legends of “El Dorado” in their search of the Americas. Each Spanish explorer had the ultimate goal of returning to Spain with a ship full of gold. Most of their attention was focussed in South America where their superior weaponry, armour and small pox allowed them to quickly decimate tribal empires and steal their gold. There is evidence of Spanish gold exploration in BC as well. Most of the Spanish exploration took place on Vancouver Island and other coastal areas such as Haida Gwaii. One Spanish expedition travelled inland as far as the Okanagan and Similkameen regions.
Fur trading is what led to the first European settlement of British Colombia but the impact remained relatively small. The first settlements were established by early explorers such as Simon Fraser, Alexander Mackenzie, and David Thompson. Early forts were established along the river routes that these explorers used as well as along the coast. The area became a recognized fur trading district called New Caledonia and it held that name until it became a British Colony in 1858.
Fort St. James was founded in 1806 and was the first major inland fur trading post in BC and still bears that name. Other notable early forts are Ft. George (now Prince George), Ft. Kamloops, Ft. Langley and Ft. Victoria (1844). During the fur trade the European population slowly grew to a few hundred people but little effort was put into exploring new ground outside of the established trade routes.
1851 Haida Gwaii Gold Rush
The Haida Gwaii gold rush was the first recorded gold rush in BC but was very short lived due to hostilities with the local natives. The rush began in 1851 when a Haida man traded a 27 ounce nugget for 1500 blankets in Fort Victoria. A Hudson’s Bay Company ship was sent up there soon after and discovered a very high grade lode deposit.
The HBC crew began mining the lode deposit but the Haida Indians soon turned against them and prevented further mining. In 1852 a ship with 35 adventurers from San Francisco set out for the islands. They arrived at “Gold Harbour” in the Tasu Sound but did not have much luck finding gold. They did however manage to trade with the Haida Indians for gold.
1857 Gold Found At the Nicoamen River
Placer gold was discovered in Nicoamen River which is a tributary to the Thompson River. The Nicoamen enters the Thompson about 12 kilometers up stream from the confluence with the Fraser River at Lytton. A local Indian discovered gold there by chance and soon the majority of the tribe was mining the area. This discovery is credited with igniting the Fraser River gold rush.
1858 Fraser River Gold Rush
The Fraser River gold rush involved one of the largest populations of migrant prospectors in history. It is estimated that around 30,000 people rushed to the lower Fraser River in 1858. The rush began after an 800 ounce gold sample was sent from Fort Victoria to San Francisco for assay.
Soon after a shipload of 800 American prospectors from California arrived in Victoria to hunt for gold on the Fraser River. The influx of American prospectors overwhelmed the small government that managed the territory. HBC Governor James Douglas requested immediate help from Britain to control this massive foreign population . The British Government responded by formally claiming BC as sovereign British Colony in 1858. The new government quickly enacted mining laws to prevent the mayhem that took place in the California goldfields. Along with the declaration came British military support and the Royal Engineers who went on to build several major road systems including the Cariboo Wagon road and Dewdney Trail.
The early work centred around the community of Hope where steamboats allowed for easy access. The majority of the gold rushers were participants in the California gold rush that fizzled out a few years earlier. As a result the population of Yale was largely american and the town was modelled after San Francisco.
A story in the San Francisco Bulletin is credited with igniting the rush. According to the newspaper:
“In one month the Hudson’s Bay Company fort in Victoria had received 110 pounds of gold dust from the Indians … (prospected) without aid of anything more than … pans and willow baskets.”
Numerous bars were prospected and mined between Hope and Lytton. Some communities along the Fraser are still named after the bars that were mined such as “Boston Bar”. Like most gold rushes the men who arrived first snapped up the good claims and the the majority of the adventurers ended up working for them.
The British Royal engineers developed a route from Port Douglas at the head of Harrison Lake to Lillooet to accommodate the influx of miners. Many new communities popped up and some are still settled today.
The Fraser rush brought people from all over the world but the bulk of the miners came from California. At the peak of the rush there were over 10,000 miners operating on the section of river form Hope to Lillooet. The bars depleted rapidly and by 1860 most of the miners continued on the other gold rushes in BC.
