6 posts in this topic
By Steve Herschbach
Another question via email, with personal references removed. I prefer to answer these on the forum so everyone gets the benefit of the answer plus others can offer their opinions also.
"I am new to metal detecting and, your site here has really helped me out. I have a couple questions that maybe you can help me out with. What are some of the geologic indicators that you look for to determining where to prospect for nuggets? I try to study some of the geology maps but I could use some further pinpointing. I have also been looking at the National map of Surficial Mineralogy. Using the aster and minsat7 maps what are some of the indicators that may point you to higher gold bearing ground? Any help would be deeply appreciated.
Could you point me to some old places where you have found gold? I'm not asking to be shown active patches. Just areas that you feel are worked out. I just want to see what gold bearing ground looks like. This would help me to start to learn the commonalities and characteristics of gold bearing grounds.
Still looking for that first nugget! Thanks again for any info you can provide."
My method is much simpler than that. I basically look for gold where gold has been found before. Think of it like fishing. If you want to go catch salmon you have two options. You can go to where people have caught salmon before - pretty good odds here. Or you can go where nobody has ever caught a salmon before. Very poor odds!
So call it prospecting using history to determine where gold has been found before, and then getting as close as I can to those places. History and proximity. Finally, I may then employ geology to narrow that search in a given area if it turns out the gold is confined to certain rock types.
The first place I normally turn as a rough guide to any new location in the U.S. is:
Principal Gold Producing Districts Of The United States USGS Professional Paper 610 by A. H. Koschmann and M. H. Bergendahl - A description of the geology, mining history, and production of the major gold-mining districts in 21 states. This 1968 publication obviously lacks the latest production figures but it still is a great overview to where an individual prospector can look for gold in the United States. It is a 283 page pdf download so be patient. Pay particular attention to the listed references in the extensive bibliography for doing further research.
You can download this at http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/0610/report.pdf and find many more useful free books on this website at the Metal Detecting & Prospecting Library
So just for fun let's say I want to go look for gold in New Mexico. The section on New Mexico starts on page 200 and here is a quick summary of the opening paragraphs:
"The gold-producing districts of New Mexico are distributed in a northeastward-trending mineral belt of variable width that extends diagonally across the State, from Hidalgo County in the southwest corner to Colfax County along the north-central border. From 1848 through 1965 New Mexico is credited with a gold production of about 2,267,000 ounces; however, several million dollars worth of placer gold was mined prior to 1848. Mining in New Mexico began long before discoveries were made in any of the other Western States (Lindgren and others, 1910, p. 17-19; Jones, 1904, p. 8-20). The copper deposits at Santa Rita were known and mined late in the 18th century, and placer gold mining began as early as 1828 in the Ortiz Mountains south of Santa Fe. In 1839 placer deposits were discovered farther south along the foot of the San Pedro Mountains. The earliest lode mining, except the work at Santa Rita, dates back to 1833 when a gold-quartz vein was worked in the Ortiz Mountains. In 1865 placers and, soon afterward, quartz lodes were found in the White Mountains in Lincoln County; in 1866 placer deposits were discovered at Elizabethtown in Colfax County, and silver-lead deposits were discovered in the Magdalena Range in Socorro County. In 1877 placers and gold-quartz veins were found at Hillsboro, and in 1878 phenomenally rich silver ore was found at Lake Valley in Sierra County.
The mineral belt of New Mexico is in mountainous terrain that lies between the Colorado Plateau on the northwest and the Great Plains on the east. It is a zone of crustal disturbance in which the rocks were folded and faulted and intruded by stocks, dikes, and laccoliths of monzonitic rocks. Deposits of copper, lead, zinc, gold, and silver occur locally throughout this belt. Some deposits of copper and gold are Precambrian in age, but most of the ore deposits are associated with Upper Cretaceous or Tertiary intrusive rocks. The gold placers were probably derived from the weathering of these deposits. In later Tertiary time lavas spread out over wide areas of the State, and fissures within these rocks were later mineralized. These fissure veins are rich in gold and silver, but in most places they are relatively poor in base metals. In New Mexico, 17 districts in 13 counties yielded more than 10,000 ounces of gold each through 1957 (fig.19).
