There has been a considerable amount of tips and tricks written on this website about how to successfully find gold. Integral to success is the ability to locate gold-bearing ground, understand how to mine it efficiently, and ultimately to capture the gold.
One simple, yet perhaps under-emphasized point that is worth mentioning is that the successful gold hunter needs to understand which dirt is going to contain the most gold, and which dirt is going to have very little if any gold at all.
The term that miners use for the low-value materials that cover the richer paydirt is overburden. This is generally made up of organic materials, soft dirt, and any material with a light specific gravity.
Gold isn’t usually found in overburden. When it is, it is generally very low concentrations that aren’t worth processing.
To successfully find a lot of gold, you need to remove overburden and get down to the pay layer where good gold is going to concentrate.
Don’t Metal Detect for Gold on Overburden
In the goldfields, the ground usually varies a lot. There will be places where everything has been stripped down to bedrock and the ground is perfect for metal detecting. You can get the coil close to the bedrock and worth the small cracks where gold nuggets tend to hide.
Of course the early miners had to put the extra dirt somewhere, and there will usually be piles of overburden lying around too.
There are also places where the early miners did not worth thoroughly, and the overburden is still in places. If it is a small amount then you might be able to detect through it and still find gold nuggets on the bedrock beneath it, but if it is over a foot or two thick then you are going to have a difficult time hunting these areas.
It is very rare to find a gold nugget in overburden. That isn’t to say that it never happens, but it is extremely rare.
Generally it is a waste of time to spend too much time hunting these spots because you will spend a lot of time digging trash targets, but the likelihood of gold is so low that you will almost never find anything.
Remove Overburden to Expose Virgin Ground
It may be a waste of time to detect this thick overburden, but using shovels to remove the overburden is a fantastic idea! You expose the bedrock underneath and potentially expose gold that no one has ever had access to before.
It can be a lot of work, but it might just pay off!
The main point is to be thoughtful about the way you search for gold. When you get to a known gold-bearing area, don’t just prospect blindly. Think about which areas are likely to have the highest concentrations of gold.
If you think it might be worth your effort, consider spending a few hours with pick and shovel to remove overburden from a small stretch of bedrock. It might just be worthwhile and add some gold nuggets to your collection.