1858 Rock Creek Gold Rush
Gold was discovered in Rock Creek in 1858 soon after miners rushed in from the United States and the rest of the world. The Rock Creek rush was also instrumental in the development of British Columbia. The discovery was made by two American soldiers who were chased North of the boarder by a band of Indians. Just 5km from the border where an unnammed creek entered the Kettle River they found gold.
At the time of the discovery the colony of British Columbia was only a year old. American miners tried to claim the area as part of the United States due to the high grades and the fact that it was discovered by Americans. The Rock Creek claim issues prompted the construction of the Dewdney Trail as a means to separate the new colony from the United States. The Dewdney Trail snaked its way from New Westminster all the way to Wild Horse in the Kootenay region staying just North of the Canada-US border.
Soon after the discovery an estimated 5,000 prospectors migrated to the newly established town of Rock Creek. In the beginning there were two saloons, a butcher’s shop, a hotel and five stores. Within the first year a revolt broke out due to tensions between Chinese and American miners and refusal to pay for mining licences. The incident became known as the Rock Creek War. The governor of British Columbia Sir James Douglas travelled there from Victoria to straighten out the miners. He threatened to send in 500 British soldiers if they couldn’t behave themselves. Sir Douglas was successful and soon the miners paid their claim fees and mined the creeks in peace.
There were some amazing claims on Rock Creek. Adam Beame’s claim on Soldier’s Bar in 1859 allegedly netted $1,000 in six weeks. That gold would be worth $70,500 today! Other bars such as Denver Bar and White’s Bar produced similar results.
1859 Cariboo Gold Rush
Gold was discovered on the Horsefly River in 1859 by prospectors who participated in the Fraser River rush. They were guided by a local Indian and shown a spot on the Horsefly River with abundant gold and nuggets the size of wheat kernels. The rush was on as more miners from the Fraser River rush migrated North to the Cariboo. Soon a town was erected near the strike that exists today.
In 1860 gold was discovered on Keithly and Antler creeks to the North of Horsefly. Other notable creeks of the region are Lightning, Lowhee, and Williams Creeks, the Quesnel River and Parsnip River. Towns popped up all over the place with the most exciting being Barkerville. That town was named after a British prospector named Billy Barker and had a popluaton of 10,000 at its peak. His claim on Willams Creek was one of the greatest gold producers in history yielding an estimated 37,500 ounces of gold. Barkerville was restored in 1997 as a tourist historic town that is a popular attraction in the area.
The Cariboo gold rush saw 100,000 people flood into the area during 1862-70 from all over the world. By 1864 the Cariboo Wagon Road was completed from New Westminster all the way to Barkerville. This allowed for easy travel of people and supplies, wich substantially brought down the costs. It also allowed for stage coaches to securely move gold from the mines. The stagecoaches operated on this road from 1863 to 1917 carrying people, mail, express packages and of course gold. The stagecoaches saw surprisingly few hold ups, even though they carried literally tons of gold. There are only five hold ups on record, two of which were successful.
By 1870 the gold rush had largely fizzled out. The good claims were now owned by mining companies who could gather the money needed to undertake underground drift mining. Those who didn’t stick around to work in underground mines spread around other parts of BC’s North and some sparked gold rushes in new areas. Others settled in and started up cattle ranches or logging companies. Gold mining in the Cariboo is still active today, as a matter of fact I have a couple claims near Keithly Creek.
1863 Wild Horse River Gold Rush
Gold was discovered on the Wild Horse River in the Kootenay region in 1863 once again by American prospectors. The Wild Horse held great gold reserves and still does today. Early in the rush huge nuggets were found with the biggest tipping the scale at 36 ounces. The first town that was built was called Fisherville. Apparently after one resident found a nugget under his house the size of his fist the whole town burned their houses down to dig underneath.
A town was erected named Galbraith’s Ferry, named after John Galbraith who operated a ferry across Kootenay lake. Later the town was re-named Fort Steele after the legendary Sam Steele. A second gold rush broke out in the same area in 1885. Later hard rock silver rushes spread around the region.
