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Categories: From the Gold Prospectors Magazine

 Tuesday, February 27, 2018

In The DIRT! All Eyes on Gold: Don’t be Fooled!


by Dominic Ricci

In The DIRT!  All Eyes on Gold: Don’t be Fooled!
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In The DIRT!

All Eyes on Gold: Don’t be Fooled!

Dominic Ricci – GPAA/LDMA Executive Director of Operations


Anyone who falls for the same deceit twice must accept responsibility for his own gullibility; thus, one should be more watchful the next time around. You must learn from this, so it does not happen again.

How many have been fooled over and over? Tricked, duped, conned, or just plain old hoodwinked? Of course, we don’t want to admit it — “I didn’t know it was happening!” Getting scammed and not even the slightest hint that it is happening? Yes, what a fool we can be.

Think about it. Have you ever encountered the ultimate “con” artist? Probably not ... or have you? He is, by all means, a true Master of Disguise! Who is this deceitful creature?

In this case, he goes by the name of ... Clod Von Clay! Specializing in the act of concealing the identity of something by modifying its appearance. If he were a thief, he’d be the king of camouflage — always keeping a low profile and stealing your GOLD!

Let me redirect you without the use of smoke and mirrors. Go grab your shovel and let’s get to some dirt. That’s what I did on a recent adventure to test some new possible claims near the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association’s (LDMA) Stanton Camp outside of Congress, Ariz.

I love being in the dirt and on the gold, on the hunt for new places where our members can go prospecting and find their gold. Life is too short not to dig for gold. As George “Buzzard” Massie, founder of the Gold Prospectors Association of America and the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association, would often say, “Off to the Diggins to find more Gold!”

The thrill of finding gold. The adrenaline that races throughout our body with excitement of possibilities. The game of seeking what is hidden.

You know upfront that if you’re going to find gold, you’re going to move a lot of dirt. Realistically, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold. You don’t go into the goldfields looking for dirt, you go in looking for gold!

First, one needs to do a bit of studying. Dirt is dirt. I’m in search of gold-bearing dirt. The investment of research will lead you to better opportunities for finding your pocket of gold. Take time to look back at old maps, talk to others, see areas that may be available to file a claim, or lease from someone else. Utilizing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), MineCache, FootPrints, Google Maps and even The Diggings are just a few resources to point you in the right direction.

Another consideration that I look at is whether the majority of our members can get to this “new” claim — what is the access like?

I settled on an area where the dirt was calling me to test in a few places. Test, test and test some more because each place may have gold, but which one has more gold?

We headed out of camp, geared up and ready to find gold. My kids were with me, and they love the outdoors, and they love finding gold. Plus, Mom can’t get mad when they come back all dirty, with BIG smiles on their faces from the day’s adventure.

The desert was peaceful and the skies clear and blue. At the first location, from the surface there appeared to be two areas I wanted to focus on that were separated by approximately 75 feet where you can see water had once moved through.

I’m somewhat a modern-day prospector, so along with my pick and shovel, I crank up my generator for my demolition hammer to make life easier. Using my rods to mark an area for testing, we start “playing in the dirt!”

Soon I’ve exposed a small gravel layer sitting on top of about a two-foot layer of larger river rock. These layers were sitting on top of a hard clay layer. Gold has a hard time settling down in the clay and most of it sits on top. The dirt was a dark red color, which means it’s rich with iron and breathes gold. We start filling a few buckets — this is where it’s great to have your kids with you — and the kids classify the material down to half an inch and fill a few buckets.

My mind starts filling with thoughts ... What’s in the dirt? With every shovelful of dirt, I always wonder what’s in it. The dirt is holding my gold hostage and I must wash it away. Disregard that dirt. I’m not looking for dirt, I’m looking for GOLD!

The dirt is a disguise, but not the Master of Disguise!

To help my evaluation of this “test” spot, we bucket the small gravel layer separate from the bedrock layer. Why? I’ll unveil that a bit later.

We worked hard for an hour getting our test dirt. We even broke out the shop vac to clean up our little area, especially what was sitting on top of the clay layer, which usually contains most of the gold.

My youngest daughter, Maddi, pointed to a “white and dark reddish brown” layer and asked what it was. I told her it was caliche. She asked, “what is cow-itch?” (She’s 7 years old, what do you expect?)

To make it simple for her, I explained it was like cement — really hard and it tells us to not dig any deeper because the gold is above it. At that point she was good with the information.

Caliche is a sedimentary rock, a hardened natural cement of calcium carbonate that binds other materials, such as gravel, sand, clay and silt. It is generally light-colored but can range from white to light pink to reddish-brown, depending on the impurities present. It generally occurs on or near the surface, but can be found in deeper subsoil deposits, as well. Layers vary from a few inches to feet thick, and multiple layers can exist in a single location. Yes, I’ve punched through caliche before and found gold, but for the time and effort it was not worth it for me.

We were just about ready to move all our equipment to the second test spot about 75 feet away when I looked down to where Tristan, my son, and Mackenzie, my other daughter, had been classifying the material. There was a pile of not just rocks, but red clay “balls” that you could smoosh with your fingers. Something told me not to be foolish and to take a half-bucket of the red clay balls.

Our operation moved and soon again we were in the dirt. We unearthed another small gravel layer that sat on top of about a foot of larger bedrock. This area was grayer with a tint of blue to it. Not the rich red mineralization that we just came from. It was more ore-forming in color.

