Gold Prospecting Forums - General => Prospecting and Treasure Hunting Tutorials => Topic started by: EMF on April 04, 2013, 06:50:21 PM

Title: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on April 04, 2013, 06:50:21 PM
    This is the most detailed description of pocket mining that I ever found, and it is a treasure. It was hidden away in the pages of the MINING AND SCIENTIFIC PRESS in the issues published in July and August, 1893, and was written as a series of five articles by someone who used the pseudonym Alex Quartz. This is not a copy and paste job; due to technical limitations I had to type this into my computer and I took advantage of the situation to condense and edit the material. I dispensed with the 19th century speculations on geology that are so outmoded, and clarified some sentence constructions, and inserted a note or two in places. Read it like you are listening to a lecture by a 19th century time traveling pocket hunter. This guy was impressive, and what he wrote is lost to the present day, until I post this, and let the cat out of the bag. I wonder where it will run off to?                                                       

                                                               POCKET MINING

When gold was first discovered in California, and for several years following, placer mining was the only branch of the mining industry practiced or known to the thousands who labored with pick, shovel and pan to rob mother earth of her golden treasure; and, if any other branch of mining was known to a few of the great multitude of miners who rushed to the gold fields, they either forgot their knowledge of that branch or did not consider it worth bothering with, when gold could be obtained so easily in the placers as it was in those days. But, as the years rolled on and the best placers were worked out, many of the miners who had found quartz, rich in gold, in the gulches and ravines where they had worked, began to look for the gold in quartz. Their researches were rewarded, and that period marks the first step forward toward the development of the many rich quartz mines we have on this coast today.
   Ever since that period when quartz mining first attracted the miners' attention on this coast, science has advanced with rapid strides in this industry, until to-day the Pacific coast and California in particular, leads all other parts of the world in improvement and progress in this industry. The latest improved machinery and methods of working gold and silver ores are Pacific coast designs, and the MINING AND SCIENTIFIC PRESS has been the chief factor in bringing this stage of advancement about, by giving to the world, through its columns, a reliable and authentic account of all the different discoveries, processes, improved mechanical appliances, etc, which have been invented from time to time. The three different branches, viz., placer mining, quartz mining, and pocket mining, are each an interesting study and a science, so to speak, within themselves. At the present time, pocket mining is attracting more attention among prospectors and those in quest of knowledge pertaining to mining than either of the others, for the reason that it is new and has not yet reached the advanced stage which the other branches have; consequently there are more opportunities for the prospector to make new discoveries and realize a profit from such for a small outlay than there are in prospecting for placers or milling propositions in quartz. All the capital the average “pocket hunter” requires is a pick, pan, shovel and grubstake; for, if he is successful in finding a pocket, he generally gets all the gold in a short time without further expense.
   Pockets occur under certain conditions in a certain class of formation, hence the term “pocket formation.” This pocket formation extends along the mineral belt from Fresno county on the south, in California, to Douglas county, in Oregon, on the north, as far as it is known and pockets have been found. This pocket formation also occurs in places through Nevada, eastern Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Washington, and, in fact, in most of the different sections where gold and silver are found, west of the Rocky mountains. Pocket formation invariably carries the following-named minerals besides gold, and sometimes silver: iron, copper, lime, sulphur, and, in many places, lead. As a general rule, the formation is a soft porphyry, or gray slate, which slacks and decomposes rapidly by exposure to the air and sun. Pockets vary in size in different localities according to conditions. But some people may ask the question, What is a pocket? So it would be well to explain what a pocket is before we proceed further. A pocket is a mass of valuable mineral concentrated within a small space in a ledge, lead or vein; or, in other words, they are very rich spots in ledges, veins, seams or feeders, while the rest of the ledge is either barren or very much lower-grade ore than those spots or bunches which are called pockets. While the majority of the pocket ledges are barren except where the pocket occurs, yet there are many milling propositions that carry a paying quantity of gold all through, that are pocket ledges. Pocket ledges generally cut or cross the formation, while in the same district the milling ledges run with the formation or course of the country rock. Throughout the coast mineral belt the course of the pocket ledges is nearer to an easterly and westerly direction, while the milling ledges, on the contrary, run nearer to a northerly and southerly direction. This is more particularly noticeable in the northern districts, through southern Oregon and northern California, than it is in the other districts east and south. The chief minerals which predominate in the pocket formation through the first named sections are iron and lime, and the formation itself is principally porphyry. The outer edge of this pocket belt is so well defined in places that the experienced pocket hunter can tell within a few feet how far it extends. This statement may not be credited by some of our mining sharps, but nevertheless it is a fact, for there are several places in Jackson and Josephine counties, in southern Oregon, where small pockets ranging from $5 to $100 have been taken out on the border [when gold was $20.67 per oz.], next to the granite and gneiss, and within 50 feet of those pockets---in granite and gneiss formations--- small ledges or stringers, bearing gold their whole length, have been found. But all search so far has failed to discover a pocket or bunch on any of those stringers, while in the porphyry on the other side, a few feet from the contact of the gneiss and porphyry, or the granite and porphyry, the veins carry no gold except in pockets.
   In the series of articles to follow I will endeavor to illustrate, in plain language, the different theories of what causes gold to occur in pockets and what forms them, and no particulars pertaining to pocket mining on the coast from Mexico to Alaska will be omitted.

Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on April 04, 2013, 06:53:17 PM
                                                             POCKET MINING
                                                                       Number II