The Wild Horse River is estimated to have produced over $7,000,000 in the initial gold rush which would be worth about $490,000,000 today. There is a very well preserved historic town at Fort Steel that is a popular tourist spot with many actors playing the roles of old time blacksmiths, prospectors, sheriffs and so on. It is located North of Cranbrook at the intersection between Highway 93 and 95.
The initial gold rush ended after about 6 years but soon the great silver rush would flood the region. Places like Nelson, Kaslo, Slocan grew out of the silver rushes that blanketed the Kootenay region.
1864 Leech River Gold Rush
The Leech River gold rush started with a letter from Robert Brown who was Commander of the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition. Yes that was the correct name of the VIEE expedition. The expedition was launched by the British government in Victoria.
A letter from Brown published in the British Colonist newspaper on July 29, 1864 ignited the rush. Here are some exerpts from the letter:
..the intelligence I have to communicate is of too important a nature to bear delay in forwarding to you, even for one hour…
The discovery which I have to communicate is the finding of gold on the banks of one of the Forks of the Sooke River, about 12 miles from the sea in a straight line, and in a locality never hitherto reached by white men, in all probability never even by natives. I forward anquarter eighth of an ounce (or thereabouts) of the coarse scale gold, washed out of twelve pans of dirt, in many places 20 feet above the river, and with no tools but a shovel and a gold pan. The lowest prospect obtained was 3 cents to the pan, the highest $1 to the pan, and work like that with a rocker would yield what pay you can better calculate than I can, and the development of which, with what results to the Colony you may imagine.
A town called Leechtown was built near the discovery. By November that year there were an estimated 6 general stores, 3 hotels and over 1,200 miners at work in the area. By 1866 an estimated 200,000 ounces of gold had been produced in the area and the gold rush had passed its peak. It was over in a flash as the Leech and Sooke river placer deposits, although high grade, were limited in size.
In the span of one decade gold rushes turned the vast unexplored fur trading district of New Caledonia into a sovereign British Colony. By the end of the 1860’s the new region had gone from a population of under one thousand people to a colony with several major wagon roads and towns covering much of the Southern half of BC. The gold rushes continued and led to more development in British Columbia. Stay tuned for part 2.
This claim is located in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region of BC. The location is fairly remote and there are no paved roads for quite a distance in any direction. When you are out there you are definitely alone. It has sort of an eerie feeling all day and night, it feels deserted. There is a ghost town near the claim and some signs of a more active human presence from a distant time. Check out this post for pics on of the ghost town, Southern Cariboo Prospecting Trip.
The hike down to the river is pretty tough. There is about a 1000 foot elevation change from the access road to the river. We went down there the first day to sample the beach. We came across a couple of bedrock outcrops which prevented us from travelling any further. The bedrock had some gold stored in the cracks and we were able to get some of it out. Near the river we saw some decent colour in our test pans. We marked the locations on my GPS and made our way back up to the camp.
We had some great burgers cooked on the campfire and a couple of beers. It is getting pretty cold up there this time of year. Once the sun goes down the temperature quickly falls below freezing. We had a nice big fire and enjoyed the stars for the evening. It was pretty tough to get out of our tents in the morning. The moment when you unzip your sleeping bag and start putting on cold clothing is the worst. I’d like to stay in my nice warm bag for a couple more hours but we came up here for a reason.
We found an old claim post with tags from 1989/90 right in the center of the claim. The post was actually carved out of a tree trunk and is the most creative claim post I have ever seen. As far as industrial markers go this is a work of art. I hope to find out more about this G. Johnson and what he had discovered on the claim.
As we were making our way down to the river for day two of prospecting we came across a creek that seemed to appear out of nowhere. My partner noticed some gravel near the surface and we thought we might as well pan it. In that pan we saw a small coarse chunk of gold. This was pretty exciting since it was located several hundred feet above the river. We took several more pans in that spot and found a little bit of gold in each one. Now we have to find out where that mysterious little creek is getting the gold from.
