In Man-Made Gold Indicators (Part 1), we discussed some of the most common things to look for that will indicate that gold has been found previously. The evidence of historic mining is everywhere, but you have to know what to look for.
This article continues to identify places that have been mined in the past, and can still produce gold today!
Small, rather insignificant pocket diggings can be found in just about every mining district in the world. These are small prospects that a miner made into the hillside in search of gold. It is not always apparent why the miner decided to start digging here, but for whatever reason they did, and sometimes these pockets diggings have gold in them.
Many prospectors often question why the old-timers would abandon these small diggings if there was gold in them. You can never know for sure, but there were a few reasons.
One important thing to remember is just how much gold a miner needed to find during the early days in order to live. It wasn’t like today where you might be happy to find a few grams of gold in a day. Back then, miners needed to be finding a lot of gold just to feed themselves.
Costs in the remote mining camps were extremely high, and if an areas wasn’t extremely rich a miner would often move on to look for a better gold deposit. Areas that were nothing special back in the 1800s might be considered extremely rich today. So don’t overlook these small, seemingly insignificant pocket diggings.
Lode Mines, Ore Dumps, and Tailings
When a miner discovered a rich gold outcrop and found that the more gold continued into the mountain, a lode mine would be developed. The size and scale of each mine varied, but many mines tunneled hundreds and even thousands of feet into the hillside following a gold vein. The ore would then be taken out of the mountain and processed.
If the ore was free-milling, it would be crushed and the gold would be extracted. This was a very expensive process, and often the ore needed to be very high-grade to be considered worthy of processing. For this reason there can often be ore found near old lode mines that was never processed and sometimes it contains gold.
Scanning old ore dumps with a metal detector can be productive. Just remember, there were no “rules” on how to it was done a back then, and not all of the mines were operated the same way. Some lode mines were very efficiently run and you may have a hard time finding a piece of ore with detectable gold. Other times, the miners were sloppy. They discarded pieces of high-grade ore with visible gold, and it can still be found in the waste rock piles. You never know what you will find until you look.
This is a good time to mention that it is never a good idea to enter an old mine shaft. Be careful when detecting around old mines. There may be hidden shafts that are hidden in the brush or other dangers. People die every year from entering old mine shafts. They can collapse. They often contain hazardous gasses. There may be snakes, bats, spiders, and all kinds of nasty stuff in them.
Unless you have the appropriate training and experience, NEVER enter an abandoned mine shaft.
Hydraulic mining was a practice that was used in many of the mining districts throughout the world. It used high pressure water to break up material and release the gold that was contained within. The practice was eventually banned in the United States due to environmental concerns, but it is still used in many places throughout the world.
The hydraulic mining operations found in the U.S. varied widely in size. Some of them were rather small and crude operations that were used in combination with standard placer mining in many creeks and rivers. Other hydraulic operations were massive, and they literally washed away mountains. Some of the largest and most famous can be found in the Mother Lode country of California.
Due to the size of some of these operations, many of them were quite sloppy and missed a lot of gold. These hydraulic pits can be prospected with a metal detector and still produce some nice gold.
A more modern indicator of gold mining activity is bulldozer scrapes. These are area where a bulldozer has been used to remove layers of earth to expose new gold bearing ground. It is fairly common to see these in desert environments, and the practice is commonly used in combination with metal detectors. I’ve run across quite a few of these in Northern Nevada.
Once an area has been detected and all of the easily detectable gold is found, a bulldozer scrapes off a foot or two of material, exposing new ground that can be detected. The processes can be continued as long as there is still gold being found.
These can be excellent areas to find gold, but be aware that there are permitting processes required to do this sort of thing, and basically all areas that are actively being mined like this are on private lands or claimed land. Still, you can find older bulldozer scrapes on unclaimed land that were done years ago that still may produce a gold nugget or two.