A pocket, as stated in the first article on this subject, is a concentrated body of gold, silver or other valuable mineral occurring in certain spots in ledges, lodes, veins, etc., of quartz and mineral-bearing rock. In nearly all the districts on this coast the mineral-bearing veins or ledges that run parallel with the formation of the country rock are almost invariably what are commonly called milling ledges, because they carry about the same amount of mineral all through the pay chutes, while on the contrary all the ledges that run crosswise of or cut the formation are pocket ledges. The pocket-belts, or streaks of formation which are prolific in pockets, are mostly porphyry or of a porphyritic or quartz-porphyry nature running parallel with the slate, granite, lime, etc., and are readily detected by the professional and experienced prospector owing to the chemical and mineral composition and general appearance to the eye. This pocket-bearing formation does not always exist in belts, but sometimes occurs in spots or patches throughout the mineral belts of the coast.  In fact, there is hardly a mineral district west of the Rockies in which those spots do not occur. The chemical or mineral composition of this pocket formation is generally silica, lime, soda, alumina, potash, copper, lead, magnesia, iron, gold, quartz and water, although these conditions differ in each locality.  (Here I note a problem in terminology. The author uses 19th century mineral terms that I have difficulty translating. Calcite was not used in those days, but the term for it he used was lime, so I substituted calcite in places for today's readers. Soda and potash may have referred to sodium and potassium feldspars, but I'm guessing here. Magnesia may have been magnesite, MgCO. I don't know what the contemporary equivalent for alumina is. He interchanged terms for elements with those for minerals, so the particular minerals containing lead, sulfur and copper may have been understood by his contemporaries, but I don't know what he meant. Chloride puzzles me. Chloride had a meaning among mining men in those days that is no longer used and leaves me mystified)  What forms the pocket, or, in other words, what causes the gold to concentrate in a small space at certain points, is owing to a peculiar combination of other minerals which exist at or near that point and some of the minerals in this peculiar combination having an affinity for each other naturally concentrate and in turn combine to form an affinity or attraction for the others contained in the same formation, and so on until the combination is complete and possesses the affinity for the gold, quartz, and other lateral properties. What those minerals are and how to detect them will be given in future articles in this series. Pockets occur in three distinct and different conditions, viz., decomposed or free pockets, intact or specimen-rock pockets, and pay chute pockets, and they each form from separate causes and under different conditions.
   The first, decomposed or free pockets, with which this article is mostly concerned, occur upon ledges, seams, feeders, etc., and are generally near the surface and throw out a strong trace, and as a rule are easily found. Those pockets are generally small compared with the specimen-rock or intact pockets and rarely exceed 100 ounces. At the point where the pocket occurs in the ledge or seam the combination of minerals at that point decomposes the ledge and leaves the gold free so that it can be panned out, and often it is so well freed from the quartz, iron, and other minerals that it does not require crushing in a mortar to make it salable as free dust. In this class of pockets there is always another cross seam or ledge which cuts, crosses or comes in contact with the ledge or seam at the point where the pocket occurs.
   This cross or contact ledge or seam always carries or is entirely composed of a different mineral from that which predominates in the ledge which contains the pocket and is often very small, sometimes not more than a fourth of an inch in thickness. This ledge or seam which is composed of or carries the mineral that is required to complete the combination which decomposes the ledge at the pockets and causes the pocket to form at the point where it comes in contact, always runs at an angle to the general course of the main ledge. There is often a loose place running out from the pockets of this class resembling an old caved in gopher hole, from which gold will be found scattered on the surface. This would be a decomposed remnant of the vein on the surface which has eroded down over time.
   The trace from a free or decomposed pocket is always on top of the ground, in the grass roots as it is termed, and rarely if ever is found down any depth in the soil unless it be of a very loose nature so that the gold can readily sink down into it. But if the soil be firm and compact and the hill or mountain side steep, the biggest prospect will be obtained by scraping the loose dirt and gravel on top down, say an inch, to where the ground is hard and compact, for very little of the gold will work down into the solid ground if it has any chance at all to work down hill. I have panned on traces where other prospectors, who were in the habit of going down to bedrock for their dirt to pan had worked, and where they could not raise a color on bedrock where the soil was not more than 14 inches deep, and have gotten as high as 25 cents per pan by taking the loose dirt on top of the ground. [very roughly about .4 gram, allowing for silver content, Au at $20.67/oz.]
   It may be well to explain what a pocket trace is, for the benefit of the novice and those who are inexperienced. A pocket trace is the gold and other minerals which are liberated or forced out from the pocket and by their specific gravity gradually work down hill, naturally spreading out over the surface more or less in its downward course, until it finds its level or works into some gulch or ravine. In the case of pockets of this class which have been capped over by slides and locked up, as it were, from longer giving a trace, or where a great space of time has elapsed since gold has eroded from the pocket, the gold in the course of time works down into the soil and finally reaches bedrock. But in the majority of cases the gold and the mineral that comes with it from the pocket are in the surface dirt.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on April 04, 2013, 06:55:05 PM

                                                                        Number III

   The professional pocket-hunter, upon finding a trace from a free or decomposed pocket, goes to work tracing it in the following manner:  He first ascertains by panning where the gold lies; whether on top of the ground in the grass roots, or down deep in the soil, or on the bedrock. When he finds out where the gold lies, or, in other words, where he gets the biggest prospect, he then pans across the trace to find the center. Gold, on account of its great specific gravity, will work down hill in the same course from the pocket as water would from the same source, and when he finds the center of the trace, which he determines by the prospect he gets in the pan, the largest prospect always being in the center of the trace, he then closely examines the gold in order to find out whether he has more than one kind or not. When he is satisfied that he is getting only one kind of gold he tries a pan full from the center of the trace farther up the hill. If the trace is a slim one and he only gets a very light prospect in the center of the trace, say three or four colors to the pan after panning carefully to save everything that has greater specific gravity than dirt, particles of broken rock, etc., he closely examines the result in order to find out what goes with the gold. He does this so that he can follow that mineral, which comes from the pocket also, should the gold give out entirely in the trace before he reaches the pocket.
   To find out what mineral comes from the pocket with the gold, he pans across the trace the same as he did to find the center. If he gets a considerable amount of any mineral substance or crystals in his pan samples in the center of his trace and does not get it on either side, it invariably comes from the pocket or from the ledge that gives the pocket, so by following what comes with the gold, when the gold gives out, it will lead to the ledge at the point where the pocket exists. When there is one or more kinds of gold in the trace it shows that there are two or more traces run together, or lapped over each other, and coming from as many different pockets.
   Sometimes the second gold found in the trace comes from a seam or ledge running parallel with the trace, which gives out a little gold all along, and on which the pocket exists. Oftentimes prospectors who are inexperienced and cannot always tell pocket gold, work on what they suppose is a pocket trace when in reality it is gold thrown off from one of those blind ledges or seams that run in an up-and-down-hill course and give out a little gold all along, and does not “pocket” at all.
   When there is sufficient gold in the trace to follow, and the largest amount is on top or in the grass roots, the prospector follows the gold until it gives out and then drops back and finds the “feeder,”the place where the gold trace goes into the ground, which leads him to the pocket. If he fails to find the feeder without disturbing much of the ground in the vicinity of where he thinks the pocket is, he then cuts a trench down to bedrock, up and down hill, at the end and in the center of the trace, commencing a little below where the gold gave out and extending it up above where he got the last gold. By doing this, he cuts across the ledge or seam which gives the pocket, and then it is an easy matter to find the feeder on the ledge. Should he fail to find a ledge or seam in his trench, he then digs another trench, at right angles with the first one, a short distance below where the gold gave out, and in this trench he will cut the ledge if it runs parallel or nearly so with his trace.
   In this manner he is sure to find the ledge, and when once found it is an easy matter to find where the pocket is. I have seen places where prospectors had followed up traces until the gold gave out, and then dug hole after hole and tore up the earth in such a manner that it would be almost impossible for the next prospector who came along to find out where the gold gave out. When such prospectors fail to get the pocket, it is a soft snap generally for the professional who comes after him, for half the work is already done for him and he goes to trenching and soon finds the ledge which the first man has dug holes on both sides of, but not directly over.
   In many places the ledges crop or give out considerable float, and in such cases the pockets are more easily found. At the point where the pocket occurs the ledge is more or less decomposed,  and in most cases it carries a large amount of iron oxide. The stringer or ledge that invariably comes in through the country rock and contacts with the ledge at the point where the pocket occurs, is generally largely composed of calcite, iron, copper, or manganese.
   If it is composed largely of quartz, or is a quartz ledge or vein it will be found to carry one or more of those minerals in large quantities.
  In the northern counties of California above Shasta, (meaning the present day ghost town, not the volcano) and throughout southern Oregon, the contacting seam or stringer is calcite. The combination of minerals which exist in pockets of this class only decomposes the ledge where the pocket occurs, and the ledges in nine cases out of ten are barren of gold eighteen inches and two feet on either side of the pocket. Sometimes a color of gold cannot be found six inches on either side of where the decomposition ends. Those pockets mostly occur in soft, yellow porphyry which contains a large percentage of calcite and iron and is prolific in small stringers of quartz and calcite. When the prospector is hunting for a trace, and he finds this soft porphyry formation, he forms his ideas as to how the ledges run. Then he commences panning around the base of the hill, point or ridge, taking his pan samples about 25 or 30 feet apart until he pans all around the base of it. If he does not find a trace then, and still believes that there are pockets above, he goes a hundred yards or so farther up the hill or rising ground and pans around the same as before, so that if there should be a trace above that did not reach down as far as the foot of the hill or point, he will catch it in his second panning around the hill.
   Many pocket hunters follow this method:  They find out where there has been a short gulch that paid well to placer mine, and, when they find out at what point the pay quit, they pan on either side of the gulch on the side hill until they find where the gold came into the gulch and then follow it up to the pocket or where the pocket has been. In most cases, where the short gulches have been rich, the pockets which fed into them are all out and gone; but if the pocket-hunter once finds the ledge where one of the principle pockets came from, he then has the main key to the situation. He follows along the same ledge, for it is likely to pocket in another place. Then, again, it often occurs that where the pocket is broken away and gone down into the gulch, there is one or more still existing underneath where the first one was. If he does not find a trace on either side of the gulch, and there is a little gold still in the gulch, he follows the gold until he finds where it leaves the gulch and follows it up the hill until it leads him to where it originally came from. I know where traces, and what would be called slim ones at that, have been followed for over half a mile to a pocket amounting to no more than 2 ˝ oz.; and in one particular case in southern Oregon, I followed a trace over three-fourths of a mile and found the pocket.

Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on April 04, 2013, 06:57:30 PM
                                                                       Number IV
   The particles of gold found in free or decomposed pockets have a slight affinity for each other, as if magnetic. To demonstrate, it is only necessary to take the flour gold from one of these pockets and corner it down in a pan until it forms a string of an inch or so in length in the crease of the pan; then take considerably more water into the pan and by a sudden jerk movement try to scatter the flour gold by the action of the water carrying it over the bottom of the pan. No matter how fine your gold may be, you will find, try whatever way you may, that you cannot completely distribute and separate the particles of gold. You can always see it with the naked eye, and, if you will take a small magnifying glass and examine the bottom of the pan, you will find that the particles of gold lie in bunches or clusters and not completely scattered, each particle laying separate by itself.
   The flour gold from a milling vein, or, in other words, from a vein or ledge that carries an equal amount of gold all along, when treated in this manner will completely separate, and it will be found by examining the bottom of the pan closely with the glass that each particle will be seen lying by itself and not gathered in clusters or bunches the same as the pocket gold.
   There may be several other minerals found in this class of pockets, but a pocket without calcite, iron, copper, lead, and sulfur has not yet been found. They are always present in free or decomposed pockets. They may not always occur in the same form, but they are generally in a chloride or metallic state. These five minerals are the key to the pocket and are what cause the pocket to form. Of course gold is included and makes the sixth mineral. Several other minerals may be found in pockets besides those five above named, but they do not play an important part in forming the pocket. Wherever this combination of these five minerals is found in a ledge, and there is any gold, there is generally a pocket on the ledge, although, either from some curious action of nature or from the peculiar action of some other foreign mineral upon this combination of five, it sometimes occurs that no pocket forms even when those five necessary minerals are present, but this seldom happens.
   It is nearly always safe to count on finding a pocket on a ledge near the surface where those five minerals exist at one point, no matter in what form they may occur so long as they are there. The size of the pocket can very often be determined by the size of the ledge proper. A large ledge nearly always gives a large pocket, while small ledges and seams do not appear to have the body to support a large deposit of those minerals, consequently, the pockets are small. The rim, ledge, or seam which comes in contact with the ledge proper, at the point where the pocket occurs, is as essential to forming the pocket as the combination of the five minerals; and in every pocket yet found of this class, this contacting seam or ledge has always been found. It appears to be the feeder through which the minerals are carried to the pockets, although sometimes the pocket occurs on the this feeder instead of the ledge. Those cases occur oftener where the ledge is barren quartz than where the ledge is more mineralized. The first step that the prospector should take, who intends to follow this branch of mining, is to make a study of those five minerals, so that he can readily detect them in any form; and when he has acquired that knowledge he then has the main key to finding this class of pocket. I have known men who were so expert at detecting, with their eyes, those minerals and the different indications of a pocket, that, after a close examination of the ground, they would walk directly to the spot and mark the place on top of the ground where the pocket was, and upon digging down, the pockets were found directly underneath the spot they had marked.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on April 04, 2013, 06:59:50 PM
                                                                    Number V