My partner had a Bazooka Gold Trap and we tried it out on this little creek. The gold trap seemed to work pretty well. It’s an interesting design that has a chamber at the back and a water scoop underneath that forces water into the trap.
That was our last trip of the season to this area. The weather forecast says snow is coming this week and it will probably stick until the spring.
Placer mining is an exciting activity. It brings us out into the wilderness often to the road less traveled. There is a certain charm associated with the hunt for gold. In some ways it feels like an exclusive club where the only entry requirements are the knowledge, skills and the will to take on the challenge of finding precious metal on the earth’s surface. For those starting out there is a lot to learn and all too often a novice miner’s decisions are influenced by greed or the infamous gold fever. Here’s a list of some of the most common mistakes made by new gold miners.
Buying too much equipment too early
Placer miners are total gear nuts, myself included. To run even a small operation you need a fair amount of gear. Pans, sluices, digging tools, camping equipment, 4×4 truck, etc. And there is plenty of gear on the market to spend your money on.
However more equipment will not necessarily make you more money. Often its quite the opposite. In our fast paced consumer focused economy it is tempting to look for a quick fix. There is no substitute for hard work though. You need to put in the time and effort to find that gold. I have met several people who have purchased a brand new floating dredge with nowhere to use it. Fortunately their equipment quickly finds its way onto craigslist at a discounted price.
Prospecting starts with a gold pan, other tools that help are classifiers, snuffer bottles, and an accurate scale. Once you have proven gold in an area you can look at moving on to something that can move more material. The next progression would be a highbanker or a small diameter dredge (if they’re legal in your area). If you have found enough gold and can’t move material fast enough the next steps are moving to a larger wash plant and possibly heavy equipment. At each step along the way you need to assess the quantity of gold on your claim and the costs of getting it out.
Buying the first claim that’s available
Its pretty exciting to have the rights to your first claim. You start dreaming of all the riches that are now yours for the taking. Its tempting to snap up the first claim that is available. Especially in areas with online staking, its a lot like buying concert tickets. Unlike concert tickets though gold claims are usually available for a reason. Perhaps the claim has poor access, little to no gold, or has already been mined to death.
Do some research before you pull the trigger. Read up on the history of the area to make sure it hasn’t been thoroughly mined already. Make sure it has good access roads or trails. Find info on previous production in the area and if possible sample the claim before you buy it. Check some maps to make sure the claim is not on a park, reserve or private land.
Poor or No Sampling
Effective sampling is absolutely essential to run a profitable placer mining operation. You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive. It is tempting to show up at a claim and start running a highbanker on the first gravel that you see. Even some larger operations forgo proper sampling in the rush to get mining and lose a lot of money because of it.
Sampling is not glamorous and you won’t get a lot of nuggets to show your friends but you need to know how much an area will pay before you spend time and money to produce it.Once you have thoroughly sampled an area and have calculated the pay per yard you will know how much you can spend to produce the gold. For example if an area pays $100 to the cubic yard and your cost is $40/yd to produce it you will certainly make a profit. Your proven reserve is sort of like a bank account. You don’t want to spend more money on equipment than your reserves will justify.
Not digging deep enough
Almost every novice prospector will sample surface gravels and expect to see flakes of gold. Placer prospecting and mining hinges on the fact that gold is very dense. Being heavy, gold will settle deep as it can in a gravel bed. When digging a test hole you basically want to dig as deep as you can. You want to reach compacted gravel before you start sampling. In most cases your best gold will be on the bedrock. In some areas there are clay layers or river armour layers that will trap the gold. It will always travel down until something prevents it from sinking any further.
There are areas where flood gold can be found near the surface. It is important to know the history of your area. Even if there is surface flood gold though the real paystreak will always be deeper down.
Lack of knowledge of local mining regulations
Just like other laws it is your responsibility to know the mining regulations for your area. I have heard too many stories of guys panning or running river sluices in areas that they didn’t even know were claimed. That is called claim jumping and is illegal. In the gold rush days it was perfectly legal and acceptable to shoot a claim jumper. Today claim jumpers can face a criminal record and imprisonment.
