Prospecting for Gold Ore
Most prospectors spend their time looking for placer gold. These are the solid pieces of gold that have eroded from a vein and have formed in a concentration. Most prospectors look for placer gold in creeks and rivers (although this isn’t the only place they are found).
There’s a good reason for this. Placer gold is easier to locate than gold that is contained in a hard rock deposit. However, there are some miners that specialize in located gold within hard rock. While it is harder to find, the payoffs can be huge. Let’s look at a few indicators that may help you locate gold in hard rock.
Changes in Rock Type and Vegetation
Gold will often form in places where two different types of geology come together. Thus, places where two distinctly different types of rock come together are alway worth prospecting.
If an area has a lot of soil, then these rock changes aren’t always easy to see. In this case, vegetation will be a good indicator. Different plants will generally grow in different types of host rock.
Soil Color Changes
Soil is comprised of small particles of rock and mineral, so a chance in soil color is a good indicator for gold, just like a change in rock type. Often, changing soils that are yellowish or reddish in color will indicate a high iron content, which is a very good sign in gold country.
Eroding Rock and “Rotten Quartz”
In places where different rock types come together, the contact point will sometimes have material that has a very loose structure. This rock will crumble easily. If quartz is present, it will often be very “rotten” and crumbly.
Iron staining is another excellent indicator that hard rock gold may be present. As mentioned already, reddish soils are a good indicator of this. If you are finding quartz pieces that have dark red or black attached to it, this is also a good sign that there is high iron content, and you may want to crush and sample some of the nearby rocks.
Gold Detecting Tips
There are few other hobbies where you can have fun outdoors and potentially make money at the same time. The interest in gold prospecting is as strong now as it has ever been, but it’s definitely getting harder to find the yellow stuff these days. With the right knowledge and skills there is no doubt that plenty is left for you to find.
Look in Places Where Gold has been found before
The best way to start your search for gold is to look in the same areas that the “old timers” once looked. Yes, it’s possible that you might be able to find gold any random place that you look, but you will find that gold is much more abundant in places where it has already been found and there is historical documentation that it occurs there.
Beginners often just go to the nearest river or creek to their home, do a bit of panning, don’t find any gold, and then assume that there is no gold left to be found. The truth is, there are still TONS of gold out there waiting to be found by prospectors, but you have to know how to find it.
Geology and Contact Zones
You need to learn the geology of your particular mining area. There are some natural gold indicators that can be found in most major gold producing areas, but each area can be different. You should learn to spot the types of rock that are associated with gold in your area.
Gold is difficult to find, but learning about the types of rock that it is generally associated with (as well as the types that it is not associated with) will help you find the best areas to focus your efforts.
Contact zones (also called a dykes or intrusion) are places where two major rock types come together. This is a natural geological process that happened millions of years ago. These events would result in rapid heating and cooling, and this often created the conditions needed for gold to form.
Learning to identify the zones can be difficult, but it is something that will become more apparent as you learn to look for it. There are certain rock types that are better from a gold mining perspective.
3 important rock types worth noting are granite, schist, and gneiss. I have found these 3 types of rock to be present in most of the places where I have found gold.
When these geological masses would contact each other, pressure and high temperatures would cause fissures that would result in gold formation. Gold would be pushed to the surface, making it accessible to prospectors without needing to tunnel deep into the ground.
Identifying the general direction of the geology in your mining area is important. the mountains range in a general northwest-southeast trend. Look for contact areas where some other rock type enters at a different trend to the general geological mass. Many of the richest gold bearing areas will have a intrusions that are at a 90 degree trend to the prevailing geology.
While granite, schist, and gneiss are usually the main rock types, that isn’t always the case. It can potentially be any combination of rocks, although they usually make up at least one of them at gold-rich contact zones.
The color changes of soil are also good indicators of a contact point. Sometimes the major source of bedrock has eroded away long ago leaving behind only soil. You may spot a band of reddish soil, indicating an iron rich intrusion that once existed. The host rock has eroded away, but the red soil (and potentially gold) still remains.
The ground changes can be obvious or subtle depending on their size or the difference in color. Ground cover from grass and trees can also hide them. Sometimes the type of plants growing in the different soil types can help you find them.
Contact zones can be as short as a few feet in length, or they can run for miles and miles. In the some areas for example, you can look at a map and see major gold mines that seem to line up perfectly in a straight line over miles and miles. They have located contact zones with gold.
Learn to Identify Natural Gold Indicators
I think that finding historic gold mining areas is the most important first step toward finding gold prospecting areas, but serious gold miners learn how to identify natural gold indicators. These are things that are commonly associated with gold.
While most of the rich gold mining areas have been found, there are certainly still some places out there with good gold that were completely overlooked by others. If you are fortunate enough to find one of these places, you are likely to be rewarded with some exceptional amounts of gold.
Once again, the main takeaway here should be that you need to learn you’re the geology of your mining district. When you understand the geology of the places where gold has already been found, you are more likely to spot the places where it might occur.
Often, the old geological reports that you use to research areas to prospect will tell you about the prevailing rock types found at a particular mine. Pay attention to those details.
Just as importantly, you need to know the rock types that are unlikely to be associated with gold. Don’t waste time looking in areas with a low chance of having gold.
Learn to Identify Man Made Evidence of Mining
Evidence of mining activity is most easily seen by finding the disturbances that the early miners left behind.
Trust me when I tell you that an area is never truly “mined out.” Even places that once had thousands of men searching for gold will still produce gold today. They simply did not find it all. When the gold started to get depleted, the miners would move on. They didn’t get every last piece.
Plus, modern technology like metal detectors can recover gold that was missed by the old timers. Modern sluice boxes will capture gold that was lost by the crude methods employed by these early miners. We will discuss some of the specific indicators and how to identify them in further in this article.
One of the most important safety tips when metal detecting for gold is always to be aware of your surroundings. Always make sure someone knows where you are headed and when they can expect to hear from you. While cell phones can produce electromagnetic interference with metal detectors, it is a good idea to keep one along; just make sure it’s turned off if it begins to interfere with your detecting.
In my experience, my phone didn’t interfere with my detector, but it does happen. If you will be detecting in or near water, make sure you are wearing footwear with good traction, so you do not slip. It would be awful to ruin your beautiful new metal detector from falling in the water (if it’s not fully waterproof). So be careful out there!
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