Last time, I kind of left you all wondering what kind of gold we were getting at our new spot. Let me share with you what happened, and it’s nothing like I was expecting when I wrote the last post.
We started digging into the bottom of the hill at the new spot. Once we got the mudslide problem handled, we were able to start processing the material. The returns were good. Really, really good. The gold was bigger, and there was more of it. We calculated the yield at more than 50 dollars a yard. For those of you not in the mining business, to put this into perspective, consider that most commercial operations look material at least 15 dollars a yard to be considered profitable. We were on top of the world, after 7 years, it looked like we had finally found what we had been searching for. We bought an excavator. We started filling in our old dig.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until we hit a wall, both literally and figuratively.
As we dug into the hill, we started to expose rotten slate bedrock. This is not always a bad thing, sometimes the gold will work it’s way down into the cracks of the rock. We even found a quartz vein in the wall; when we crushed the pieces and panned them there was gold in the pan. However, more dirt we ran, the bigger that wall got in front of us, and the worse our cleanouts got worse. The wall was now taller than the reach of the excavator.
We stopped and spent a day testing buckets all the types of material we were seeing to try to see where the gold was coming from. The tests showed that the gold was coming from the dirt on the top of the wall. Our returns were good because we were digging in the stuff that had sloughed off from the top. Somehow, we had to get on top of it.
If I haven’t described the new spot to you, its a steep valley where multiple little springs run down from the top of the canyon wall. These springs bring down tons of soil and rotten vegetation, and it’s sopping wet. We spent a day trying to work our way up the hill, it only resulted in us pulling the track off the excavator and spending the rest of the day trying to put it back on in the mud.
We considered building some sort of ramp, but it would take weeks to haul the material to build it, and it would extend almost to the river. Once we got up there, there would still be no way to maneuver.
I wish I could tell you that we figured it out, but we haven’t yet. We DO know that there is probably only one way to do it. We have to go back down the trail about a 1/4 mile and try to work our way up to the top of the valley through the woods. In the National Forest, we are not simply allowed to drop the blade on the dozer and create trails wherever we need them. It takes permits, time, and money to get approval for that kind of thing. We will have to weave our way through the trees as we are not approved to cut them. If you’ve never walked through the forest in Alaska, you might not know that very rarely do you find that you can easily walk through the forest, there is usually a pretty thick underbrush. if its hard to walk, imagine what it’s like to drive a tractor.
I’m home with internet to write you this because we had to make a trip back to town to get the new excavator welded. The thumb on the excavator broke off along an old weld and it was more than we could fix in the field.
The plan is to attempt to get to the top this week, do some testing to see if we can find the source of that good gold, and then if we find it try to figure out how to get it down for processing.
I wish I could leave you with my usual optimism, but it’s hard to find right now. We know there’s gold there, we are just not sure we are going to be able to reach it. It’s starting to get dark in the evenings, its almost the end of July, and there’s no going back to our old spot at this point.
Incredibly frustrating, but that’s gold mining for you.