It was interesting that both test spots were only 75 feet apart, yet the material was so different.

We repeated our process, filled a few buckets with the small gravels material and a few from the larger bedrock layer. Then I stared down again noticing small grayish-blue dried clay balls. That feeling came over me again, so we filled our last bucket.

We packed up all our equipment and decided to have a snack and water before heading back to camp. Tristan asked why some dirt was reddish in color and some gray with a hint of blue. As I explained it deals with mineralization and the geology that exists, I could see they were not interested but tired and not ready to learn.

So, then I talked about the “legends” of the Red and Blue rivers that once flowed beneath the surface and forming clay. The legend has it that if you can find either ancient river, you will find the gold. The 49ers called the clay “red lead” or “blue lead” because oftentimes it contained high concentrations of gold, therefore they would follow it and it would “lead” them to gold. At this point, they were ready to head back to camp and start processing the dirt in our recirculator.

Driving back to Stanton Camp, my mind was racing. Yep! Gold Fever and the allure of what was hiding in the dirt. I couldn’t wait to be scooping material into the hopper of my recirculator and wash the dirt away. There must be pickers and even a small nugget or two, right? Dirt, stop being a detainee and holding my gold captive! Must control fever and not let the kids tell Mom I was acting “weird” again.

Once back at camp we went into cleanup mode. “Show me the GOLD!” We ran each of the materials in different runs. The smaller gravel layers had some small gold in it. Mostly small fines and “fly poop” size gold, but there was gold in it.

Then came the material from the larger river rock layer that also had the vacuumed-up material that sat on top of the hard caliche layer. This produced larger gold and a few pickers.

Both test areas produced what I felt was good gold that most of our members would be able to get to and work well. The first test area with the rich red color material did fare a bit more gold, but to be fair, I should make another trip out there. I will pursue this claim.

Oh my gosh! Gold Fever is in my blood!

The kids were excited, but ready to take a break and relax in the RV. Soon after, they were taking a much-needed nap, but my mind was still racing.

There were still the buckets of clay balls. What was so intriguing about them? The red clay balls were more on the wet side and the gray-blue more dried like a clod of dirt. Most know that clay is a “gold robber” and if you put a scoop of it in your sluice it will tumble right out and steal any gold that it runs across because it will stick to it. Would you want to take a chance of losing any gold?

My eyes were on the gold. It would be foolish to run that clay ball material, right? Wait! Clay is a gold robber that will rob you blind when it goes through a sluice, BUT he may just be a Master of Disguise.

I poured each bucket into a separate panning tub and covered with water. Then added a few drops of “Clay Gone” to the water (you can also use other agitates like liquid Dawn dish soap). This is where patience must come into play. I was occasionally stirring up the water and squishing the material in my hands to help break it down.

The next day, the kids asked what the day’s adventure was going to be. I simply said, “We are going to catch a thief. He is a Master of Disguise, and we all need to keep our eyes on the gold or he will steal it.”

The look in their eyes and reaction was priceless. Maddi looked up at me and asked, “Should we call the law? You know, 911?”

“No baby, we are going to catch this guy ourselves!” I said with a chuckle. They followed me to the two tubs. “First, we are going to run this red liquid material.” The Clay Gone turned it into a silt. I lowered the angle of the sluice a bit and instructed to run a bit slower. “Girls, as Tristan scoops into the hopper, if you see any clumps, grab them fast and squish them before they get to the sluice.”

They questioned why we were playing with soupy dirt and not going after the thief that was stealing gold. “Focus on the clods and soon you will see. Don’t take your eyes off the soup!”

We did a cleanup, and as I panned it out, the fever was getting to me. As I fanned out the bit of super concentrates left in the pan, there looking up at us were a few pieces of gold. I smiled and said, “Kids, we just caught the thief! Let me introduce you to the Master of Disguise, Clod Von Clay.”

I explained that the gold was hidden in the clay and if we didn’t soak the clay to break it down, we would never have found the gold. Clod Von Clay would be laughing at us.

“Dad! Thief, Thief! Over there in the other tub. We are on to you Mr. Von Clay!” Mackenzie laughed, pointing to the tub with the grayish-blue clods.

We recovered a few more pieces of gold and laughed about how Clod Von Clay didn’t get our gold.

Most people overlook the clay and clods when out prospecting for gold. You have to decide if that extra time is worth a few more pieces of gold. For me, I needed to expose the Master of Disguise ... Clod Von Clay. After all, he may be stealing from you.

If you want to see this process in action, learn more about where to dig your gold, or what other seasoned prospectors do to find gold, participate in one or more of the GPAA-LDMA National Dirt Party Outings hosted at many of our LDMA mining camps. You will find more gold than what is in your vial.

For more information, or to sign up, call the main office at 800-551-9707.

Prospecting for gold versus looking for dirt — do your research, study the geology and move the dirt out of the way so you can unearth your gold. Work smarter and your pan will shine.

I’m a gold prospector. I’m continually learning patience (OK, trying to) so I don’t overlook any important clue the dirt gives me. What a fascinating game of trying to outthink and outwit the desert, or rivers, of my gold!

Hope to see you, In the Dirt real soon!

Dominic Ricci is the Executive Director of Operations for GPAA/LDMA and can be reached at 800-551-9707, ext. 163, or by email:

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