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  • Writer's pictureLori Dee

Where to find GOLD

If your search for gold is so that you can get rich, you are probably going to be disappointed. Of all the miners that went searching for their fortune during the big gold rushes in America, very few of them became rich. The people who got rich were the merchants who sold gold pans, shovels, and mining picks. After a rich strike at the mines, the casinos, brothels, and bars got rich. Most gold miners ended up broke. The people who want to get rich set up big mining operations. For us small mine operators and amateurs, we do it for the thrill of the hunt. It is a lot of work, and it is a lot of fun. I do not invest a lot of money in prospecting. There is no need to. But it is hard work, and that is why gold is worth over $2,000 per ounce. "If it was easy, then everyone would do it." I have no expectations of becoming rich, so I can't be disappointed. According to the United States Geological Survey, "about 244,000 metric tons of gold have been discovered to date ... Most of that gold has come from just three countries: China, Australia, and South Africa. The United States ranked fourth in gold production in 2016. All the gold discovered thus far would fit in a cube that is 28 meters wide on every side." You could fit 90 of those cubes inside one Olympic-sized swimming pool. That is not a lot of gold for an entire planet. Just think of how much more is still out there! Gold is heavy. It is 19.88 times heavier than water and twice as heavy as lead. A one-gallon jug of milk weighs about 8 pounds. That same jug full of gold would weigh 160 pounds. Gold is a very soft metal. It can be hammered so thin that it becomes transparent. Gold is highly reflective. NASA uses thin gold on helmet visors to protect astronauts from the sun.

NASA helmet

So where do we find gold?

There is an oft-quoted phrase that "gold is where you find it". I hate that phrase. It is not helpful in the least. The best place to look for gold is where gold has been found in the past. Why is that? Because the chances of you wandering around and accidentally finding the Mother Lode are both slim and none. Large corporations spend a lot of money using high-tech equipment and highly skilled geologists to find the next big strike. Let them spend their money. There is no reason for you to. Remember, the old-time miners already did all the exploring for you. They knew how to find gold. So go where they found it. The first thing you need to do is find out if gold has ever been discovered in your area of interest. You can find that information just by doing an internet search. Every state has a State Geologist, and their website will usually have information about minerals and gems found in your state. While doing your research, be sure to check local mining laws. You need to familiarize yourself with prospecting and mining laws in your state because they are different in each state. Some require special permits to operate equipment like dredges and high bankers. When researching places to prospect, read geology reports, mining reports, mining journals, geology maps, and even old newspapers. Geology maps can be hard to read, but once you learn how they can show you EXACTLY where gold has been found. I would also recommend downloading the desktop version of Google Earth Pro and installing it on your computer. The aerial imagery of Google Earth helps you visualize the area you want to go to. Then head over to and subscribe. MineCache is a .kmz file that works as an overlay in Google Earth. The data comes from the Bureau of Land Management's database of gold mining claims. It includes historic claims, active claims, and closed claims. They have a seven-day free trial and then an annual subscription costs just $34.95. The file is updated every month and is an invaluable research tool. Let's assume you have your area picked out. You have verified that there are no active claims on that land and it is not private property. You did check, didn't you? If it is private property, see if the owner will allow prospecting on their land. Some will allow it. Some might want a cut of whatever you find. Some will tell you to "Get off my lawn!" Get permission in writing. Never assume anything. If you are out on the land and looking it over, where do you start looking? When you understand the process of how gold gets to where you find it, then you will know where to look. Let's look at how gold gets to where it is. Gold is a metal that is formed deep in the Earth. Through various geological processes, molten rock is forced upward. Any cracks in the rocks above get filled with this molten rock. As the rock cools, it leaves veins of minerals in those cracks. If gold was there, then a gold vein would be left behind. Sometimes these cracks get filled with hot water that boils up from the depths, and that water leaves minerals behind. Those minerals can contain gold too.

Gold vein and quartz vein in host rock.

Finding a vein of gold like this is the dream of every prospector. This type of deposit is called a lode. (Pronounced like "LOAD"). When you have many of these all in one area, that is called a Mother Lode. The rock with this lode deposit is usually below ground where it can't be seen. But over time, the mountain begins to erode. Wind, rain, and snow wear it down until the rock becomes exposed. Cracks in the rock fill with rainwater or melted snow, which then freezes during cold weather. Ice expands as it freezes, working like a wedge, which opens the crack wider. This allows more water in, which freezes and opens the crack still more. Eventually, that piece of rock breaks loose and falls to the ground. When you have several rocks that have fallen in one area, that is called a Residual Placer. Placer (pronounced "PLASSER") is the term to describe a gold deposit that is not in the host rock.

Gold ore in quartz

As erosion continues, these rocks begin working their way downhill. As they roll, and smash into other rocks and things, pieces break off. Remember that gold is very soft. So the host rock will tend to break off, but the gold will flatten. Eventually, the edges of the gold become more rounded and most of the host rock will break away, leaving a nice nugget of gold.

Gold nugget

Continuing the process, our gold nuggets continue downhill and continue getting beaten and smashed, making them smaller. When they get to the bottom of the hill and into a river bed, other rocks tumbling downstream start pounding the rounder nuggets into flat flakes. This process continues, and the flakes get smaller and flatter the further they go downstream.

When looking for gold, we want to look in stream beds and gullies because that is where the gold is concentrated. If you find small gold flakes in the stream, start working your way upstream. That gold washed down from somewhere. The closer you get to the lode, the gold will be bigger and rounder and may have sharper edges. It may not be close by. The gold you find now may have traveled for miles to get there. Just keep collecting what you find as you head upstream. If you get to a point where the gold seems to have stopped, and you aren't finding it, start looking on either bank of the valley. You may have found where it is coming down the hill. If you find it again, just follow the pay streak uphill. With a lot of luck, you might just find the lode that is the source. Good Luck!


All content Copyright 2021- 2024 - Lori Dee



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