   The reason why pockets of this class are always found in decomposed quartz is because the combination of the five minerals, mentioned in article No.4, which are always present in this form of pocket, acts upon the quartz, and, being a strong decomposing agent, soon rots away the ledge at the point where they concentrate.
   The gold in those pockets is generally rough and “scraggly,” and pieces are often found all honey-combed like pumice-stone where the quartz has decayed away and left nothing in a solid form except the gold. Sometimes in the larger pockets of this class there is smooth gold, similar to well-worn placer gold, found in the center of the pocket; but, upon examination it will be found that those smooth nuggets have a coating or glazing of copper on the smooth surface and are more of an orange tint than the rest of the gold in the pocket. Sometimes those nuggets or pieces which are found in the center of the pocket are rough and scraggly on one side and smooth and glazed on the other. Those smooth pieces are found only in large pockets, and in pockets where they are found there is always a large percentage of copper in the mineral combination. Whenever the majority of the colors found in a free pocket trace are in the shape of needle points broken off or “arrowheads,” as the pocket hunter calls them, the trace is seldom worth following up, for the pockets that give traces are invariably small and seldom amount to over $5 or $6.    ( About a quarter oz. of gold, more or less, probably worth some effort these days)
   They occur on small stringers of quartz not over a half inch in width and often not more than six or eight feet in length, and generally cut through soft, yellow porphyry. The best free pockets are always found in the porphyry or on or near the contact with the porphyry and serpentine. The most of this class of pockets when laid bare are very deceiving to the eye, for the reason that little or no gold is visible, it being coated and concealed by iron oxide, manganese, etc.; but, when washed thoroughly in a pan, the decomposed matter will be found to be very rich. Then, again, in other cases, the gold being free from coating, will show so distinctly that the inexperienced pocket miner will think that the decomposed matter in the pocket is much richer than it really is. The flour gold is always in the top and bottom of the pocket; consequently, the flour gold in the trace will be found in largest quantities nearest the pocket when it is still in place, and, again, when the pocket is out and gone, the flour gold will be found in largest quantities near where the pocket originally was.
   The experienced pocket hunter will soon detect by the flour gold he gets in his trace whether the pocket is still in place or not. He does it in this way:  By carefully examining the flour gold--if he finds the most of it very light in weight as well as in color, which he can readily detect by his manipulations with the pan and by watching closely how the gold acts--he soon finds out whether the majority of the flour gold came from the bottom or top of the pocket. His judgment is based upon the following facts:  Say, for instance, that a free pocket contains 200 ounces of gold. The gold which comes from the top of that pocket we will say is worth or assays $17 per ounce; then it will be found that the gold in the center or middle of the pocket will be worth less, say $16.75 per ounce, and the gold in the bottom of the pocket will be worth still less, or about $16 per ounce, so thus it will be seen that the gold gradually diminishes in value from the top to the bottom of the pocket. Where the gold is more alloyed with  silver rather than copper this feature is more plainly noticeable; and the prospector, finding the majority of his gold a light color and light in weight, and intermingled with white particles resembling gold coated with quicksilver, naturally concludes that the gold being examined came from the bottom of the pocket, and it is out and gone, and he is only getting the gold from the bottom of the pocket in the trace.
   Free or decomposed pockets occur generally upon ledges that are barren except where the pocket exists, and the size of the pocket depends upon the size or width of the ledge and the amount of the mineral combination which concentrates where the pocket forms.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: XT18000 on April 05, 2013, 05:37:43 AM

  A little more in- site on pocket hunting;  Pocket hunting was very common and used by the early prospectors from the states of North Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

  When Gold was discovered in California most of  the prospectors in the eastern states made a wild dash there as the reports of large nuggets and easy pickings made there way back

  east. It was the fact that there was such easy pickings ( in the early days of the rush ) that pocket hunting lost much of its followers and the knowledge they had of it. Over time, when

  things settled down and the easy pickings was gone, a few of those old prospectors that had the knowledge went back to pocket hunting, very few of the younger ones or those from

  other places in the world, ( with the exception of those from Australia ) had no or very little knowledge of this technique and as they died off or gave up and went back where they

  had came from, it was almost an lost art. With the rush in Oregon it was revived and put to good use, southern Oregon is prime pocket hunting territory, and there is quite a good

  bit of it going on even today.

  With the advent of Metal Detectors, a new form of pocket hunting was born and opened new areas ( the desert areas of the southwest ) that is still in use today and has a large

  following. This has lead to world wide use of detectors and pocket hunting with them, what's old is new again abet in a new form.

  As people read our posts on this subject, perhaps some of them will have enough interest in it to learn more about it and use it,, and the art of pocket hunting will be kept alive.

  There is not much in the way of printed material that one can study to learn it but there is still some if they really want to look for it, the main problem is, to many want someone

  else to do all the work for them. You have taken a good bit of time and used no small amount of effort to put together your post on the subject, and I give you kudos for that.

Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: mentalcoincoin on April 08, 2013, 07:44:48 AM
Yes indeed EMF a most interesting & rear read,I printed it out and filed it in my mineral claim binder that I take with me out to claim. As well, a big THANX and a much deserved kudo!
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: SDHillbilly on April 08, 2013, 08:42:49 AM
EXCELLENT!  {-applause-} thank you EMf [-1st-] it should be a mandatory read for all prospectors [<-panning->] i agreeeeeeeeeeeeeee kudos
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on April 08, 2013, 12:11:51 PM
Thanks guys. When I started finding this information I realized it led to the last best hope for the individual prospector to make that rich strike, but it will require dedicated persistent effort, mental as well as physical. I was surprised to discover how little known this information was despite the building interest in gold prospecting over the years. Well, I did something to change that, and I hope to see pictures and stories of pocket finds posted on this forum in the future. 
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: mentalcoincoin on April 11, 2013, 08:32:28 PM
For those who really want to keep this work of excellence.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on April 13, 2013, 08:18:38 PM
Here is a different facet of old time prospecting. I found this digitized book from the Bancroft library written in 1851 by a clergyman who participated in the first part of the California gold rush. He kept a journal of his activities and based his book on it. All told, he was not impressed, but he took part in river mining and was quite descriptive on how it was done and if you read carefully you'll see where they were most likely to find the larger pieces. There was so much hardship, and too many people came there knowing nothing about mining. They had an annoying habit of calling what we know as pay streaks in the gravel as "veins," but in reading of the techniques employed in river mining I was able to understand more about the earthworks next to the creek in part of my claim. I enjoyed it and found it to be informative.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: tamarackman on April 13, 2013, 09:47:36 PM
wow must come back to this one thanks. 
 EMF thank you for your inspiration and willingness to share your knowledge, more kudos for you. Being from a gold silver mining area in se bc that seems to have promise I appreciate your posts. One of my claims feels right for pockets and over the last 2 yrs. I have been struggling to trace the placers, finding good float in ares but losing the trail. Finding small rotten iron stained quartz veins in slate like rock has given me promise as float values increased, but on crushing only a couple samples and not finding anything, my inexperience had led me to move on to other prospects. With new found vigour I shall continue the hunt.   
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on April 14, 2013, 04:13:55 PM
tamarackman, thanks. Pocket hunting, especially at today's gold prices has the potential for a wildly successful adventure. It is also a difficult success to achieve, and not many people have what it takes to do it. It requires high levels of optimism, unfailing perseverance, knowledge of the practice and of local geology, good observational skills, a strong body and a grubstake. That's what the writers from so long ago believed, and anyone who can nurture those qualities and hunt, will eventually succeed, as inexperience transforms into experience. When you do find one, please post pictures for us to drool over.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: tamarackman on April 14, 2013, 09:06:41 PM
A wildly successful adventure sounds good to me, and yes I'll post pictures of anything worth drooling over. now all I need is more time money and knowledge, well I guess more time comes with money, so just more knowledge and a good grubstake would do. Anyway I enjoyed the read.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on May 02, 2013, 06:24:49 PM
This little book about prospecting in Nova Scotia contains tips about finding and following leads and paystreaks in glaciated country that will be useful to anyone who prospects in that kind of country.. It's titled "Prospecting in Nova Scotia."

