Tag Archives: Trommel

Somehow the gold isn’t all

First thing’s first.  I want to apologize for the lateness of this post.  We’ve been packed up for the season for sometime now, and knowing this was going to be the final post of the year, I wanted to put a positive spin on it.  I wanted something other than “well that sucked, and now its over.”  I wanted to tell you guys that we did eventually find the source of the great gold we were getting at the bottom of the cliff face, and show you photos of the sluice box and pans just piled with gold.

Yesterday, when reading my favorite poem, the ‘Spell of the Yukon’ by Robert Service,  I came across the following:

I wanted the gold, and I sought it; 
   I scrabbled and mucked like a slave. 
Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it; 
   I hurled my youth into a grave. 
I wanted the gold, and I got it— 
   Came out with a fortune last fall,—  
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it, 
   And somehow the gold isn’t all. 
I realized that this IS part of gold mining, and you guys would understand.
It’s not the GOLD that matters, it’s the STORY that does.  So here it goes.
Well that sucked, and now it’s over.
We continued to search for the source of the gold we’d found.  We studied maps, built roads, and dug test holes.  The rain that plagued us almost this entire season doubled down for the end of the summer, and we found ourselves spending most of our time getting stuck, getting unstuck, or repairing roads.
In one particular stroke of bad luck, a fallen tree got caught up in the track of the dozer, and got pushed right through the window of our new excavator parked nearby.  As I drove up on a four wheeler, I found my husband with his head in in hands.  He said, “it’s so hard not to get discouraged.”
It gets worse.  The next day, guess who came to visit?  Why, the friendly neighborhood MSHA inspector (mining safety and health administration), and this is what he saw.
 
For those of you that aren’t miners, you don’t know the fear that these four letters strike in the hearts of small miners.  While MSHA’s purpose is valid and honorable, mining safety laws are written for multi-million dollar operations, are up to the interpretation of the inspector, and are very subjective and difficult to understand.  As a small operator, compliance is almost impossible.
We lucked out. We got an inspector who was a pretty decent fellow; no tickets, but a laundry list of things to fix.
It was maybe a week later, my husband and I in the woods, in the rain, using a come-along and a tree to try to get the track back on the excavator, that’s when I knew we were done.  We had run out of steam, and it was time to call it for the season.
I don’t know what next season holds, we are too exhausted right now to make any plans.   While we settle in for the long winter, I’ll leave you with the last passage of that same poem.  Until next season!  God Bless.
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting; 
   It’s luring me on as of old; 
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting 
   So much as just finding the gold. 
It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder, 
   It’s the forests where silence has lease; 
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder, 
   It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

looking for the source

In the last post I explained that while our new spot ended up having spectacular gold, but we soon learned that we were only getting material brought down by small springs over the top of a bedrock cliff.

For the last few weeks we’ve been working on finding the source of that gold on the ridge up above.  In the National Forest, we’re not allowed to simply blaze new trails whenever we feel like it.  We have to work our way through the forest, with as little damage as possible, dig test holes, then go back and apply for permits to build more trail.  Sounds simple enough? Its not. The forest is thick here, so thick you cant even really see what lies ahead of you until you get right up on it.

But we have been trying.  We spent part of a day stuck on a tree where the excavator slid sideways and pinned the tree between the track and blade.  We couldn’t cut the tree, we had to winch the excavator off by hand.

With the wash plant sitting idle, we have been digging holes, getting bucket samples, fill the hole in, and rinse-repeat.  Tedious and frustrating.  The crew’s morale has been low.  We even spent part of a day sneaking into our old dig site and running some of that dirt, just so we could remember what gold looks like.

 

 

I’m sure you are wondering, if there is still gold there, why are we spending time digging test holes?  It’s because we are almost out of paydirt in that spot, we need to identify a new dig site if we are going to continue mining, and we only have one summer to do it.  We can’t do both.

What makes matters worse is just digging a bucket sample isn’t enough.  We’re digging into ancient river benches, just because you dig one hole, doesn’t mean you’ve found the correct spot in the river channel.  You could be digging in the wrong side of a curve, or where the water was too fast to collect gold, or miss the channel completely by a few feet.

We’ve found a spot that we do have access to where the gravel looks good.  Its 100 feet away from the hot spot identified on the magnetometer survey, but we thought it was worth running a few yards through the trommel to see what happens when we get into the bench.  The returns so far have been disappointing, but seem to be improving as we get further into the formation.  Summer is waning, the kid will have to go back to school soon, but all we can do is keep trying.  Gold is where you find it after all.

Once more

 Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more – William Shakespeare

After an agonizingly late spring, we finally got the mine back up and running.  And we’re finding GOLD!

Earlier this year, we made a promise to ourselves to not let things like breakdowns get us down this season.  First of all, it doesn’t make any difference, if your broke down – you’re broke down- attitude has nothing to do with it.  Also, we wanted to get back some of that feeling that made us become gold miners in the first place. We’re in God’s country, with the people we love, doing what we love – what’s there to feel bad about?

In the last post I mentioned that we lost the seal in our main water pump.  After hours of international calls, and finding out there’s a three week window to get the 200 dollar set of o-rings (highway robbery); we did the only sensible thing – we bought a brand new Honda water pump!  We should have done this years ago – water came FIRING out of the end of the trommel, we had to adjust the level.  Now as a result – we’re able to run a lot more dirt.  And we all know what that means….

Spring came in with a vengeance – I swear I could actually hear the plants growing.  Frosty nights turned into 70-80 degree days.  We even had to take a break and find some water for our crew to cool off in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turns out we did have a little break down, we lost a hose on the backhoe.  We used the time to do some dental work on the excavator.  It looks much better with all its teeth

 

 

 

 

 

 

After running the trommel for a while we did a clean out.  We were happy with the amount of fine gold and black sand we were getting.  So we ran a little more.

 

 

 

 

 

After a few days of running, the carpets had visible gold in them.

 

Since Christmas we’ve been waiting to try out the mini trommel that Santa brought the crew from our friends at Gold Fox USA.  We were very pleased with how fast it was to run the concentrates from the sluice box, and how much gold it trapped.  I’ll do a video for you guys once we get it a little better figured out.

 

 

 

All in all, a good few days at the mine.  It’s almost time to start clearing our new hot spot that was identified on the magnetometer survey we had last year.  We’re almost out of dirt in our current spot, and now that we have everything else dialed in so well – I can’t wait to see what’s in there!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

To Everything..

To everything there is a season.

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We’ve been forced to admit that we’ve reached the end of this mining season.  The cold has caught up with us, and while we can work through numb fingers and toes, the equipment can’t handle the freeze.

flat tire

Our decision was helped by the event of getting two flat tires on the dump truck in as many days, we seem to be spending more time repairing equipment than running it.  We got a very short run, but managed to get just a little more gold out of the ground before it froze.

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Unlike other mining operations, we have to clear everything out when we’re done for the season.  This year we decided to use water to dig out the trommel instead of our backs, and it worked pretty well.  I don’t know why we didn’t consider it before.

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Hoses rolled up, camp broken down, and now its time for the long parade of trips to bring the bigger stuff home for the winter.

Its hard for me this time of year, though at this point I’m almost too exhausted to be sad.  I won’t deny that I look forward to long showers, warm wood stoves, and catching up on all the movies I haven’t seen.  Also, I get to dream about new digsite we hope to explore next year.  It doesn’t look like much, but if the results of our magnetometer survey and bulk testing are any indication, this might mean our next season could be the best yet.  We’ve got a lot of planning to do.

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We gave it everything we had this year, then we reached down and found more to give.

Thanks for following along with us.

end of season party