The rules are not the same everywhere. A suction dredge might be perfectly acceptable in one area and completely outlawed in another. Dredges and highbankers area also regulated by water intake hose diameter and type of creek that you are working on. Other regulations to look out for are environmental rules for drawing water and working in riparian zones.
Laws regarding exploration on private land, provincial parks or first nations land must also be obeyed. You have certain rights by holding a claim but that does not guarantee your right to dig in every situation.
These days with the recent flood of gold mining TV shows it seems so easy. They give the impression that all you have to do is show up with an excavator and a wash plant and you’ll start pulling out nuggets. Often these shows have some arbitrary budget that the miner needs to reach by the end of the season. Just seeing numbers like $500,000 per season will get anyone excited. You may be thinking if they can get that I can at least get $1000 on a random claim. Spending an hour per night watching guys pour jars full of gold flakes on shows like Yukon Gold or Gold Rush Alaska will fuel unrealistic expectations.
The fact is gold is valuable because it is incredibly rare. The value is largely due to the sweat equity of prospectors and miners who have spent lifetimes searching for the yellow metal. It will be a long road to get your first jar full of gold or even a vial for that matter. Prospecting for gold has an incredibly poor success rate. You will put in hard work, digging, hiking and panning for long hours and won’t see more than a color. Some days you won’t even see that. Gold is defiantly out there but don’t expect to see any in your first pan.
Improper technique with equipment
Most placer mining and prospecting equipment requires skill and knowledge to operate effectively. That is part of the appeal to prospecting, its a skill just like any other and takes time to develop. There are a lot of people out there who are not using their gold pans properly and washing gold right out of the pan. Likewise with highbankers, its a common mistake to mine all day with the wrong angle on your sluice. There is a lot of info out there on proper techniques don’t just buy equipment and try to figure it out on your own.
The best thing to do is go out with someone who is experienced with the equipment that you want to use. You can watch Youtube videos all day but nothing beats hands on experience. Most placer miners will welcome an extra hand to help work the claim, in the process you will learn everything you need to know.
Placer mining and exploration breeds innovation like no other activity. Virtually every prospector that you talk to has their own idea of what the best tool, product or technique is. If you ask three different miners what the best sluice is you’ll get three different answers. Much of the innovation comes from the trial and error learning process of placer mining. What works at one claim might not work at the next. You just have to experiment until everything works the way you want it to.
The history of placer mining has a long list of innovations and miners benefited with increased yields at each step along the way. The gold pan was one of the first inventions, then followed the rocker box, sluice, variations of the sluice such as the long tom, hydraulicking water jets, dragline dredges and so on. The miners in the Klondike gold rush learned to melt the permafrost using fires to reach the bedrock below. Now they use modern excavators and bulldozers but it had to start somewhere.
Every inventor claims that their product is the best. It can be hard to distinguish the good from the not so good. In the case of the Pyramid Pro pan developed by Dennis Katz at Fossickers.com it is a game changer. I am not affiliated in any way with the manufacturer of this pan I just really appreciate the technology. Fossicker is an unusual word, according to their website it is the Australian word for gold prospector.
There are other pyramid shaped pans on the market but this one has some very unique features. First off it has insane riffles! These riffles do two things. They break up clay or hardpack along with the violent action of the pyramid panning motion. And they prevent any dense material (ie.gold) from escaping. The violent action must be emphasized. In conventional gold panning you want to avoid too much force and splashing because you will force your gold right out of your pan but that is the essence of the Pyramid Pro. The action is hard to describe and best seen in person. Check out the developer’s own instruction video below to see how it works.
It is a little funny how the Fossicker keeps saying to “stratisfy” the material. What he really means is stratify, maybe its an Australian thing too. You hold the pan with those big handles almost like you’re holding a gas powered ice auger. It is a bit of an arm workout when you are going through a lot of material but the Pyramid Pro is designed to do exactly that. The experience is very unique and has little to do with conventional gold panning. The Fossicker calls the neck of the pan a pre-mix chamber. Once you get the technique down nothing will escape that chamber.