Prospecting in Nova Scotia : Prest, Walter H : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive (
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: damionwaltz on August 19, 2013, 09:54:34 AM
So I have successfully traced a path of placer gold along the river to where it stops and am finding very course flakes.  Now this pocket mining is what I would like to do next but don't know what I am looking for.  I read the description but do you have any pics of what I am looking for as I'm sure the source is right up the hill just under my nose.  I found something that looked like a sunken gopher hole and after digging it found out it was an old gopher hole filled up, lol, kinda scary sticking my arm in all the way up to my shoulder.  Other than that there is so much dead-fall and deviations I'm not sure where to dig next.  pic would be great or further description (ie. big holes, small holes, line deviations).  Great thread and very exciting
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: blucorundum on August 19, 2013, 07:44:49 PM
conditions favourable for pocket formation: 1) the lode is located in a flat-lying area. 2) the lode is oriented perpendicular to the horizon. 3) the lode is composed of mineralized rocks, which weather at a faster rate that the surrounding country rock, frequently forming a slight depression. put simply, the orebody falls in on itself. and yes there is a pocket-hunting procedure done on a grid.  there is a book called: Prospecting and Small-Scale Mining B.C.Edition. How-To Manual and Catalog, by Glenn Leaver. he is from the okanagan. if highly recommend this book to all placer miners. i use it all the time. it holds a wealth of info.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: Ambrose on August 19, 2013, 10:19:24 PM
Wonderful information as usual.  I was waiting for this.  How are you feeling by the way?
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on August 19, 2013, 11:18:01 PM
It is exciting isn't it? The thing to do next is investigate very carefully that end point of gold appearance. Be sure you know why it is no longer found. Have you been following it in the river or beside the river? Either way, a deposit of overburden could be obscuring the trail. At the point the paystreak seems to stop, check if it has gone deeper in the ground there, and follow it if it has. If not, start digging and panning in a grid pattern working your way further and further out until you pick it up again. This can be a very laborious and time consuming thing to do, but I know of some guys in the 19th century who persisted in this after others gave up and were richly rewarded. See the post I made of the Coffee Creek gold rush for details. Use common sense to guess the path of the gold from where it seemed to stop. What you are looking for are particles of gold in your pan after washing dirt samples from your test grid. You want to see where it patterns richest, and where the boundaries of gold to no gold are, and you should stake these points as you test along. Remember to follow the trace no matter where it goes. Sorry about the lack of pictures, this is a lost art newly reviving. Perhaps you can make some of the first ever as you go along. Good luck, and don't just vanish if you succeed. Show us your success.

Hello Ambrose. I'm feeling very pained and fatigued, just what is expected when Lyme disese gets treated. Treatmnet is going well and I'll soon be adding an herbal treatment that blucorundum suggested to me. It looks very interesting, but all my spare money this month goes to maintenance fees for keeping my claims. I don't know when I'll be well enough to get to the mountains yet, this part of the treatment is very unsettling; but I'm optimistic by the reactions to treatment so far.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: tamarackman on August 20, 2013, 06:57:20 AM
Nice work Damionwaltz hope you push through and find the trail again leading you to the source. Is the area you are working have old mining, placer or hard rock?
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: damionwaltz on August 24, 2013, 11:23:52 PM
It is very exciting!  It is placer only, I have been looking into the history of the area and no mention of gold which can be good or bad.  I have discovered where the gold trail continues.  Its on the other side of the river along a dried up area that looks like it use to be where the river ran.  I panned under one rock and got an average of 4 flakes per pan which is the best I have seen so far (and it is getting coarser).  Crazy cause where i was digging is an area where people camp alot and on a trail.  Would have never thought to dig there if the gold trail didn't guide me there.  The worst part is I found this and ran out of time, now I have to wait till next year to continue my hunt.  Its a treasure hunt for sure and will be on my mind till I get there again.  In the mean time I will be studying the maps and looking for old maps of the river to see if my theory of where the river use to run is correct.  Its killing me just writing this not being able to follow up and see it to the end, hopefully the big pocket ;D
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: tamarackman on August 26, 2013, 08:52:05 AM
well the summer isn't over yet, if you want it bad enough anything is possible.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on November 06, 2013, 12:50:26 PM
This may have been posted before in another spot, but I can't locate it with the search function. Easier to find here.

