As featured in the 2019 Oct/Nov Pick & Shovel Gazette
Dominic Ricci – GPAA/LDMA Executive Director of Operations
Photos by Kayla Osborn
Is there still gold out there to be found? How hard is it to discover a good area to work that I can be rewarded with finding gold?
“Sometimes what you want is right in front of you. All you have to do is open your eyes and see it.” – Meg Cabot
I won’t go too deep, but we often hear people talk about the “replenishment” of gold and the “movement” of gold. How does this happen?
OK, so miles below
below the Earth’s surface there are water flows that contain trace amounts of dissolved silica and gold. This water fills the cracks and jogs of major fault lines (see Figure 1 below).
When an earthquake occurs, voids along the fault line can open up in seconds. This causes a sudden and extreme drop in pressure that instantaneously vaporizes much of this water.
The remaining water is now supersaturated with respect to the dissolved minerals in it, which means that now there’s too much of the mineral to remain dissolved in the little water left. This causes the minerals, including gold, to precipitate quickly out of solution.
To picture what I’m talking about, think about a glass of water with some table salt dissolved in it. If you leave the glass out, the water will eventually evaporate away. As the water in the glass becomes less and less (don’t forget the amount of salt is still the same), the water is going to become increasingly salty. At some point, there’s going to be too much salt to stay dissolved and salt crystals will start to form. This is precipitation.
So, in this scenario and by this mechanism, a single earthquake can produce instant veins of gold.
So yes, gold deposits can replenish themselves. Unfortunately, it won’t happen during our lifetime. These underground gold particles are few and far between – about one part per million. Even along highly active fault lines, it could take 100,000 years or more for minable deposits to form.
That brings us to the movement of gold. Gold deposits can form in two broad ways: underground, associated with magmatic processes (the movement or emplacement of molten rock) or at the earth surface, associated with the movement of water.
The gold that ends up in riverbeds and creeks ultimately still comes from deposits that formed underground. The gold in such deposits can be released when, over time, the deposit comes to the surface and is eroded by wind and water. When this happens, the rock and the gold particles that together make up the deposits are washed away as sediment in the river or creek.
Now visualize that a gold deposit is being eroded by a fast-flowing river. The gold is washed away along with everything else. Downstream, however, the river eventually slows down somewhat. At that point, the water doesn't have the power to move the heavy gold particles, but it still washes away any regular sediment. Over time, a new gold deposit will form at that spot in the river.
We talk about learning geology, but you often need to go beyond the surface of what you see and figure out what was (in the past) when it comes to locating a good source of pay dirt.
Sometimes it’s right in front of your eyes!
There is a term in psychology called “inattentional blindness”, and it's what happens when you encounter something in a place you aren't at all expecting. No matter how strange, blatant, or eye-catching it is, our brains just don't want to notice things where we don't think they belong.
That brings us to LDMA Blue Bucket Camp in Eastern Oregon. The camp was open, and members were finding gold. The hills above the camp are loaded with deposits. All it takes is the will, desire … and a pick and shovel to gather material.
There are four ponds that all have a purpose. Two of the ponds we use to recirculate and process material, hoping that there is gold hiding in the dirt. Annually, we will “clean out” the ponds of the run tailings, making room so that more dirt can be run. The tailings are used to do reclamation work or put into piles until needed. Many times, members will re-run tailings hoping that someone left a few flakes behind.
We also bring yards and yards of pay dirt down from the hills above when it comes time for an outing (common dig). Almost 10 years ago, that was the case. Pay dirt was stockpiled, waiting for the next outing.
Soon after the outing, Blue Bucket Camp was closed for the next five-plus years as extensive work was needed to combat the dangerous undercutting of some members in the hills above the camp.
The camp re-opened three years ago, had numerous members staying at the camp. It has hosted camp outings as well as three National Dirt Parties (outings).
Members are back prospecting the hills for a pay layer to work. Pay dirt has been brought down as well. Gold is being recovered from all the buckets of material being dug.
Have you experienced CRAP Gold?
Gold unseen! Research on the phenomenon known as inattentional blindness suggests that unless we pay close attention, we can miss even the most conspicuous items.
At this year’s past National Dirt Party hosted at Blue Bucket Camp, we had a lot of material prepped on top of the hills, and Jim Haney was hauling it down to the processing pond like we did in the old days (eight-plus years ago). Camp Caretaker Kayla Osborn pointed to a mound of “dirt” that had weeds growing all over it. “Jim, I’d like a few scoops of that material brought over to one of the highbankers for participants to run,” she said.
She was told that that pile was “crap!” Just old tailings. Cleanout of one of the ponds years ago before the camp closed for the few years.
Perception to all who has seen or passed that pile of “crap” over the last three years was it was crap — not worth “prospecting” to uncover what it really was. Blinded by its location and the weeds that covered it.
Kayla gave the “crap” pile some attention. Her eyes saw larger rocks that one would not have run in their highbanker. “Hmmmmm, I bet this was pay dirt material that never got run. It’s worth testing!” she thought!
During the Dirt Party, that pile of dirt became known as “Kayla’s Crap!” I will tell you that there IS gold in that crap! Kayla was right, it was never-run material that was brought down from the hills above and got forgotten about.
Robert, Kayla’s husband, says, “There are still people that come into camp and ask where some easy diggin’ material is. I point them out to Kayla’s Crap. They laugh and it still gets ignored by almost everyone.”
He went on to say, “it was funny though when a husband and wife went over and processed 10 buckets. When they did their cleanup, they came over laughing, and said to keep everyone out of Kayla’s Crap because they want all her crap!”
So yes! There is gold in Kayla’s Crap. Will it get replenished? I’m sure it will, and it won’t take 100,000 years as long as we have a backhoe on hand.
In this case the movement of gold was not related to vapor miles below the surface, an earthquake or water, but simply a John Deere backhoe.
It’s staring right at you
The secret is out. Head to Blue Bucket Camp and get some of Kayla’s Crap. It is literally waiting to for you to come bucket it up and process it. Her Crap is golden. It’s not going to move over the winter, but I’m sure it will be cleaned up next year.
Rid yourself of “inattentional blindness,” because every LDMA camp, property and claim has gold staring at you, playing “hide and seek” with you. Take your blinders off and look past the surface . . . that yeller stuff is there!
Hope to see you 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.