Figure 19 is a handy map showing us where you want to look in New Mexico and also where looking is probably a waste of time. Click for larger version.
The map shows what the text said "The mineral belt of New Mexico is in mountainous terrain that lies between the Colorado Plateau on the northwest and the Great Plains on the east." Sticking to this area is going to be your best bet. Based just on this map I see two areas of general interest - the central northern area, and the southwestern corner of the state.
The text mentions that placer deposits were discovered at Elizabethtown in Colfax County, and the map shows that as the Elizabethtown-Baldy mining district. Following along in the text we find this:
"The placer deposits along Grouse and Humbug Gulches, tributaries of Moreno Creek, each yielded more than $1 million in placer gold and silver. Another $2 million worth of placer gold and silver was recovered from the valleys of Moreno and Willow Creeks (Anderson, 1957, p. 38-39), and some gold also came from the gravels along Ute Creek. Graton (in Lindgren and others, 1910, p. 93) estimated the placer production of the Elizabethtown-Baldy district prior to 1904 at $2.5 million, and C. W. Henderson (in U. S. Bureau of Mines, 1929, pt. 1, p. 7 40) estimated the production through 1929 at about $3 million (145,138 ounces). The total placer production through 1959 was about 146,980 ounces."
The reference material from the passage above is in the back of the book and is where we can get real details. Google is our friend. This stuff used to take me lots of visits to libraries!
Anderson, E. C., 1957, The metal resources of New Mexico and their economic features through 1954: New Mexico Bur. Mines and Mineral Resources Bull. 39, 183 p.
Lindgren, Waldemar, Graton, L. C., and Gordon, C. H., 1910, The ore deposits of New Mexico: U.S. Geol. Survey Prof. Paper 68, 361 p.
Henderson, C. W., 1932, Gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc in New Mexico: U.S. Bur. Mines, Mineral Resources U.S., 1929, pt. 1, p. 729-759.
That is more than enough, but let's also Google placer gold new mexico
Lots of great links there, but two jump out:
Placer Gold Deposits of New Mexico 1972 USGS Bulletin 1348 by Maureen G. Johnson
Placer Gold Deposits in New Mexico by Virginia T. McLemore, New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources May 1994
Notice the source of the last one. Most states with much mining have a state agency involved that can be a good source of information and in this case it is the New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources.
That last one is a real gem and contains this passage:
"All known placer deposits in New Mexico occur in late Tertiary to Recent rocks and occur as alluvial-fan deposits, bench or terrace gravel deposits, river bars, stream deposits (alluvial deposits), or as residual placers formed directly on top of lode deposits typically derived from Proterozoic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary source rocks (eluvial deposits). During fluvial events, large volumes of sediment containing free gold and other particles are transported and deposited in relatively poorly sorted alluvial and stream deposits. The gold is concentrated by gravity in incised stream valleys and alluvial fans in deeply weathered highlands. Most placer gold deposits in New Mexico are found in streams or arroyos that drain gold-bearing lode deposits, typically as quartz veins. The lode deposits range in age from Proterozoic to Laramide to mid-Tertiary (Oligocene-Miocene) (Table 2). There are some alluvial deposits distal from any obvious source terrains (Table 2). Eluvial deposits are common in many districts; some of the larger deposits are in the Jicarilla district."
So now we have a lifetime of ideas on where to go and a basic idea of the geology. And an even better map! Click for larger version.
Let's look for specific site information.
1. Go to http://westernmininghistory.com/mines
2. Click on New Mexico Mines
3. Click on Colfax County Mines
4. Click on Elizabethtown - Baldy District
Here you will find basic site information, references, and a zoomable map with alternate satellite view.
An alternate site...
