As featured in the 2019 Jan/Feb Gold Prospectors Magazine
by Dominic Ricci
What is the combination? Why is it locked up? Open the vault!
When we hear the word “vault,” we usually think of a bank where they secure all the cash! Or where we lock up our sensitive information, documents, data, family heirlooms, and treasures, like GOLD!
When I was 10 years old, I was running in a field with some friends, laughing and whooping it up — until I tripped. As I started to push myself up, I looked down and there it was. One of those rare treasures that you hear about but aren’t sure if you believe. I reached down and picked it … a beautiful four-leaf clover!
I took that home and showed my mom. She was happy and excited as well. I told her we needed a safe place to keep the clover. She said, “Dominic, we have the safest place. Let us wrap it up so nothing could damage it, and then we will put it in your fathers’ safe.”
What? OMG! I have something worthy to go in Dad’s safe. Over the years I’d get access to check on my dried clover. A memory and a treasure.
Who wants to crack a vault?
This “vault” is located in the gold belt of eastern Oregon. The goods are underground and have been stored there for years waiting to be found. In this case, the large underground storage chamber (vault) is … the DIRT!
Below the surface of the dirt, stored in massive chambers, is gold waiting for any of us to crack the vault and remove it. The combination is hard work, determination, knowledge, geology and passion.
Now the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association is going to have access to a very large “vault!” This is where we will host Digger’s Expedition – Clash of the Trommels! This will be open to anyone.
So why are we hosting “Clash of the Trommels” in Oregon?
Most people think of the Gold Rush in terms of California, but it spread farther north up the Pacific as well. Oregon's mountains contain quite a bit of geologic treasure, some dredged up during the state's long-ago gold rush, but some still being discovered by lucky modern-day gold hunters. Most of Oregon's gold is in the form of "placer" deposits in the state's waterways: nugget gold, tucked into deposits of sand or gravel in the beds of rivers, creeks and lakes. However, ground-borne lode deposits also pepper the mountain ranges, waiting like geologic Easter eggs for lucky claim-holders — and providing the backdrop for some of the state's most dramatic history.
It didn't take long for the 49ers in California to inch their way north and discover that there was gold in Oregon as well. Gold was first discovered in Oregon near what is now the town of Jacksonville in 1851. It was found that many of the tributaries of the Rogue River had gold. Other areas in Oregon where there were gold strikes are the Klamath River and its tributaries, streams flowing out of the Blue Mountains and Wallowa Mountains in Northeastern Oregon, the John Day River Valley, the Brice Creek area near Cottage Grove, and Quartzville near Sweet Home.
With gold prices well over $1,000 an ounce, gold prospecting is becoming a serious interest for many. Much of Oregon gold is of a very high grade and it has been estimated that only 20 percent of it has been mined to date.
Every year the streams and rivers rise from the winter rains and wash more soil over the rocks in the river beds. Gold is heavy. Gold sinks. In places where the water slows down or changes direction, gold lodges itself in the crevices and crannies, mixes in with the dirt and gravel, and stays there just waiting for someone to find it. In the spring and summer, the water levels go down again. Along the banks where the water has been and where the gravel, dirt, and rock has collected, is where you look for gold.
Sometimes, you need to look way up yonder, high up on the side of the mountain, to see what once was. This will also tell you where the high up vaults are hidden. Are you ready for some serious gold mining?
The real question is … are you ready to feed material into one of the trommels that will give us an abundant payday? Why are we choosing to use trommels?
What is a trommel and how does it work?
The simple answer is it’s a rotating cylindrical sieve or screen used for washing and sorting material to extract gold. Oh! And it can process a lot of material fast.
Now, let us understand in detail how a gold trommel works and how efficiently it can be operated. To begin with, once it is set up, the motor starts rotating the cylindrical drum, the water sprayer also gets activated. Gold-bearing material is added to the hopper and the force of water washes it down or cleans it to break up the material and help separate the gold. This is very effective if you are working a clay-type material.
The drum keeps on moving round and round. Any pieces of material (rocks and gravel) larger than the drum screen holes are forced down the drum into the tailings bucket and out, forming a coarse tailings pile at the bottom of the unit. The rest of the gold-bearing gravel falls into the sluice box below, where hydraulic action helps to trap the black sands and gold while allowing the waste to flow out the lower end of the box into additional tailings (fine tailings). Here is when the other person cleans the sluice box. Finally, the concentrates are then run through a concentrator where the gold is recovered. Of course, you want to check your tailings pile as well.
