By BRANDON JOHNSON
For years now, members have been asking about getting online access to the GPAA Claims Club Membership Mining Guide. In the past, updated versions of the Mining Guide were released every two to three years based on the number of updates from the prior edition. The Pick & Shovel Gazette was used as a tool to help provide bi-monthly updates to members between edition releases, but with the advancements in technology, members have asked why an online edition has not been introduced.
Is it cost? Is it fear of copyright infringement or illegal reproduction? Is it laziness on the part of Brandon and his team in the office? Today, I get to announce the launch of the GPAA’s online Claims Club Mining Guide, but with the hope that we work together to open new doors for prospectors all across the country.
Since 2007, our team has worked with our membership to make great strides improving the accuracy, reliability, organization and quality of the GPAA’s Mining Guide. Getting members to new and existing claims through maps and turn-by-turn directions requires close contact with members all over the country, and feedback based on positive and negative experiences from our membership. But how do you know who is giving you accurate GPS coordinates? When feedback from two reliable sources contradict each other, which do you go with? We gained from the use of new mapping software originally which allowed us to update maps and confirm GPS coordinates for ingress and egress points (within a margin of error.)
Next, we worked on organization and quality of the guide. Making the jump to color with the 2012 release, we reorganized the guide alphabetically by state, county or region within each state and by claim name. This was a popular improvement for some but not for others who had trouble finding their favorite claims in the guide.
Right around this time at the end of 2012, the Bureau of Land Management made significant changes to their fee structure for annual maintenance cost on mining claims. Where any claim from 20 to 160 acres used to cost $140 per year for maintenance, the fees went up to $155 per 20 acres. This meant that a 160-acre claim that used to cost $140 would now cost $1,240 each year. This forced GPAA to make significant investments in maintaining our access to public lands, and reevaluating the claims we offered that presented the greatest collective benefit to our membership. In short, we had to decide what claims were worth paying the increase, and which one’s could be dropped to fit within our budget and allow for new claims to be added.
The changes to our claims roster were well listed in the Pick & Shovel throughout 2013 and 2014, but we knew that a new mining guide would need to be produced in 2014 to bring new members up to date. All the while, we still felt that we were not leveraging the knowledge and experience our membership had to offer regarding access in each area.
I have long said that prospecting and mining is local, and it is a lot more regional than national. The same techniques that apply in the California Mother Lode do not apply to the placer deposits near Boise, Idaho, or the streams in North Carolina and Georgia. You face a different geological make up, the gold can be course or flat in nature, and the abundance of fine gold may determine the level of classification necessary to get the best out of your time. No matter where you get it, gold found in any area carries with it a unique beauty and connection to the history of mining in that location. The next version of the mining guide needs to account for these factors.
This brings us to today. The mining guide tool we have developed for the web is more of a container to feature the knowledge and experience of our membership. Most of us have probably participated in an online forum, chat room, or utilized text messaging on our phones. Some of us have utilized GPS units or mapping software for directions or cataloging locations. Our team set out to create a forum for our members to share and benefit from reviews on accessing our claims and prospecting them. Through this forum, which is organized by claim, users can submit reviews using pictures and text in two separate sections; one dealing with getting to claims and the other sharing best practices for prospecting on the claim.
What can we do with reviews using only pictures and text? Pictures can be taken in the field to help people identify landmarks on a claim, or along a path; they can be maps with points marked; they can show layers of material highlighting pay layers versus overburden, or used to show samples of geology found in the area. Text can contain turn-by-turn directions, approximate mileage or distance between points, corner marker locations, GPS coordinates, links to additional web pages, lists that help prepare someone for a trip, whether a claim has access to water year round, seasonally or not at all, road and trail conditions depending on the season, and contact information for local resources. When used creatively, pictures and text are all that are needed to provide other members with critical local knowledge to help them access and prospect in your area. Reviews are set up in “step-by-step” format so that you can easily drop in pictures and related text. And, best of all, print-friendly versions of your favorite reviews are offered so you can take that knowledge into the field when you’re ready to go prospecting.
Our member reviews for both directions and prospecting tips are sorted using two different filter options; highest rated and newest so you can easily see which reviews the membership finds to be most helpful or most recent. Each member is able to give a rating to the claim overall, giving GPAA much needed feedback on the quality of the claim, and can give positive or negative feedback to each review. Feedback can always be updated if your experience changes, and reviews can be updated if you decide you want to add something or correct an error. You can follow a claim to get updates when new information is made available, and you always know if a claim is active based on the status of the claim.
For those of you who are new, you can quickly find out which claims are nearest to you, or you can search for claims in an area you plan to visit. Each review allows the member providing it to indicate two-wheel or four-wheel drive or the recommended method of prospecting for the claim to help better determine details on access or how you should prospect that particular area. On each claim page, members can click on links for GPS coordinates related to the claim and use Google Maps to see overhead images of the area, nearby roads, towns or services.
In this first version of the online mining guide, we tried to incorporate as many tools as possible to allow experienced members to share their knowledge with others. Our investment was centered in the knowledge and sense of community within our membership with the goals of providing a place for us all to benefit from collaboration. Future releases could incorporate video into reviews, suggestions on high clearance vehicle needed or hiking versus drive in. There are probably a number of ideas and suggestions we will receive from our membership, and we are ready to put their ideas into action to improve our online mining guide offering. It is our goal to eventually export the print mining guide using real information on every claim or lease, coming directly from the members with supporting pictures.
I write this article today to start a discussion on the ways that we can all share and use information to make us all better prospectors and miners. I have long heard the call to look for ways to bring the next generation of prospectors into the organization, and creating tools to share the knowledge within our great organization, to shorten the learning curve from curiosity to discovery is the key. As a group we are more than the sum of our parts when we all work together, and I believe that leaders will emerge who share the passion to educate and guide future generations into our world of discovery and adventure.
The GPAA Claims Directory
can be found on our website under the “Community tab.” I welcome all members to log on, recover your account if you have not already, review our claims and find one or two that you may be familiar with. Take some of those pictures you have taken and submit a review to help others who are interested in prospecting near you. Call and email us if you have trouble. Email me your thoughts and feedback at email@example.com
, and, aside from replying to your comments, I will try and incorporate them into ongoing discussion here in the Pick & Shovel Gazette.
Brandon Johnson is the President of the Gold Prospectors Association of America and the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association.
Article as featured in the February-March 2017 Pick & Shovel Gazette.