Another Happy Miner
By Charles P. Watson
I receive a lot of pleasure when consulting miners and prospectors on how to fi nd gold, but clearly the best reward is seeing their smiles when they fi nd it. After a long, hard day of work, with my body aching from places I didn’t think could ache, it is seeing the excitement on their faces when they hold their gold in their hand – that is my reward that I did a good job.
After more than 40 years of academic and professional experience, I have seen numerous gold-bearing properties throughout western North America. I have explored and mined in seven western states, in Mexico and the Caribbean, in Canada and Alaska. Every property is different, every miner unique, but there is a common thread that they are happy to be able to live off the land by mining gold.
My experience is extensive, from the mom and pop prospector to large, world-class mining operations, from the pick and shovel guy with a handmade sluice box, to giant Tonka trucks, excavators and processing plants that consume acres of gold-bearing ground every day. I have helped the ol’ prospector pan his bucket concentrates by the side of a remote mountain stream as wells as assisted the crew rip out the carpets of 40 foot-long production sluice box. I have seen 100-ounce clean-ups and the pouring of 99% pure gold bars weighing 12.4 kilograms (400 troy-ounces).
Yet, the absolutely best and most rewarding experience for me is watching young children swirl the last of the concentrates around in a pan, when there is that one last wave of water that uncovers the sprinkle of gold flakes at the edge of the pan, and then the squeal in their voices and the sparkle in their eyes as they look up at me, their faces beaming with excitement! They found gold!!
Being a professional exploration and mining geologist can be fun and exciting. It has just the right amount of office and fieldwork that is balanced with the thrill of discovery and the rush from accomplishing something very challenging. It is a romantic, “Indiana Jones” job that is really, really hard, laced with interesting characters and places, with thrills and dangers that would make most people cringe and others envious of the opportunities.
The physical challenges can often be great, requiring strength, endurance, and stamina, beyond everyday simple activities. We use terms like “Cheated death again!”, “Dodged another one!”, “Holy cow! Did you see that?” and simply “Run!!!” Yet, if everything comes together just right, if the research, the hard work, and the reading of the geologic clues, all line up… POOF! There it is – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Sometimes the consulting work is in beautiful places, like the remote mountains of the California Sierra, the lush forests of southwestern Oregon or the breathtaking high peaks of the Colorado Rockies. There is a place in northeastern Nevada where fields of wildflowers seem to roll endlessly to the horizon. And, I know that in the drainages between the hills are old, dried up-stream beds where nuggets the size of almonds can be found.
Sometimes the work is in very stressful conditions, like carrying a 50-pound pack of rock samples in the 120° F Arizona heat, or having your rental truck die while traveling on back roads of cartel-infested Mexico, or washing out a sluice box while braving the bitter cold winds of western Montana. It all blends into a blur of excitement, like a Disneyland E-Ticket ride.
The academic knowledge to understand how gold forms and where to find it both in the rocks and the river channels is extensive. It spans multi-disciplinary subjects like physics, chemistry, hydrology, engineering, and of course, geology. Other key topics include art, history, business, economics and sometimes politics, but more importantly, technical and creative writing. A professional geologist must be able to tell others, in a concise and educated way, just where is the gold and how much would be found. In essence, the professional geologist must be a good storyteller with a broad understanding of how the physical world works.
One of the perks of doing multi-day consulting geology jobs is the evening campfire where the good stories are told. The sounds of a crackling fire and sizzling meat on the grill, the feel of a comfortable chair or a sturdy rock, the brisk night air that carries the smoke and smells down the canyon, the immense sky filled with more stars that you would dare to count, and laughter from like-minded friends, partners and crew are memorable. The tales of the harrowing experiences throughout the day, the snake that almost lunged, the twisted ankle and the long walk back to the truck, the endless thicket of tall brush with thorns resembling cat claws, and of course, the rocks with that unbelievable mineralization and ribbons of free gold are unforgettable!
It is not just the gold, but the process of finding it that is the thrill. It is always better if I find it, and there are times when I don’t. Those can be challenging for me, as well as the client who had spent a boat-load of money on a hunch and my guidance. Remember, gold is a precious metal. It is valuable because it is rare. If everyone could find it, then it would not be precious. It takes a special passion to gather the clues given the physical conditions and make the discovery.
I was once on this little Caribbean volcanic island, hiking on a tiny animal trail on a narrow, knife-edge mountain ridge with my native Carib Indian guide. He said his tribe never comes up this far into the mountains, very dangerous. I paused to catch my breath and thought, “I am going where no man has gone before” and the Star Trek theme played in my head. A modern day explorer with a keen eye for gold. I wonder where the next adventure will take me?
Gold mining is not a new thing. It is something in our blood – something that we feel is right. Today’s miners are smarter than ever before. They have better tools to recover the precious metal and the wisdom to work with Mother Nature. Today’s miners are responsible citizens and reclamation is part of their mining process.
It is a thrill to find your first gold speck, flake or nugget. Once you do, you will be hooked forever. It is fun for the whole family and who knows, maybe, just maybe, if you are a wee bit lucky… you too, will jump for joy, click your heels, and shout “Eureka! I found it!”
Charles P. Watson is the chief geologist at Advanced Geologic Exploration,Inc. located in Chester, California.
He is an expert on gold exploration, mining, permitting, and a mining history buff as well. He can be reached at [email protected] or at www.advancedgeologic.com.
Advanced Geologic locates and sells high quality gold mining claims. They also provide superior mining and geologic consulting, and can assist you with all your mining and permitting needs. The gold rush is on! Contact them and claim your fortune!