Because the goal is to completely break apart any clays and mud that could retain placer gold and prevent it from being caught in the sluice, different designs and amounts of water jets are used. It is basically high-pressure water together with the rotating drum that breaks apart any clays and dirt as the slurry moves through the drum.
Some processes might require a grizzly prior to feeding the trommel in order to separate out the largest rocks/boulders. This depends on the quality of your equipment and the type of material that you are feeding into it.
Trommels have the following main advantages:
- They are generally low cost and easy to maintain.
- Efficiency: A properly constructed trommel that is set up for peak operation is an very efficient gold grabber and helps in recovering extremely fine or flour gold in the micron range in a consistent manner.
- Ease of setting up: They can be set up anywhere near the source of auriferous (rocks or mineral containing gold) material, where water can be fed into the drum unit and there is a power source to operate the unit.
- They can handle a wide range of materials, including heavy clay content ores.
- They can easily break up cemented or compacted material in the scrubber section; and
- Handle high volumes: They can be used for feed sizes including large rocks. They can be built to handle a huge range of capacities, which can be fed by a single individual with a hand shovel up to multiple cubic yards per hour.
So, when Clash of the Trommels operates, it will process multiple yards per machine per hour. That equals GOLD!
Digger’s Expedition – Clash of the Trommels!
The one-week expedition will take place in eastern Oregon. Twenty-five lucky participants will arrive in the afternoon of Saturday, June 15, 2019, to set up their campsite. This is a primitive mining camp operation. Get the lay of the land. Get ready to move some gold-bearing material.
There will be a “welcome dinner” for all participants that night. The challenges will be thrown out. The fun will begin.
From Sunday, June 16, through Saturday, June 21, we will be processing gold-bearing material using multiple trommels. This “Clash of the Trommels” has a lot of work that must be completed in the weeks prior. Cleaning out the processing pond, creating two settling ponds, and of course prepping the motherlode of material.
This expedition is not for all. We will be working 8-plus hours a day, filling buckets and emptying buckets into the trommel hoppers. You will get black and blue marks on your forearms when you bounce buckets up and pour. Your back will get sore. But the gold fever controlling you will show you why it is all worth it. GOLD IN THE PAN!
When I asked Bradley Dover, LDMA member and GPAA State Director in Georgia, why he would trek 2,300-plus miles to Eastern Oregon for the Digger’s Expedition, he laughed and said, “Several reasons actually. 1) is I've never been to Oregon. Have always wanted to go out and visit the state (and find some gold). Knock one off my bucket list. 2) I get to run my trommel unimpeded. The camps (LDMA) have limits on what I can run. 25 buckets a day doesn't get you anything. That's literally 25 minutes that I can run it. Then I'm done. 3) The gold out there is bigger than what we get out here. Just like in Arizona. New place, new scenery, plus I get to meet and make new friends and spend time with some old ones as well, I hope.”
He continued on, “Dominic, I love finding gold! I love the thrill I get when I see that flash in the pan from an unexpected chunk of gold. There's no other feeling like it .... I love learning the where and how and why it’s where it is and the fact that I'm the first person to have ever seen that piece. I enjoy helping and teaching others to do the same. “Sharing knowledge and experiences with others. There truly is nothing else like it. My only regret is I can't do it more. It’s a labor of love.”
Have you been dreaming about some serious gold?
All the gold recovered will be split equally! No one has ever been skunked on a Expedition trip. How much gold will you find? Who can say? The gold is found in pockets and streaks — but the gold is there. And there's always the possibility of making that BIG STRIKE!
We have done all of the research, identified the locations and obtained permission, permits and access, all that is left is to recover the gold.
If you want to be a part of the Clash of the Trommels adventure, call Digger’s Hotline at 888-GOLD(4653)-717 and get signed up. This is limited to 25 participants (and we are almost at capacity!) so don’t wait or it will be too late.
This is the real deal, real prospecting! We have all the equipment you will need for an exciting adventure!
Hope to see you Crack’N the Vault … In The Dirt, and around a campfire real soon!
Dominic Ricci is the Executive Director of Operations for GPAA/LDMA and can be reached at 800-551-9707 extension 163 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.