                                                 Searching for Hidden Veins
M & S Press
December 27, 1902

   The difficulties which beset the pathway of the prospector are many. The pioneer of the desert region has many hardships and troubles, but his work,  that of searching for veins, is comparatively easy, for each vein usually outcrops strongly, and may be readily traced along the surface. Very different, however, is the work of the prospector in the north country, where the mountain sides are densely covered with timber, standing and fallen, and thick accumulations of debris, overgrown with moss and  underbrush, hide every vein, often beneath several feet below the surface. The alluvials of the neighboring canyons and gulches may give abundant evidence that veins exist on the adjacent hillsides, for the placer mines may have proven this to be so, which gives an incentive to the prospector.
   Sometimes in the course of placer working the miner discovers a vein crossing the gulch in the bedrock. His method is plain-he follows it into the hill, or sinks a shaft on the rim at a convenient point, but what of the searcher who has not this good fortune?
   In searching for blind veins, systematic work is usually the most expeditious and satisfactory, in the long run. The first thing to ascertain, wherever possible, is the true or probable strike of the veins of the district. Ordinarily, veins in any particular district have an approximate parallelism, and the direction of strike conforms nearly with the strike of the country rock, if the latter is at all slaty or schistose. Where rocks are mostly massive, that is, not slaty nor inclined to be schistose, the vein system is likely to be complex, the strikes running in many directions. In the latter case-fortunately not the most common, the difficulties of the prospector are multiplied.
   Having ascertained the strike of the country rock, which may generally be observed in the bottoms of the gulches of the district, it may be assumed that the greater number of veins coincide with this strike, and prospecting work would then be directed across this strike. The quickest and simplest way to expose blind veins on a mountainside is to sluice out trenches down the hillside, but this involves the presence of a ditch or reservoir above, neither of which are usually found in new districts. In lieu of this, excavation in pits must usually be resorted to. The place to begin operations is in the bank at the side of the canyon where it is exposed by the stream having cut through it. If good float is found here it should be sought at a point up the hill. If a pit dug several feet up the hillside fails to disclose several pieces of similar rock, the probability is that ore found in the bank at the bottom of the hill did not come directly down the slope, but has drifted down the gulch from some point above with its accompanying debris. Should similar ore be found in the pit first dug, without finding the vein, another should be excavated at a higher point on the hillside. Care should be taken to note the kind of material in which the pieces of detached ore are found and particularly the height above bedrock at which it is found. If this height is found to decrease as excavations progress up the hill, the indications are that the worker is nearing the vein. Generally, too, the pieces of float are found to be larger as the vein is approached. It is the relative height above bedrock, however, which forms the main guide. This is explained by the fact that a piece of ore detached from the outcrop of a vein, whether it be exposed on the surface or not, is, when first broken off, close to bedrock, but it slowly makes its way by gravity down the slope, a process requiring centuries, possibly, and becoming mixed with the other detritus of the surrounding rocks, some of which is finely disintegrated, forming, with carbonaceous matter, soil, the piece of ore gradually reaches an increasingly greater height from the bedrock as distance from its original position is gained. This process goes on much more rapidly on a steep slope than on a gentle one.
   The search for the hidden vein is simply a process of following the detached fragments up hill to the source of their origin. This is the general principle underlying the quest of minerals of all kinds where the veins are buried from sight. All trenches should be made to bed rock, particularly as the work progresses up the hill, that the worker may not be misled and pass over the vein for which he is looking. Where no float occurs on the hillside the difficulties are multiplied, and the chance for success is greatly lessened. In such cases, the absence of float may be due to the fact there are no veins, but some veins have a crystallized or comb structure and the outcrops disintegrate into material so fine as to attract no attention from the prospector. In the search for gold this condition is met in a measure by panning carefully for gold, and it will be found, where gold exists; it will act in much the same manner as float quartz as above described, though the quartz will rise to a greater height above the bedrock in a given distance than the gold. This indicates that the prospector may have to search much further to find the outcrop by following the gold than rather than the float. 
   The most satisfactory method of prospecting extensively for blind leads is by means of a tunnel with crosscuts, but this contemplates the expenditure of a large amount of capital-either money or labor, or both, and the prospector usually being only  able to supply one of these essentials, does not adopt a method requiring so large an outlay. Moreover, the tunnel is only justified when the outcrop of one or more valuable veins has actually been found.
   The prospector should be a close observer and a good “judge of rock,” that he may distinguish the various kinds of quartz or other rock that he meets, one from the other, and not be led to follow worthless rock by being unable to distinguish the different kinds of ore. The safest plan is to crush and prospect for gold, or have it assayed if for silver or base metals.” 
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: alleyoop on June 30, 2014, 10:23:59 PM
    Thank you very much for your extra work ,and get well quick  <-idea->
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: tamarackman on July 06, 2014, 07:40:02 AM
so any advances on your prospecting adventures damionwaltz? hope yer still on the hunt.  Thanks for the post EMF great to reread, every tidbit of advice helps and sinks to the bedrock of our consciousness to be mined and pulled out in nuggets of aid when the time is right.  <-good_>
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on September 20, 2014, 11:52:38 AM
I found a pocket mining article I don't remember seeing before in the Mining and Scientific Press. Here it is:

From the Mining and Scientific Press,  August 26, 1916

Pocket-hunting Applied to Prospecting By John B. Platts 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           A method commonly used for prospecting hidden veins that do not outcrop seems to be unfamiliar to so- called 'engineer-prospectors.' This is 'rimming' with a pan as practiced by the 'pocket-hunters' for gold. Gold pockets are concentrations near the surface, or at least in the oxidized zone. They commonly occupy a small space such as a vug in a quartz stringer or in a small, partly open fissure.

The gold is usually loose and free from gangue, which is likely to be clay and decomposed rock minerals mixed with oxides of iron and manganese and, in the deeper pockets, with secondary sulphides. In true pockets the proportion of gold to gangue is considerable, amounting to solid metal in extreme cases. Large placer nuggets are probably derived from such pockets. There is abundant evidence that these pockets are secondary deposits derived from near-by low- grade primary deposits. The gold-pockets are found in 'iron seams' and iron-bearing quartz veins and less often in calcite stringers.

 The pocket-hunter pays special attention to yellow spots or streaks in the alluvium, as these indicate a concentration of iron. Sufficient ferrous sulphate may be present to form a gold-pocket and not make a distinct coloration in the soil. Hence in a favorable-looking region or near where pockets have been found in the past, it is customary to do systematic prospecting over considerable areas regardless of the color of the ground. Ferrous sulphate is the most common precipitant of gold chloride in solution in meteoric water, the gold having been dissolved by chlorine set free by the action of oxides of manganese on soluble chlorides, this being the theory of  formation.

The word 'trace' is used by pocket-hunters, meaning the spill of gold in the surface-soil. The process of sampling a trace is called 'rimming' or tracing. When the pocket-hunter finds a yellow spot on an otherwise favorable hill-side, he spades up a shovelful of earth and pans it carefully. The presence of one or two fine colors is enough to cause him to thoroughly investigate the neighborhood. He takes a row of samples along the hill side, three or four feet apart and following a contour. If he is on a real trace several of these probably will show more or less gold, while the end-samples of the row will be barren.

 If a large number show gold, that is, if the trace is wide, it will mean one of three things: (1) that the pocket is some distance up the hill, (2) it is an unusually large one, and (3) the gold comes from a vein in which it is not concentrated in pockets. The first contingency is the most probable, and the third next; big pockets are rare. The pocket-hunter then takes another row of samples a short distance higher up the hill than the first row. It is not necessary this time to take the extreme end-samples much beyond the limits of the trace as shown by the first row of samples.

If the pocket is near-by, the strip of soil carrying gold will narrow rapidly as one goes up hill. If the trace comes from a true pocket it will contract to a width of a few feet as the prospector takes successive rows of samples. Here he must move slowly and cautiously, as the pocket may be in the surface soil and contained in a space no bigger than a shovelful. It is easy to overlook such a pocket, or unwittingly shovel it down the hill.

However the pocket is usually found in the bed-rock. A point will be found where no gold appears on the surface. Deeper digging for the next row of samples will show that the trace is still there, and a careful examination reveals a layer in the soil of a different color to the rest, commonly more yellow. The gold will be confined to this yellow layer and to a narrow strip of it. At this point the experienced pocket-hunter begins to pan the entire gold-bearing streak instead of only samples, to avoid shoveling the pocket over the dump. Inexperienced pocket-hunters lose much gold by neglecting to observe this precaution.