The most important benefit for prospectors is that this pan is a lightweight unit that can concentrate a lot of material. It can essentially replace a small sluice or highbanker for a similar amount of material. Where it pays off the most is in places where you need to hike in to access a claim. You are not going to hike with a trash pump, sluice and hose for any considerable distance. With the Pyramid Pro there is no need to. I’m not saying its going to replace a highbanker or dredge when it comes to production. Technically it could but you would need forearms like Popeye.
Where this pan really shines is in volumetric sampling. That means taking a sample of a set volume and using the gold values to estimate the pay over a larger area. For example you can take a sample of 50 liters of raw gravel. Concentrate it with the pyramid pan and then separate and dry your gold. You can then weigh that gold and extrapolate that number to a cubic meter or yard. As an example if you had 0.025 grams of gold recovered from your 50L sample that would equal 25g per cubic meter or almost an ounce. With careful sampling you can be confident that the area is worth the time and money to mine it.
The pressure plug at the bottom makes taking samples super easy. Once you have concentrated your sample down, you just pull the plug and dump it into a container. If you were doing the same thing with a highbanker you would have to do a full clean up for each location. With this tool you can rapidly sample a large area in no time flat. The plug can be easily replaced if you damage or lose it. The plug is just a 1.5″ plumbing plug which is available at any hardware store.
The plastic is surprisingly tough. I had my pyramid pan on the back of my pack on a particularly perilous prospecting mission. I wiped out on a jagged rock outcrop and landed with my full weight on the pan. I thought it was going to be toast but was relieved to see that no damage at all had occurred. Likewise with my other plastic pans. I don’t know what kind of plastic they use but it is unbelievably durable. The Fossickers website claims that it has a lifetime guarantee just in case you did manage to break it.
The Pyramid Pro pan is the center of my sampling technique. The fact that it is ultra-portable and can concentrate a lot of material makes it an indispensable tool for the modern prospector. They are not cheap though, I paid $120 for mine and its worth every penny.
Earlier this week I traveled to the Similkameen to prospect a gold claim. I was joined by Bernie, who I met on the internet. The goal of the trip was to due some reconnaissance prospecting of this claim to determine where to focus our efforts in the future. We were prospecting using hand tools and gold pans. In addition to gold panning we took several large samples using a pyramid pan to concentrate the material on site.
This claim is located a short drive to the East of the town of Princeton. The weather in October is a bit of a gamble but we had great conditions for this two day trip. It was sunny both days and slightly below room temperature. The scenery is spectacular this time of year with the bright colors of the fall leaves contrasting the evergreen trees and the surrounding mountains.
The Similkameen river has a long history of placer mining and exploration. Prospectors began digging in the area soon after the Fraser River gold rush that began in 1858. By 1860 prospectors had found gold on the Similkameen and men were soon staking claims. The area experienced a gold rush and a town called Blackwood was created just South of present day Princeton. Prospectors descended on the Similkameen again during the Tulameen gold rush of 1885. People have been pulling gold and platinum out of the river ever since.
The first day we made the two and a half hour journey from Abbotsford early in the morning. There is a small farm between the highway and the claim. We stopped to talk to the land owner and the refused to allow us to access the claim through their property. This meant that we had to hike an extra 2km to access the claim without trespassing.
We began digging test holes right away focusing on the gravel bars and floodplain above the beach. It was easier digging than expected which allowed us to dig deeper holes to get closer to the bedrock. This area has numerous channels that show evidence of water flowing during the spring melt. The area close to the river is a bit of maze of channels and will take several trips to sample them all.
Usually I camp right near the work site on a claim but this time we went for the glamping approach due to the unexpected hike into the claim. We stayed in a historical cabin in Princeton that was built in 1937. The owners have upgraded the interior over the years with power, hot water and so on but the structure is original. These log cabins only cost $65/night, definitely worth it if you are staying in Princeton.
We were at it again the next day covering more ground. We managed to dig some big holes and take some volumetric samples and lots of gold panning. During the two days we did see some color but no platinum. This area has produced a significant amount of platinum in the past.
