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As one of the country's top dealers of gold prospecting supplies, we get to visit with people with all levels of experience come in gold prospecting. We talk to people within the equipment industry, folks who have been operating large operations for many years, and those who are just not getting started learning about the process of pulling gold from the earth.
As a seller of gold prospecting equipment focusing primarily on the hobby prospecting and small scale mining we get a ton of calls from those who are just scratching the surface of prospecting or looking to step up their gold recovery efforts from a hobby to something that will actually pay off.
For some people gold fever sets in quickly and the desire to transition from a newbie to a small scale gold mining operation develops faster than a person's knowledge base to do it successfully. Imagine a person who goes out and starts panning for gold. They find a little color or stumble upon a few little "picker" sized pieces of gold. This is all it takes to get gold fever. The next thing you know this guy owns a claim in Colorado.
We get calls from customers in similar situations almost daily. They got the ground, now they need the equipment to extract the gold. Their next question, "What equipment do I need to get the gold?" And, trust me, this is a complicated topic.
This is why I like to tell people who are thinking of becoming a gold miner to start watching Freddy Dodge's Mine Rescue on Discovery Channel. This show, which has been going on for a couple years around follows miner and actor Freddy Dodge, who had appeared on the original Gold Rush TV Series, along with many others, who got into show business with their gold prospecting operations. While some of the others, such as the Hoffman Family and Parker Schnabel, were actually running large mining operations, Freddy Dodge was always the guy they called upon for help when they had issue with equipment or needed mining advice.
Freddy's knowledge in gold mining, equipment, prospecting, and overall knowledge of how to recover gold using a wash plant is what makes this a go-to television series for anyone who wants to step up their gold recovery game. Trust me, watch it.
In this show, rather than simply going out and operating a massive plant to hit huge annual gold totals (which is what everyone else seems to be doing), Freddy and his partner Juan Ibarra set out helping small scale mining operations up their gold recovery by leaps and bounds. Some of them are good sized gold mining operations and some of them are small 3-4 person operations. Most are family run businesses. In many cases, they are literally saving the mining operations and thus the livelihoods of the operators. Some of them are barely floating by and some of them are engaging in last-ditch efforts to save their dreams.
When they visit these operations, Freddy and Juan have a set amount of time to help them out before they have to move on to the next mine. In a week, Freddy and Juan typically take these operations from zero to hero. I have yet to see them not drastically improve an operation. Some of them see increases many fold.
The dynamic duo use their knowledge along with some very impressive, state-of-the-art machines to revamp their gold prospecting plants. Along with these tools, they take a close look at the current operations of the miners. Most often they can do a quick analysis and see what the issues they are having, where they are missing gold, and come up with solutions to help the miners increase their gold recovery rate.
Sometimes Freddy and Juan's fixes are a matter of fine tuning their current equipment and sometimes they involve a complete revamp. Freddy an Juan even go as far as inventing new methods of recovering gold. These methods involve new riffle designs and innovative tear drop shaped punch plates to help capture fine gold. Sometimes their advice involves the equipment itself, sometimes it involves water supply solutions, and sometimes it even involves a little prospecting to help the miners learn where the best, gold bearing material can be found on their claim.
If you are in the situation where you want are pondering a future in gold mining or you already have a mine and would just like to increase your gold recovery rates, Freddy Dodge's Mine Rescue is the show for you. I cannot say it enough WATCH IT!
You will learn the fundamentals and principles behind the how a gold prospecting operation works. The show gets into enough detail about how the equipment works but also does a great job of keeping it simple enough for everyone to understand. They discuss principles like water flow and hydrodynamics, classification, best sluice box practices, proper cleanup procedures, and much more.
While some of you would rather watch a television show, I know that some of you just want someone to watch it for them and give them the down and dirty, "Cliff's Notes"' version of it. Lucky for you, I am 100% caught up on all of the episodes and I have taken mental note Freddy and Juan's philosophy on the gold prospection operation.