The gold-bearing layer will be found to approach bed-rock as it is followed until it lies upon it, and finally stops at an iron seam or quartz stringer or vein of calcite. After finding the vein that contains the gold, the prospector continues to dig and pan all the gold-bearing material until the pocket or pockets are unearthed. A single stringer will often contain several pockets. If the ground is flat the surface-soil is likely to be deep, and the amount of digging below the surface will be extensive. If the hill-side is steep, the surface-soil will be thin or absent in spots, and when a trace passes over a bare spot it is difficult to follow.

Surface slides often complicate traces. A close inspection of the colors with a lens will tell the experienced pocket-hunter whether a trace is worth following. True pocket gold is rough and ragged, often appearing like fragments of finely branched moss. Smooth grains like tiny seeds or flakes are likely to lead to unprofitable scattered deposits in talc or serpentine.

Pocket-hunters are sometimes embarrassed by over lapping traces, that is, traces from several sources mingled in the same soil. The expert can often untangle over-lapping traces by examining the gold and noting differences in color. Natural gold from different deposits is likely to vary more or less in the color due to alloyed impurities.

Go forth, and fill your pockets!
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: sunshine on September 20, 2014, 09:12:06 PM
For sure with pocket gold hunting, one has to be organized, persistent and consistent.  It sounds easy, but very difficult to do in the real world.  In the right area, it is very worthwhile for the individual prospector.  I bet there are people doing it successfully and making a very nice living....and keeping very quiet about it. 

Three comments about things that can complicate the search for a pocket.  (1) sometimes one is limited by the size of the claim.  ie. you cannot look further, because it belongs to somebody else, park, Native land, etc.  (2) Sometimes gold comes from multiple sources (multiple pockets).  The gold along the creek or hillside never really stops.  Unless the next source has different looking gold, or the quantity of colors significantly decreases and then increases again, it makes difficult to assess.  (3) the reason for the gold stopping might have nothing to do with a pocket source.  It may be glacial effect or where an ancient channel crossed or recrossed  the current stream.  An interesting read is how the Toop Nugget Mine was discovered in BC (lots of articles online).  It was also in an area where gold stopped, but not a pocket, and instead a change in direction of the older stream. 

I recall there was a book written years ago about pocket hold hunting (if I recall Washington or Oregon) and Glenn Leaver in his book called that one "the bible".  I no longer have my copy to look it up, but maybe somebody else can advise.  The other thing Glenn suggested was the Gold Spear detector was the perfect tool for pocket hunting.  It would save on digging and panning because it picks up on micron gold in the grass roots. 
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on September 21, 2014, 12:41:27 AM
Yeah, like you say, it sounds easy, especially if you never tried it before. I was reading that account above, knowing that the guy probably used a donkey to carry the panning water for him. Just try going up and down the hill to pan the buckets of dirt you haul. And most of the time it is empty ground being tested. The gold spear can be a help in this, but it requires a gold particle density in the ground that is much higher than what panning can find in the begining stages. It should do great following a trail of microgold, but in the Klamath mountains gold coming out of pockets is commonly coarse, making it easier for the gold spear to pass between particles. It is probably better to use it after panning has located the presence of a trace.The pan can reveal one particle of gold in a shovel full of dirt, while the goldspear is not likely to find it diluted with that much soil.

 I remember reading an old timer's article discussing what kind of person can succeed at pocket hunting. First he had to be excessively optimistic. He needed plenty of intelligence, but not too much, a strong back was much more important. That one did not make sense to me until I got some experience. He also needed great patience, and persistence.

At least in this country, as long as it is open to mineral entry and unclaimed, which is a vast area that does cover a lot of pocket country, we are free to pocket hunt the country without claims or licenses as we go prospecting. If small pockets are found, we dig them and move on. For large ones, still no official registration is required, but if you want legal protection for your find during the time of the dig it is better to file a claim on it. And I found another kind of obstacle to those traces too. One canyon I had been prospecting was lined with slide deposits along the walls. No trace following up those walls!

 But I did find one possible pocket location by following veins above the slide zone, where the vein was cut by another and it was all shattered. I panned some dirt from that spot and found some gold. I had to map it and wait for later, much later as it turned out when I got sick. I found it in late summer and the soil was baked hard, and deer season was looming. That one is better left for spring when the soil is soft and there are no potential visitors.

But it is an incredibly fun quest, and as thinly prospected as some places are, no one can with good reason rule out the existence of huge pockets still left to be discovered. At the end of the 19th century a monster pocket was found by a couple of brothers about 35 miles from where I search, 60,000 dollars worth at 20 per ounce. They sold their claim and retired to a good life. Another pocket could never have been found but for a horse kicking up some ground, revealing one nugget. They traced out its source and found two monster sized pockets, one atop the other.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: sunshine on September 21, 2014, 07:40:38 AM
Here is the (dumbed up) method to pocket hunt on the cheap that I know:

Pick a line of ground that is about the same height and maybe 1KM long.  Decide the distance between samples, such as every 50M.  Dig each sample hole the same depth, usually just under the grass.  Take the same amount of sample dirt from the hole and dry classify it.  Mark the hole with flagging tape and a number.  Dump the classified material into a big zip lock freezer bag and number it too.  Toss the sample into a backpack and move onto the next hole.  Once the 1 KM line is completed, go back to the start and move up hill the same distance (eg 50M) and run a new 1KM line parallel to the original.  For this line, start 25M in, so your new holes are between the ones below.  Now, this has already introduced a couple of problems: (1) when you classify, you are probably getting some sample contamination from the previous hole(s), in that a small fraction of the dirt was from before, and (2) material changes as you move, making it difficult to get really good similar samples.  Oh well.  This gets you some data which will have to be revalidated later.  Anyway, back at camp (or home), you need to pan out each sample and count the colours and describe in your notes any unique character the gold will have.  Plot the results onto a chart and map, so see if anything is developing from the data.  Ideally, you will see evidence of the count and size increasing and then stop.   On the next trip, you have the place to go to check higher in the hill with smaller gaps between test holes. 

Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: sunshine on September 21, 2014, 07:56:44 AM
Another couple of other comments.  It would be perfect employment for a couple of summer students (if you have the cash) to take the grab samples for you and they would have not idea about the results.  Secondly, if you are doing it yourself, you certainly get to know the area and will see things that you would not otherwise.  It forces you to walk almost every square inch and you might stumble across interesting trails, cabins or old workings that were not obvious when you walked the area taking "the easy route". 
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: tamarackman on September 21, 2014, 09:52:40 AM
Thanks for the info guys, love reading the old methods on prospecting because its cheap and its tried and tested. the mineral title has opened up now on my placer and my gut tells me to stake so I can follow up on this pocket hunt as the geology is so similar to the info here. My last outing I brought my kids so I had to take it easy and not have the same tunnel vision I usually get when working the claim, this proved to be good as they just wanted to wade up the creek and play in the pools and I had to follow and sample some new spots. As usual i found good float gold right away and the count dropped off as usual at a certain point, now this is where things started to fit together a little better. The rusty rotten quartz vein that goes through my creek and claim seemed to pan dry, the rock it cuts through is slaty, in contact with granite and massive greenish blue volcanic type rock. I found a new feature, just below the vein which I thought might be the source. it is a crumbly or flakey yellowish stained rock on the steeper side of the drainage, the other side is covered with gravel and boulders. i seem to find more colour on the gravely side than the steeper rocky side. Now I guess I need to sample the yellow stained rock and up the hill. Wish I had a donkey and more time! Guess the puzzle gets put together a piece at a time. 
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on September 21, 2014, 01:40:51 PM
We think alike in many ways, sunshine. The classification and samplng scheme you described is something I tried, and it brings me back to what the old timer wrote about being smart, but not too smart, it being better to have a strong back. The problem being finding that initial particle of gold to begin the tracing, assuming the project is being started high above any running water. Smart says dry classify first to reduce the load and save time and cover more ground. Strong back says no, haul the sample to water and wash everything, because the particle that will begin the trace is easly likely to be clinging to the stuff tossed away while dry classifying.  tamarackman, you posted as I was writing this, and it looks almost like we had a bit of a telepathic link as were writing. Its great to hear of your activity, I hope to read more. I am finally well enough to return to prospecting, but I'm now encumbered with a huge backlog of neglected things to take care of before I return. I'm now rebuilding my car engine, among other big projects, and later I'll have to put new rings into the engine of my prospecting truck. But it is wonderful to have the energy now to do things again!

Another bit of wisdom written by an old timer hit me right where I was wrong, and it got me past a long string of zero results. This bit is especially true if you are not familar with the ground you are prospecting, and low in prospecting experience. I used to set aside about two weeks a year for prospecting, and had a great time, but results were always zilch. So this guy was writing a hundred years ago about what a mistake it is to load up a wagon with gear and spend two weeks in the mountains hoping to find some gold! I was guilty as charged. He stressed that it really takes much longer than that for successful prospecting, requiring the dedication of enough time at it such that as you wrote, sunshine, " if you are doing it yourself, you certainly get to know the area and will see things that you would not otherwise.  It forces you to walk almost every square inch and you might stumble across interesting trails, cabins or old workings that were not obvious when you walked the area taking 'the easy route'. " I try to stay at least a month, and sometimes I've gone as long as two and half, but I want to spend even more time at it. But with today's roads and transport it is much easier to return to previous places and continue the work than it was in the old days, so shorter times afield are not necessarily as problematic as it was earlier.

And then, traits of alertness and flexibility in thinking are needed, as tamarackman implied. I have gone into the mountains looking for certain specific indicators for pockets, and in my less experienced times have walked by other kinds of indication that in retrospect, were gold indications of another kind, a kind I was not prepared to encounter, investigate, and understand. I shall return. So later I was starting my prospect in a creek that was "all mined out" according to the locals who didn't know how to find gold, and finding gold, trying to follow it to its source, and while the hillside traces were blocked by slides,  I was flexible and alert enough to find a good placer deposit that I did not expect.

But that country is also a mix of serpentinite and laterite, both of which are notorious for random pieces of gold laying about with no obvious source, which illustrates the importance of knowing what kinds of formation in an area have gold that can be traced. I suspect the ground has a lot of small quartz veins with tiny amounts of gold scattered in them, confusing the traces to actual pocket deposits, so finding the actual formations that substantial amounts of gold can found in are important to do before sampling the hillsides for gold is done in places like that. In some places, pockets are known to have formed in contact zones between slate and greenstone, so following and sampling along the contact is the way to go. Other pocket zones are found by following vein systems, looking for broken rusty weathered parts, or where other veins cross them. There are so many different things to know about beyond the sampling technique I posted above.

But the best place to begin is in stream beds and gullies. That is where you find out if gold is even in play where you are prospecting, then you start the hillside work, if the gold seems to be coming from that direction. But still, if you know the geology and have a gold spear, it is great to walk the logging roads in likely gold occurring areas that follow the contours and poke the ground with it in the exposures the loggers made, flagging the hits, marking them on the GPS, and washing samples in springs; or searching out formations such as veins and listwanite alteration zones, and taking samples, or studying the old workings that lay about in order come to an understanding of why gold was being found in the particular kinds of ground gold that was being washed (by ground sluicing), and perhaps not completely mined.

Totally enjoyable activity.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: isaac on October 24, 2014, 09:22:08 PM
Great article EMF thanx for sharing info

Isaac :
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: EMF on October 28, 2014, 11:18:58 PM
I just finished reading a couple of really good books. The first one here, written in 1882, is very wide ranging and covers the occurrence, mining and milling of gold as it was known in places all over the English speaking world at that time. It has over 1200 pages and I learned a lot of new things from it. It has a lot to say about getting gold from shallow placers. There is a diagram and an explanation of a device used from the days of ancient Egypt up to the time of writing that we can see as a kind of stone hibanker with recirculating water. There is a treasure hunting lead for those so inclined, for a location now at the center of the Ebola epidemic. Adventure!  I learned about the different way gold gets deposited in the steeper grades of a stream than it does in the slower moving parts where we expect placer deposits. My first nugget was found in one of those steep grade deposits. In New Zealand they had a technique for getting those really small gold particles that float on water which they called "Fly Catching." It could be modified for such use today if that kind of gold is in your area. A few of the pages did not come out just right, so if you find one of those it usually corrects if you change the magnification or rotate it. The title is  "Gold--Its Occurrence and Extraction." A pdf of a digitized copy from the Internet Archive can be found here:

The second book was fun to read. It is a novel about the adventures of a group of four young men who set out for the California Gold Rush. The author, who was born around 1872, wove together the experiences described from 21 different writers who took part in the Gold Rush to make this novel. He did a good job of it.
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: mentalcoincoin on January 12, 2015, 09:50:10 PM
I found an article called Mud Men: Pocket Miners of Southwest Oregon—Part I thought this would be the thread to put it in.
It wont = EMF s great article,but it is interesting.
Mud Men: Pocket Miners of Southwest Oregon—Part I - ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal (
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: tamarackman on January 13, 2015, 08:54:21 PM
good read on mud men, im looking forward to next months article.   
Title: Re: Old Time Prospecting Methods
Post by: ozzyjock on June 25, 2016, 08:33:32 PM
Excellent reading for a newbie and experienced prospectors alike,
will keep me going for ages, love learning how the old timers did it, a lot of lost techniques and knowledge .
thanks and some kudos for you all.