Our goal is to help you make the most of your mine. The more you invest in it, the more likely you are to not abandon it, and that’s our main goal.
Once you’ve found out where to find gold and you’ve got your hands on a mine with an ore-rich deposit the next question is how to mine the gold.
What Gold Ore Looks Like
Gold deposits in the western United States are often found mixed with iron. The first step in how to mine gold is to know what you are looking for. Look for dark and rust colored rock. Those rocks are the ore deposits, and that is where you will typically find the gold. The Spanish would say “Gold rides an iron horse.” The ore veins get their reddish brown color from the oxidation of the iron. The weight of gold, silver, copper and platinum are similar enough that often you can find some combination of all of the “four metals” mixed together. That is especially true in the West, where the mountains are new enough that other forces haven’t separated the four metals.
Finding Gold in Tailings
Tailings can also be a good place to look for gold. Tailing are the piles of rock that are extracted from the mine. Tailings are usually separated by piles. The waste rock will be a grayish color and the high grade piles to look for will be darker, black or red in color and the weight of the rock will be unnaturally heavy. If it is unnaturally heavy it will have some of the four metals: silver, copper, gold and platinum. Lead frequently contains silver.
How to Mine Gold – Next Steps
Information is key, the more the better. Additionally, exploration and extraction techniques of today are so much better than when these mines were discovered and originally worked.
To get the gold the rock must be extracted and then washed, tumbled or broken to expose the gold. We seek out mostly free milling gold mines, and try to steer away from disseminated gold mines. Disseminated gold often requires chemical processing to separate the gold, which in that case there are companies such as Noble Metals Extractions who are experts and know the best methods on how to mine gold that is not visible.
The first step is to sample different iron ore deposits in your mine to find the sections that have the highest concentration of gold. Look for the darkest part of the red/brown vein to take initial samples from.
Gold Mining Tools
Your most valuable tools will be a rock hammer, a crusher and a shaker. Also a good light source is essential. Fill a five gallon bucket from each test area in your mine and mark the bucket along with the area in the mine with the same number. Carry the rocks out of the mine. The next step will be to crush the rock. You can use a sledge hammer to crush the rock or you can pick up a manual crusher for $60 to $70 or a motorized crusher starting around $400, which would be a better option because it would keep the crushed rock all together. A sledge hammer will send minerals flying in all directions, and the heaviest minerals, the gold and the silver, will fly the farthest. Once you have crushed the minerals to a powder you can use a gold pan or a shaker/ sluice box to separate the heavier gold and silver from the lighter rock.
The simplest technique to extract gold from the other crushed material is by panning. Place the crushed ore in a large plastic or metal gold panning pan and pour a generous amount of water, then move the pan so that the gold flecks, which are heavier than the other minerals, settle in the ridges of the pan. The lighter crushed rock is washed over the side of the pan and the gold is left behind. That in summary is how to mine gold.
Tools for Getting Serious
A gold panning pan is alright to start with, but once you have a lot of crushed ore you will probably want a more efficient tool to separate the gold. One such tool is a sluice box or shaker table. A sluice box has barriers along the bottom called riffles to trap the heavier gold particles as water washes the lighter crushed rock along the box.
A rock hammer is a good tool for getting started, but you will want to get a chisel once you get serious. You will use the chisel for single jacking, where you work out a chunk of rock and then chisel right next to the area to pry out the adjacent pieces. Double jacking involves two people, with an 18 pound sledge, and can be dangerous. One person holds the jack, the other swings the hammer.
A trommel is a cylinder that contains screens to separate crushed rock. The ore is fed into the elevated end of the trommel. High pressurized water is often used to loosen the gold from the ore. The mineral ore that passes through the screen should be put through a sluice box for further separation.
Click for more details on tools that you will need to mine gold.
Claming a mine
Claims for mines on public land are filed through the BLM. Documentation is vital. If your documents are wrong, your claim is not valid. At Gold Rush Expeditions we specialize in finding mines that still have a lot of gold left in them. We will then create and file a mining claims with the BLM. We take the hassle out of finding staking and claiming a mine, and put only the best mining claims for sale.
Reasons Why Mines are Abandoned
Why would anyone abandon a mine that contains precious metals? Often miners would play the stock market and save most of the ore deposits, waiting for the price of gold to rise, but the price of gold only decreased from the 1930′s to the 1960′s; during which time many mines were abandoned.
Other times a miner would go out and do a lot of digging so that they could then sell their prospects and then the buyer either wouldn’t know what to do with the mine or wouldn’t get around to mining and over time it would be left abandoned.
Also, many gold mines were abandoned in during World War II. In 1942 the United States passed a law ordering all mines that weren’t focused on strategic metals to close in order to focus manpower on assisting World War II. After the war many of these mines never started up again.
Few people realize that exploring an abandoned mine is a lot more complicated than grabbing a flashlight and heading into a hole. Before you enter your mine it’s best to find out as much information about the mine you plan on working as you can. The easiest mines to work are adits that are cut straight into the mountain. Shafts descend down into the earth and generally require two people to work. If you are descending a shaft make sure you know the proper way to use those ropes. REI teaches ropes courses that should cover the basics. You will need a static rope, ascending gear and a rappel device and harness at the least.
Air quality is a concern in underground mines, especially in larger mines. For all underground mines, the air quality must have a minimum oxygen content of 19.5% and a maximum CO2 content of 0.5%. And it is recommended that the following gases are be permitted to accumulate in excess of the concentrations below:
Carbon Monoxide (CO) – 2.5%
Hydrogen (H) – .8%
Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) – .8%
Acetylene (C2H2) – .4%
Propane (C3H8) – .4%
Sulfur Dioxide (S02) – 5 ppm
Methane (CH4) – 1.0%
In the old days miners would take canaries down into coal mines. The birds had small lungs and were especially sensitive to methane and carbon monoxide. If the canary stopped chirping and died miners would know that the air quality was bad and that they needed to get out. Today’s miners use more technically precise hand held equipment. One of the risks in some adits and mines, would be oxygen deficiency, probably caused by organic material decomposing.
Some mines are more stable than others. Mines that have stoping or that are cut into anything less than solid rock are at higher risk for collapse. Miners of old would use timbers to support unstable parts of mines. Always be aware that a collapse is a possibility and take steps to reduce your risks and shore up the mine.
A helmet and a backup light are also recommended.
This is not a comprehensive list of all of the dangers that one can encounter in mines. We recommend becoming as educated as you can on mine safety. The more you know the better chance you will have of enjoying your mine and extracting the ores without incident.