Earlier this month I made a prospecting road trip to check out some of my claims in Southern BC. I was joined by my brother, Mike from Alberta and a couple friends met up with us in Salmo. We prospected three gold cliams in near Coalmont, Hedley and Salmo.
The Coalmont claim is close to the other Tulumeen claims that I checked out earlier this year on Granite Creek. This one is a few kilometers down river from the confluence of Granite Creek and the Tulumeen River. The old Kettle Valley railroad line actually passes right through the claim and the railbed gives excellent access. Its apparently a popular hiking and cycling route, I ran into a guy who walked all the way there from Princeton which is about 30 km.
There was evidence of previous work on the claim which is to be expected in an area with a rich placer mining history. There were some old dredge hoses, plastic pails, and machine dug pits. There were also signs indicating active mining. We sampled the banks of the Tulumeen river taking advantage of the extremely dry summer that BC has had this year. The river is so low that you could easily walk across it.
We test panned along the beach and took some volumetric samples with my pyramid pan. We saw some decent gold in the test pans, especially in one spot where we hit shallow bedrock. The drought also resulted in a province wide fire ban which makes for an unusual vibe when you are camping. Without a fire you are just sitting there in the dark, thank goodness for beer!
The next stop was at a claim near Hedley, BC. Hedley has a long history of gold mining. The historic Nickel Plate and Mascot mines produced from the 1880’s till about 1950. Several smaller mines are in operation today. My claim is on the Similkameen river but is also covered by private land. In BC a claim gives you the rights to the minerals but you don’t own the land. Fortunately the land owner was there when we showed up and was pretty cool.
The Similkameen like the Tulumeen is super low this year. This provided good access to the beach and areas that would usually be under water. We panned and sampled some promising locations. We saw some small gold in the pans and took some concentrated samples home to process later.
We went to Salmo next. This claim is very close to the site of the Shambhala music festival. There was no shortage of hitchhikers wearing animal print clothing and other bizarre outfits. Near the claim there were several hippies with signs up asking for tickets. I actually picked up a hitchhiker on the way there since I had an empty seat.
Some friends met me up there to help search for gold and work on their prospecting technique. This claim is known to have gemstones of the beryl variety. Emeralds are the green form of Beryl, caused by a chromium impurity. Aquamarine is the light blue/green form. Sadly we didn’t see any emeralds in our pans and we only saw trace amounts of gold. We took some larger samples which I haven’t processed yet so hopefully there are some gemstones there, and gold. I’ll head back there as soon as I get a chance the allure of beryl is just too strong.
After prospecting the Salmo claim my brother and I joined a group at Koocanusa Lake for a houseboat bachelor party adventure. That is another story though.
West Coast Placer is pleased to announce that we are now offering drone services. We recently acquired an aerial mapping UAV capable of collecting high resolution aerial imagery and topo maps.
Our drone carries a high resolution camera and can cover several square kilometers in one flight. To do more flights we just have to land and change the batteries. The drone is fully autonomous and collects GPS data in sync with the photography. It is a great little package that can deliver amazing results.
We can deliver high resolution orthomosaics in deliverable formats such as GeoTIFF, JPEG, PNG or Google KMZ. Orthomosaics are a composite image of individual photos stitched together to create one large image. They also have coordinates tied to each pixel so that features in the image match up to their real world position. Our drone can produce deliverable 2D or 3D data up to 4cm/pixel. The best and most expensive satellite data that you can currently buy only reaches 15-30cm/px. Here is an image to show the comparison of our data vs Google Earth.
Through processing the flight data we can provide 3D imagery as well which can be used to create topographic data which can be delivered as a DEM, point cloud or other formats depending on the requirements of the job.
Our operator is experienced at operating and developing UAVs with many flight hours to under his belt. We meet all the requirements set out by Transport Canada. We are interested in flying for any needs that a client might have. Of course we have a special interest in placer operations. We are currently working on a technique to utilize the UAV to discover ancient river channels and other features of interest to placer miners.
Please contact us through the contact page for more information and to discuss your project.