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.
Everything 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.
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.