Here are the important lessons I think you can learn from watching Gold Rush: Freddy Dodge's Mine Rescue. These core fundamentals of gold prospecting should help you along the way.
1. Choose The Right Ground to Mine For Gold
The best gold processing equipment in the world will not make gold. You have to be in a place where the gold can support your size of operation. Freddy and Juan are very straight forward with the miners they assist on the show. If the gold ain't there, you can put all the effort and money in the world but you still won't make it as a miner...at least not where you are digging. Frequently the two survey the claims and note where the operation is obtaining its "pay dirt". As a prospector rather than a miner, it is mind boggling how many people simply buy a claim and start digging without properly prospecting the site to determine where the gold is and if it is in "paying quantities". Which, leads us to the next lesson...
2. Prospect, Prospect, Prospect
As mentioned in the previous lesson, you need to know where to dig. Just because someone placed a claim on the property doesn't mean it is a gold producing piece of ground. Furthermore, even if a property has gold on it, you want to focus on mining the richest portions of that property first. This is simple prospecting logic. In the show, Freddy and Juan scout the mining sites and look for clues of where the riche's ground may lie. This may involve visual inspection, investigating current dig sites, digging test holes, or the occasional drilling.
3. Know Your Gold
Many of the miners Freddy and Juan assist know their is gold on their property. So, they buy a wash plant and start trying to extract it. Most of the wash plants are quite used and some of them are built using good ole' mining ingenuity. But, rarely are the wash plants or sluices made specifically for that mining claim. The rescue crew know this and typically one of their first goals in analyzing the operation is to determine what kind of gold they are working to recover.
Most miners know that the majority of free gold is very small or "fine" gold. However, there are locations out there that produce larger, more coarse gold and potentially some good sized nuggets....some claims produce both. This is an important thing to know in order to set up your wash plant and sluice boxes properly. For example, large Hungarian Riffles do very little to catch small gold and the wrong miner's moss will not properly hold nuggets in place where they should.
A lot of times these miners do not realize how much fine gold they are losing. They don't understand that most of the gold in the world is very, very fine and if you are ignoring it, you are missing out on a lot of profit potential. Once you
4. Set Your Operation Up For a Fair Fight
Another important truth they preach is to "Give your gold a fighting chance." This means that, after you know what type of gold you are working with, you need to try to process material down to as small of particles as possible before sending it through your sluice. This is due to a principle known as "specific gravity". Specific gravity means, for example, that a piece of gold may weight about the same as a overburden 20 times its size. When being washed, as gravity does its job, material will tend to collect with material of its same weight. So, the more of the larger material you can remove before washing results in better gold recovery. A tiny piece of gold stands no chance compared to a rock 1,000 times its size. It is a fight the gold just can't win. At High Plains Prospectors, we have always preached that classification is key to gold recovery. For a small, one man operation, classifying material into 5 gallon buckets with a gold classifier that fits right over a bucket is all you need. When you step up your game this classification starts at the hopper and continues through a shaker or trommel.
5. Constantly Monitor Your Wash Plant
One thing Freddy and Juan do when they are analyzing a mining operation is test the material coming out of the plant. This includes the material that is being washed out of the end of the sluice, material that is flowing through the sluice, and water and material that may be getting lost near the hopper or top of a trommel. They grab pans of this material, pan it out, and see what kind of gold is being lost. Quite often they can quickly find gaps in the operation and seal them up, make small adjustments, and fix the issue with simple or sometimes complex solutions.
One thing the two stress is how important it is to make sure you are thoroughly washing your material. One of the first places they look when analyzing an operation is the material coming out of the trommel or material being discarded from the shaker or hopper. If the rocks are still caked with mud or dirt, they will immediately put a plan together to better wash the rocks. Your tailing should be clean. This will wash off the extra gold that would be sticking to them and put it down the sluice box rather than it ending up in a tailings pile.
