From the Gold Prospectors January/February 2014 issue
By Kevin Hoagland
When I don’t have a full day to go prospecting, I’ll do what I call hit-and-run prospecting to satisfy my need to dig. I live for prospecting, but on those days that I don’t have a lot of time, I’ll grab what I call my “Hit Kit” and head out on the trail.
I have a different gear box for almost every type of prospecting:
My drywash box has all of the tools I need for drywashing, including dust masks, a carburetor rebuild kit for my blower unit and cloth for my drywasher, among other goodies. My metal detecting box, sniping box, highbanking box and others are all similarly equipped as well. I’ve found that keeping gear separated and in boxes makes my life easier. I am less apt to leave something at home that I really needed or wanted to have with me in the goldfields.
So, the “Hit Kit” includes a couple of gold pans, five-gallon bucket, small hand rake, pick, loupe, small hand-held rock crusher, knee pads, gloves and one of my Falcon MD-20 detectors, which are handheld devices for pinpointing gold. This kit serves one purpose — hitting old hardrock mine ore dumps.
My method is simple and safe because you’ll never enter a mine or get close to an edge. I am not an advocate of entering a mine without the proper training. I truly believe in the “Stay out! Stay alive!”
mantra every prospector should live — and continue to live — by. Even with years of experience in hardrock mining under my belt. I stick by this mantra.
When I do go underground, extreme caution and safety protocols are always observed. The simplicity of “hit mining” is I never need to enter a horizontal mine shaft. And, everything I need to see in a vertical shaft can been seen from meters away, never tempting me get close to the edges.
When I’m on the road and I see an old hardrock mine site that I can easily access without having to take out trip insurance or tie into satellites to get to the adit, I’ll make my way to the site and then determine what type of mine it is, or was. If it appears that it was a gold mine, I’ll spend some time exploring the vein body that the miners were working and then explore the ore dump.
It’s important to understand the difference between the ore dump and the tailings piles. Tailings piles are the final products of the mine. Searching them can be difficult and finds slim, if the miners worked the ore properly. The ore dump is the gange or waste material from around the ore body that is dumped in front of the adit to create the pad. That’s what I want for a quick hit.
The color of ore
I’ll take time to look at all of the material at the entrance of the mine shaft to find what looks to be the best material of the ore body and what miners had extracted. To do this, I will examine the color of the material between the adit and the ore dump. If I’m looking at, let’s say for example only, the colors blue, red, green and yellow at the adit of the mine and then I spend some time looking at the ore dump and I see red, green and yellow, but very little blue, then I know the ore body that carries the gold is blue. I begin my hunt on the ore dump looking for the blue material.
This is where the “Hit Kit” comes into play. Strapping on my knee pads, I’ll grab the bucket, pick, rake and my MD-20 and begin crawling around on the dump picking up every piece of blue material I see. I’ll check every piece with the handheld detector. If I get a hit, the material containing the target goes into the bucket. If not, it goes back onto the pile.
On a good day, I can fill a bucket in no time. On a bad day when I collect only a few ore samples in the bucket, I walk. There is no use in spending a lot of time for little return. I can always come back to the spot if I want.
Once I arrive back at the truck, it’s time to break out the rock crusher to see if the blue material contains gold. It’s always rewarding to see some color in my ore samples before I load up and head back to the office or get back on the road. When I return home, the bucket of material goes into a barrel, where it sits until I have time to crush the ore, process it and recover the gold. I have always called this gold “the Christmas fund,” so there are always a lot of cheerleaders on my side to have a great return.
Testing ore samples on the trail
Recently, I got a chance to work with two Gold Prospectors Association of America members who were on vacation from Oklahoma and Texas and were looking for a little of gold in Arizona.
I was with longtime GPAA member and freelance photographer Linda Grace when we spotted a couple of guys sitting on the side of the road just above a GPAA claim. Noticing the tags on their truck, I pulled up beside them and asked them if they’d made a wrong turn off of I-40. The two men shared with me that they’d had very little luck on the claim, so I invited them to go back to the claim and take a walk with me.
The GPAA members were Jerry Walkup of Plano, Texas and Bill Simpson of Blanchard, Oklahoma.
The first task was to help Jerry set up his detector and give him some pointers on the geology of the claim to better his chances of finding some gold. We soon discovered that his metal detector had issues, so we walked into the washes.
Once off the beaten path, the four of us were kicking rocks and looking at all of the usual spots folks would likely prospect. We shared with Bill and Jerry the whereabouts of other areas we would prospect and why.
It’s so important that when any of us travel out of our home area that we try to hook up with, or at least talk to, other prospectors before heading out to an unfamiliar claim.
Gold and leaverite
As we headed back to where we had parked, Jerry asked, “I have some rocks, I picked up. Can you take a look at them?”
“Of course, I would be happy to,” I said, thinking to myself that too many times I’ve been handed a rock or a chunk of quartz that is leaverite, at best. Any longtime prospector knows leaverite is a rock that you should leave ’er right where you found it.
Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news, but I know it’s my obligation to be as honest as I can when evaluating an ore sample. Like many of you, I’ve often had to dash someone’s excitement when they’re convinced they’ve found a great piece of ore that’s loaded full of gold. To soften the blow, I often take the opportunity to turn it around and share with the disappointed leaverite beholder exactly what to look for next time and how the composition of the rock or ore sample may relate to their quest for gold.
Jerry brought out a few good-looking pieces of quartz. After a visual inspection, I shared with both of the men what I typically look for in an ore sample, including weight, color and other characteristics.
Later, I told them about my “Hit Kit” and grabbed the MD-20 pinpointer. I took a few seconds to show them the unit and then we went to work. Tuning quickly, I took the sample and started scanning it when I got a great positive hit. My excitement was growing as I handed the sample back to Jerry and grabbed the crusher out of the Jeep.
I began to give Bill and Jerry a quick tutorial on the crusher when I realized it was senseless.
“It’s a crusher guys! Pound the rock until it’s powder and then pan it,” I said.
And, that was really all the instruction they needed.
Jerry jumped right in and turned the rock to powder pretty quickly. I started dry panning and saw color, but kept my mouth shut. Working down the material a bit more, I tossed the finals in a different pan and added a bit of water for Jerry to finish out. There was a lot more gold in the final panning!
The two out-of-state GPAA members were clearly on the right path in more ways than one. When I asked Jerry about the source of his ore sample, he demonstrated two codes of prospecting: First, he remembered exactly where he found it and secondly he didn’t share with me the exact spot. Perfect!
As we parted ways, I gave the two men my card and an invitation to call me if they needed anything while they were visiting.
Linda and I hit the highway. On the way back, we talked about how great it was to work with GPAA members and see color at the end of the day. Linda also reminded me that I had asked her to bring her camera gear but none of her own prospecting gear. I have a feeling that in the future, she’s going to pack a little heavier.
Kevin Hoagland is the Executive Director of Development for the Gold Prospectors Association of America and Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association. He can be reached at email@example.com