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Placer and Lode Mining in Utah

The first gold deposits mined in Utah were most likely worked by the Spanish explorers that traveled throughout the desert Southwest. However, it was the gold rush to California that really the attention of the world to the western United States, and prospectors ventured into the hills in search of gold.

The vast majority of the gold found to date in Utah has come from lode deposits rather than placers. And by far the largest lode mine in the state is the Bingham Copper Mine located southwest of Salt Lake City.

The earliest known occurrences of gold found here were at Bingham Canyon, including Carr Fork and Bear Gulch down to Jordan Valley. The early miners found that many of the creeks and gulches in this area were exceptionally rich in this part of the Oquirrh Mountains.

The creeks started to get worked out, and prospectors focused their attention on locating the sources for these gold deposits. It was soon discovered that this gold did not come from just a few small veins that fed them; rather it was an exceptional deposit that covered many square miles.

Numerous mines and prospects began to develop. As technologies advanced, the size and scale of mining operations increased. Eventually the Bingham Mine was developed, which has become the largest open-pit mine in the US. Although primarily considered a copper mine, millions of dollars in gold have been extracted from the ores.

Additional gold deposits are found all throughout the state of Utah. However, the gold occurrences found here are not as well-known or attractive to small-scale prospectors as many other surrounding states.

This is primarily due to the fact that the placer deposits are relatively sparse. Early miners worked areas along the Colorado River. In fact some of the better areas that were mined historically have been submerged by Lake Powell and are no longer accessible.

fine gold dust

There are still many areas along the Colorado River that will produce gold, but be aware that the gold is almost always extremely fine textured and can be difficult to capture and retain using standard mining methods.

The Tintic Mining District is another region that was extremely rich for both gold and silver, but nearly all of the gold was found locked within hard rock ores. Lead, zinc, copper, and a variety of other metals were also mined here. This was another of Utah’s more productive areas for mining.

Many other areas will produce gold in Utah, but be aware that the lodes are not necessarily associated with nearby placers as is often the case in many mining regions. Often areas that contain free milling gold will shed off coarse gold directly from the vein, producing nearby placer deposits. This is not always the case with Utah lode sources.

Many of these deposits require complex extraction methods that most small-scale gold miners do not have access to.

The average prospector is probably going to be more interested in the placers. Just be aware that gold in Utah is almost always small. Metal detectors will be ineffective here. Use methods that can capture the finest of gold particles. This is what is required to be successful here.

Gold Panning in Utah

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Updated: April 8, 2018 — 10:41 pm
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