Keene on prospecting

Author: BRAD JONESWednesday, January 27, 2016

Keene on prospecting

Categories: From the Pick & Shovel Gazette, Gold Shows, News Release

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Article as featured in the February-March 2016 edition of the Pick & Shovel Gazette.


GPAA Managing Editor

When you’re out in the goldfields, nothing is more important than knowing your equipment works and that you know how to operate it. And, there’s nothing more discouraging than wasting valuable production time because of equipment failure or operator error. 

That’s just one of the points Pat Keene of Keene Engineering will drive home as he leads his seminar, “Small to Mid-Sized Mining Equipment,” at the first two Gold Prospectors Association of America’s Gold & Treasure Shows of 2016. The first show is slated for Pomona, Calif. Feb. 20-21 and the second is Las Vegas, Nev. Feb. 27-28. 

Keene’s extensive line of technologically advanced drywashing equipment was recently featured in the January-February issue of Gold Prospectors magazine. In the article, Keene talks about the opportunities in the Desert Southwest, when El Niño rains and floods will bring the desert “dry washes” to life and replenish gold deposits. Once the rains dissipate, fresh gold is sure to await the gold prospectors who are willing to get out in the desert and find it. 

Small to Mid-Sized Mining Equipment

“First and foremost, I’m going to talk about all the new innovations with the equipment and how the machines work,” Keene said. “And, I’m gonna be talkin’ drywashers up the wazoo.”

Keene believes the key to building effective mining equipment is having a complete understanding of how it is used in the field.

“A lot of the equipment out there is ‘very gimmicky,’ and we try to stay away from gimmicks,” Keene said. “We have listened to miners and applied simple design ideas to perfect our products, which are second to none in the industry. It’s all about understanding the physics involved.” 


The Keenes

The Keene family has always strived for high quality in its products, ever since his grandfather founded the company more than 65 years ago. Ernie Keene, a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines, was a mining engineer and geologist. 

“And, he was an expert machinist. In fact, I have an old lathe book, and the author who wrote the book made a special note to my grandfather in it,”  Keene said.

Ernie’s son, Jerry Keene, took what his father had started and turned Keene Engineering into a small-scale mining equipment manufacturing empire.

“Keene Engineering has been the heartbeat in the small-scale mining industry since day one. My dad really made Keene Engineering what it is today. He drew awareness to gold prospecting and showed everybody how they could find gold with these new-fangled dredges,” Keene said. “I don’t know what the price of gold was in the early 1950s, but people were finding great riches. They saw nuggets in their eyes and they went out to chase that dream of striking it rich.”

Now retired, Jerry has turned over running the business his two sons, Patrick and Mark.  


New Technology

“I’m gonna talk about the new technology of highbanking and dredging, and the physics and attributes of fine gold recovery,” Keene said. “I also want to talk a little bit about the importance of classification in order to achieve
super-fine gold recovery.” 

Rarely can you explain how to recover fine gold without mentioning black sands.

“I will discuss black sand and how it has a tendency to pack up because of its cubic structure, and how gold—even though it’s four times heavier—can skid right over the top of black sands,” Keene said. “I’m going to talk about riffle
designs and the importance of screening material and how all of this relates to some of the new equipment and multiple classifiers available.”

Keene Engineering is now capable of manufacturing custom machines that are more tailored to the specific needs of the individual prospector, for example a dredge sump having two or three different classifications or a highbanker with multiple classifications,” Keene said. And speaking of highbanking ...

“I’m going to talk about highbanking —everything from the high water mark to the edge of the river, and digging in the river.” 

Participants in the lecture can expect to walk away with a broader grasp of how small-scale mining machinery works and a better understanding of the physics and how to apply that knowledge to find more gold and finer gold, Keene said. 

Gold fever

Admitting he’s got a bad case of gold fever, Keene heads out to the goldfields often.

“I live for it. It’s kind of like being a modern-day pirate, and the dream of finding lots of gold,” he said. “There’s been a few times in my life where I’ve had over pound-and-a-half days, and I’ll always be searching for those opportunities to find a lot of gold again. It’s just the thrill, excitement and natural high from finding all this gold.”

Part of the excitement, Keene said,  is figuring out what he is going to do with all the gold he has already found.

“Hoard it or make jewelry with it when I retire? I’ve got big plans—and a big safety deposit box,” he said with a  feverish laugh.

And, as the president of the San Fernando Valley GPAA Chapter based out of Chatsworth, Calif., Keene leads once-a-month outings for members, which he says is really what it’s all about—teaching newcomers the tricks of the gold prospecting trade and sharing in that enjoyment. Keene said he’s looking forward to meeting longtime Gold Prospectors Association of America members and newcomers to the prospecting and mining community. 


Public lands

Unfortunately, these days it’s become almost impossible to talk about prospecting on public lands without explaining the politics that have overshadowed and restricted mining.

“I’m going to talk about access to public lands because if we don’t stand together with one voice, we run the risk of losing everything,” said Keene, who is one of the original members of Public Lands for the People. “So, I’m going to talk a little bit about how politics have changed the face of mining and how we have to look at things in a different way.”



WHO: Pat Keene of Keene Engineering

WHAT: Seminar on Small to Mid-Sized Mining Equipment

WHERE: Pomona, Calif.; Las Vegas, Nev.

WHEN: Feb. 20-21, Feb. 27-28

WHY: Learn how to use small-scale mining equipment to increase your  fine gold recovery. 

HOW: Attend the GPAA Gold & Treasure Shows

GPAA FACEBOOK: For more information about the GPAA Gold & Treasure Shows, go to Then, click on the Events tab near the top of the page, and don’t forget to invite your friends. 

KEENE ENGINEERING WEBSITE: Check out the Keene Engineering website at: 

KEENE ON FACEBOOK: Check out the Keene Engineering Facebook page at


Brad Jones is the Managing Editor/Communications Director for the Gold Prospectors Association of America. He can be reached at


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