Tag Archives: placer

This is gold mining..

“This is gold mining. You love ALL of it, or you love NONE of it!”  

These were my husband’s words to me when he noticed the color drain from my face as 14 thousand pounds of bulldozer came slamming down on the tilt trailer.  He was teasing, but he’s not wrong.

I absolutely love the spring. I love dreaming about what we might accomplish this year at the mine.  I love seeing the first leaves come out on the trees.  I love seeing how the river has changed.

I don’t particularly enjoy hauling all our equipment down winding mountain roads 70 miles from our home.  The price of getting to mine in the National Forest is that everything has to be removed at the end of the season, and staged again in the spring.  So we pay that price.



But we survived, we got all the equipment there. Then it was time to stage the trommel, muck out the settling pond, unroll the hoses.  Getting the level right on the sluice box and trommel is always an exercise in trial and error.  “Where is ____ tool?”  “Did you remember the ______ .”

There’s nothing like when that first water comes down the sluice box.  That’s when, in my mind anyway, it’s really mining season.

We got the water going, the only thing left to do was run some dirt.  We had our friend the welder make some plumbing changes to the trommel, and it seems like it’s really going to make a huge increase in our production.  The trommel processed the material as fast as I could feed it.  I never once had to use my trusty 2×4 to push a rock through the hopper, or get off the excavator to undo a jam.

We decided to call it for the evening. We enjoyed the first campfire of the year.

The next morning, we loose the pump seal, and everything stops.

I don’t care how big your mining operation is, how shiny and new your equipment, it can still come to a grinding halt over something as simple as an o-ring.  And so it did.

This is gold mining.

And I love it.



Let’s get some SCIENCE up in here!

Here’s hoping all of you had a great Independence Day or Canada Day!

Big stuff happening at the mine.  I may have mentioned that we were looking into getting a magnetometer survey done.  We just finished it up and are looking forward to the results.

Just in case you don’t know, basically a magnetometer survey will show us where there are concentrations of black sand, and where there’s black sand, there is usually…..GOLD.

We have 160 acres of claims, we realized that we could spend the next 30 years digging test holes and never find the best stuff.  Also because of the terrain and the Forest Service regulations we can’t have a drilling program.  The magnetometer was our best bet.  Now, to find someone to do it!

Turned out that most companies were not really interested in a small job like ours, they would either not answer me at all or set the price so high that it was unrealistic.  Then, I ran across an article about Pioneer Exploration out of Canada being the first outfit to do a Magnetometer Survey with a Drone system that they designed themselves.  I figured a place like that wouldn’t give me the time of day; but their founder, Micheal Burns, wrote me right back, and on a Sunday no-less. They gave us a reasonable quote, and we set a date.

It was decided that the best way to do the survey was on foot with a backpack magnetometer.

Michael Burns getting geared up

Michael Burns getting geared up












These guys walked a 20 meter spaced grid over the entire 160 acres through some of the of the most unforgiving terrain imaginable.   They got stung by hornets, had to repel across the creek, walked straight up and down in some places, and had no bear protection whatsoever.  They were supposed to take seven days to do it. They did it in four.

As you can tell, we are thrilled to have found these guys!  I can’t wait to see the data they come up with.



Its almost done…

Leaves are starting to turn yellow, and there’s termination dust on the mountains.  We are trying to use up the last of the season while the gold is so good, we are getting better returns than we have ever gotten.  One day has yielded what two or three days of running normally give us.  No more big nuggets but we are hopeful that guy has a big brother still hanging out in there!  We are hopeful for a change in the weather, but we probably have a week left in the season.  Oh well the gold will be there in the spring.

In the meantime we are stockpiling this stuff up for you guys!

The Fix

We had visitors while we were at home trying to fix our broken tractor.  This was found down by the river were we pump water.

You will remember in our last update we decided to go home and try to fix the tractor. Our normal welder extraordinaire is out of state, but we gave it a go anyway.  We couldn’t have been happier with the result.

broken piecefixingfinished

We felt there just may have been time to save the last day this week of mining.  We rushed right back up to the claim and got to work.  We managed to get the paydirt we had stockpiled run and got a little gold to show for it.  On the way home, we almost hit a brown bear with our truck.  The sow bolted right out in front of us and the cub right behind our bumper.  Wonder if it was the same bear that visited?

A few days ago we won an auction for a little skid steer bobcat that we are hoping may be able to take over for this poor old Kubota.  It needs work, but we won it for the unbelievable price of 5600 from a local oilfield surplus company.  We may have much less down time next season.

Going back up next week to mine some more, stay tuned.


The End of the Rainbow

Fall is in the air.  The kid is back in school.  With grandma watching the kid for the week, we decided to work like dogs and try to squeeze as much out what was left of the season as we could.  We spotted this rainbow, unfortunately, the end is located on a neighboring claim, but hey, gold washes downstream right?

We decided to try a little experiment.  Normally, we clean out the sluice every time we stop the pump, for lunch, or for the night.  Since we were working with a reduced crew, we decided to leave the sluice alone for a few days.  Normally, we see nothing on top of the mats when we stop, but after a few days, we started to see some color.  The yellow matting we use is discarded pipeline insulation material, works great for miners moss.  However its hard to see the gold since it is the same color as the mat.  Look closely, the gold is slightly more orange.

gold in sluiceEverything was going great, equipment working fine, gold in the sluice.  We had uncovered some large rocks in the dig site, always a good sign.  We were disappointed in the rainy weather, but with a full set of rain gear on, we managed to stay warm.  Then minutes into the last run on the second day, we heard a loud   “snap” from the little Kubota tractor we use for loading the trommel.  We had broken the loader for what seemed like the 100th time this year.  This is a great tractor, but not really built for what we are asking it to do.

broken kubota










Resigned, we cleaned the sluice.  We ran the cons though the mini highbanker.  There was so much black sand and the entire black mat was covered with gold.  At this point we were navigating by flashlight, so held the panning until daylight and toasted the end of our season by the light of the fire.  We got somewhat toasted ourselves I might add…


The next morning we panned the concentrates and were pleased by the results.  We called around trying to locate a replacement loader, but Alaska is a hard place to find parts, especially for an early 90’s model Kubota.  We decided to head for home and see if we could fix it ourselves and maybe salvage a day or two of the week.