Planning on striking it rich with pieces of the king of precious metals? Well, before you hit those streams with your pan and sieves hoping to find a few shiny flakes or tiny grains of the elusive rocks, you should know that as easy as it may look, panning for gold requires tremendous patience and skill. And while gold is pricey, there are several other reasons to take up gold hunting as your hobby but to make money shouldn't be one of them.
Anyone who goes panning for gold hopes to find those shiny flakes in the material accumulated in the bottom of his/her pan. But the thing is that under the present economic conditions, successful gold mining is a large-scale operation that makes use of pricey sophisticated machinery to process tons of low-grade ores each day.
The small prospector with a sieve and pan is no longer a significant player in the search for the shiny mineral deposits. The cost of prospecting equipment is high, plus the price of the final mineral keeps fluctuating. An aspiring small gold prospector, therefore, has to manage his/her expectations.
Striking it rich with these precious mineral deposits is hard, but the experience of hunting for gold is life-changing and thrilling. And just the assay report showing that there's a significant gold presence in the obtained sample is exciting. Plus, exercise and outdoor activity when prospecting for gold is rewarding.
For those willing to deal with the mud, there is still plenty of rich ground to be explored in the gold country, and here is the best way to get your hands on these elusive and precious mineral deposits:
Hit the right streams
Where do I find gold? If you are interested in gold panning, start by researching which grounds and streams to explore. Otherwise, you are going to waste your time prospecting in the wrong places, then bang goes any fond hopes of getting your mitts on these precious little rocks. Prospect in the known productive areas where gold has been mined before. There is a wealth of gold books and maps online you can use. Here are examples of known gold producing areas in the Americas:
California: Many placer deposits have been located in California. Streams running through the Mother Lode region (many counties on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains) have a significant quantity of gold left in their gravels.
Alaska: Gravel from the major rivers and tributaries in Alaska have gold deposits. Successful mining has been done in the Fairbanks district.
Montana: The southwestern part of the state of Montana has significant gold deposits.
Other areas include Ohio and South Dakota in the U.S and the Timiskaming, Keewatin, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and the Great Slave Lake in Canada.
These are just a few examples; check out the United States Geological Survey report for more gold productive areas. But before hitting these places, familiarize yourself with the regulations. Ask for permission before entering private properties too.
Learn how to use the tools properly
What is a gold pan? A light yet rugged circular dish with a flat bottom and sloping sides that is used for placer mining. The pan allows the separation of particles of high specific gravity from mud and gravel by washing with water.
Gold has higher specific gravity than soil and gravel, meaning that in running water, it will sink and stay put while the lighter particles float. In a pan, therefore, gold can be extracted from a placer deposit through a combination of shaking the sediment-water mixture and gentle washing off the top layer until all that remains are the gold deposits.
The best gold pans are resistant to rust, have a smooth inner surface, and are free from grease. Also, get one textured with a fine "tooth" surface so it can hold the gold better. Here's how gold panning is done:
- Fill the pan about halfway or so to the top with gravel, rocks, and soil from places in the stream where the current is slower. These include downstream near boulders, and where the river bends.
- Immerse the pan in water, then stir and wet the mixture, kneading to break up large clay particles. Pick out the giant particles. Immerse where water is six inches deep and flowing just enough to wash the lighter particles away.
- Shake and move the pan in gyratory motion while still immersed so that the gold particles make their way to the bottom.
- Tilt the pan at intervals, so the lighter particles get swept away then continue with step 3 till heavy black sands and gold remain.
- Dry the materials then pass a magnet in it to remove the black sand, so you remain with the gold.
Remember, different people have different panning techniques. Once you get used to the job, you are going to develop your own hacks and shakes to pan better. It might also be useful to join gold-panning classes where you get to practice with "pay dirt" to hone your gold-panning techniques. Pay dirt is waste soil taken from mineral-rich places. You can get "pay dirt" that's been seeded with gold particles to make the lesson thrilling when you end up with the precious metal deposits.