6. The Importance of Water Management
When prospecting in most parts of the world, water is a very important part of a gold mining operation. It should be one of the first considerations when determining whether the claim is mineable. Some locations, such as the Pacific Northwest do not have a huge issue with water supply. Others, such as the U.S. Southwest, water is very scarce and planning your water supply and making sure you are using it as efficiently as possible are vital to a successful gold mining operation. Changing small things like leaks, water getting sloughed off, can help retain water. Sometimes more drastic measures are required and Freddy and Juan have to almost completely re-develop retention ponds, build sluice extension to redirect water flow, and figure out creative ways to retain as much water as possible to be reused. Additionally, keeping the water used in the wash plant as free as possible from the sediments the plant produces is a key element of their strategy.
7. K.I.S.S - Don't Over Complicate Things
K.I.S.S means Keep it Simple, Stupid! Some of the gold miners Freddy and Juan encounter have some relatively basic machines. Some of them have spent their life savings on getting the "best" equipment their money can buy. Very often the two have to let people know not to over complicate things. Knowing the physical characteristics of gold and how it acts when it is washed is a very important part of this. Gold is heavy, much heavier than the overburden it will travel with. Thanks to gravity, it will always try to sink to the bottom of the material it is being washed with. However, it can be washed out if the basic principles discussed above aren't followed. With all of the different types of riffles, matting, carpets, trommels, spray bar configurations, it is easy to see why many of these miners just employ what they see as the "newest and greatest" gold recovery equipment. Freddy and Juan, however, urge miners not to over-think things. Keep the laws of physics in mind, but don't try to over complicate things. In some cases, some things, such as riffle design, less may mean more gold.
8. Time is a Valuable Commodity in Gold Mining
in most places gold can be found there is a window of opportunity. The further north you go, the shorter the mining season. Therefore, when it comes to gold mining, the clock is always ticking. All miners know time is money. This is not only important when you are thinking about keeping your equipment and crew up and running but it is also important to consider how efficiently that equipment and crew are running.
In one episode, for example, Freddy and Juan see a small operation that was losing several hours simply cleaning out their sluice boxes as they prepared for a clean up. Freddy and Juan made some adjustments and took that part of the job down from like six hours to less than an hour. Then, this same crew would spend a couple days actually cleaning up the gold, which they were doing by panning. The rescue crew took this part of the operation down to less than a day. This was a small crew and the man-hours they saved were able to be redirected back into operating the wash plant and thus allowed them to operate longer and make more gold.
9. Choose The Right Equipment
I would imagine, had Freddy and Juan been involved from the beginning of most of these operations, one piece of advice they might give would be to choose the right equipment set up from day one. But then the show would not be as interesting and the name would not be near as catchy.
There are SO MANY different options when it comes to stepping up your gold recovery operation. You can scale up as quickly as you want. One person can start with a small 6" Gold High Banker and learn the basic characteristics of gold recovery and function of a tiny wash plant. The could then work his way up to something like a CC 690 High Banker operation that would keep him and a couple co-miner's busy with a relatively low investment and start producing enough gold to pay for the operation.
Once you have all of the basics down, you have determine the gold is there, what kind of gold you are working with, the water supply is sufficient, you know the amount of gold per ton, and you know the fundamentals of gold mining, and determine what the financial potential is, then - and only then - you may find yourself ready to be in the market for a larger wash plant.
You may get lucky enough to find a used wash plant that will fit the build. But, as wash plants are notorious for breakdown, if it is financially feasible it may be wise to look into getting a brand new operation rather than inheriting someone else's problem.
The good news is that there is a company located right here in the U.S. that makes high quality, mid-scale to larger scale wash plants. Their plant's are high quality and can fit a wide range of needs. Their options also allow you to scale up your operation as needed.
Regardless of where you are mining the lessons learned from watching both seasons of Freddy Dodge's Mine Rescue can be applied anywhere for any size of operation.
Once you get some ground lined up and start needing supplies, we would like to invite you to give us a ring at High Plains Prospectors at 888-236-6580 to help you get set up with the right equipment from the start.