Small scale gold prospecting is a very popular past-time these days. It can be a very lucrative undertaking but it can be a frustrating one at times too.
One of the biggest problems for small scale prospectors is stubborn black sand deposits that keep them from being able to maximize the profits on the gold they have found. This article will talk about this problem and possible solutions that will help any small scale prospector deal with black sand effectively.
What are black sand deposits?
Most small scale prospectors try to find their gold in streams that have a history of having it found in them. The age old technique of panning for gold is still the most common method of prospecting done but there are also those that use larger equipment such as sluices, dredges and drywashers. If the equipment is laid out correctly and then used properly, then these methods are great at separating the lighter materials out and capturing some gold if it is present in the gravel you are running.
These captured gold particles are generally very small in nature and usually will consist of gold flakes or gold dust.
The big problem is that after any of these gravity methods are used there will be a lot of other heavy materials that filter out along with the gold; these are commonly known among prospectors as ‘concentrates.’
If you are prospecting in a location that has been found to have gold, then most likely you will have some gold in the concentrate along with other trace materials such as ‘black sands’. Black sands are most typically made up of two types of crystalline iron oxides called magnetite and hematite. These black sands can pose a big problem when it comes to separating the gold from them.
Removing the small gold particles from the black sands
After a prospector has spent all that time and effort getting to this point in the process, they certainly don’t want to leave it up to chance to get all the gold out of the concentrate; many times if gold is present in the black sands it is hardly even visible to the naked eye.
There are many different ways that prospectors get the gold out of the black sands. Below are a few modern tools that can really help with the separation process. There are certainly other types of equipment out there, but these are definitely some of the more popular ones. These range from about a hundred dollars to several hundred dollars, but they will last a lifetime if cared for properly.
1. Blue Bowl Technique – This method of black sand gold separation actually works by using water in a similar fashion as a swirling toilet. It washes out the black sand and tends to keep the now cleaner gold at the bottom of the blue bowl. This is a really slick device, and is one of most popular tools out there. It does a great job and is reasonably priced.
2. Spiral Panning Wheels – these are an angled device that uses an exclusively designed motion to separate the black sand from the gold. They basically work like a gold pan, retaining fine gold with gravity and allowing lighter materials to wash out.
3. Gold Cube – These separate out the gold in a very similar fashion as the sluices that are used in the beginning of the prospecting (if that is a prospectors method of choice) but these use smaller ‘riffles’ than a normal sluice does and there is also a lot less water used in the process. These are a more costly than some other methods, but they really work well.
The equipment mentioned above is also popular for prospectors who search for gold in beach placers, where all of the gold is extremely fine.
Read: Step-by-Step Gold Panning Guide
And: How Cyanide Leaching is Used for Gold Mining
It is important to note that although the gold will be fairly clean after these processes there will still need to be some black sand picked out by hand or by using what is called a ‘rare earth magnet’ to make the process go much faster.
All of this will seem like a lot of work to any prospector, and it certainly can be, but these are very important steps that must all be done in order to capture the most gold possible and maximize the days profits if gold is indeed present in the stream.
The final step of separating fine gold from black sands will make a considerable difference in the amount of gold you retain, so make sure to experiment and perfect your process to ensure that you are capturing as much fine gold as possible.
Next: Putting Together a Crevicing Kit for Summertime Gold Prospecting