1. Go to https://thediggings.com/usa
2. Click on Browse All States
3. Click on New Mexico
4. Click on Browse All Counties
5. Click on Colfax
At this point note you can browse mining claim information or deposit information. Researching mining claims, land ownership, etc. is another topic but here is one source of mining claim location information. For now....
6. Click on Browse All Deposits or Use The Interactive Map
7. Click on Elizabeth - Baldy
A little more detail than the previous site, including this note "SOME FAIRLY COARSE NUGGETS IN WILLOW, UTE, SOUTH PONIL CREEKS, GROUSE AND HAMBURG GULCHES, MORENO RIVER"
1. Go to https://www.mindat.org/loc-3366.html
2. Way down at bottom click on New Mexico
3. Way down at bottom click on Colfax County
From here you can dig into all kinds of specific site information but the navigation is a real mess. Have fun!
Historic claim staking activity can be a clue. You can get the Big Picture by looking at Mine Claim Activity on Federal Lands for the period 1976 through 2010
OK, that really should have answered your question. As far as places I have been, they are nearly all in Alaska and can be found here
Now, I did all the above from scratch with no real prior information on New Mexico in about 2 hours. You can do the same for any state. However, finding where the gold is really is the easy part. The hardest part by far is finding out who controls the land and getting proper permission for access. In Alaska everything is covered by thick ground cover, so opportunities for metal detecting are strictly at creek level, and nearly always claimed. The process there is simple - find out who owns the claims and get permission for access. In most of the western U.S. there is far less or no ground cover, and so getting in the vicinity of and searching around or near mining claims without being on them is a far more viable option than in Alaska. Or you can try and get permission to access the properties. You still need to be able to track down property locations and owners however.
For private property I subscribe to and use OnXMaps for my PC, Google Earth, iPad, and iPhone. It quickly maps private property and gives you access to tax roll information about the owners.
Tracking down mining claims is easy in the big picture and harder in the details. The Diggings referenced before has interactive claims maps. I subscribe to Minecache for their Google Earth overlay. However, the most comprehensive source with the deepest repository of Land Ownership information is Land Matters. They have online claim mapping with direct links to claims owner information. Note that all online sources have a lag time between the actual staking of a claim on the ground and when it reaches the online systems, if ever. I say if ever because some claims exist solely at the county or state levels and there is no good way to find them short of visiting local recorder's offices or eyeballs on the ground.
Prior thread on finding claims information.
Finally, I am not an expert by any means. This is just how I go about it, but any tips, hints, advice, or information anyone is willing to share on this thread is very welcome!!
By Reno Chris
Prospecting can be profitable, but there is more than one way to make money in the prospecting game beyond just finding gold. Leasing out prospective claims to mining companies is a subject I have written about several times in the ICMJ and also in my book on prospecting. I know people who have made big money doing this - a lot more than this check. Its a serious effort to find claims mining companies want. Right now, the market to lease them off is not good.
I am publishing this check with critical areas blanked out for security reasons - it would be a waste try to copy it. I also greatly altered the colors of the check, the company who issued it is out of business and I am guessing there is no significant money that is left in their account. So all things considered, I figure its safe to show. As one can see from the date, the issue was two years ago in 2015. I'll get my 2017 payment in a few weeks from a different company.
By Clay Diggins
The Nevada BLM closed 8,195 claims between January 15th and February 1st. That's nearly 194,000 acres opened to location in two weeks. Most of those claims were held by the big mining companies - Kinross, Barrick. Some of these claims go back to 1893.
Of course you would already know that and have an individual map of each of those 8,195 claims section areas if you are a Claims Advantage Member.
This is an unusual number of closures in such a short period of time even for Nevada, the biggest mining State by far. Annual turnover in Nevada mining claims is about 20,000 claims so this could be just an unusually productive period for the Nevada BLM in updating their case files.
Why the big mining companies are dumping so many claims is a matter of speculation since I don't sit in on their board or management meetings. This may just be a blip in reporting. In any case I'll leave the speculation to others. Probably more important is where these closed claims are. That answer will probably produce a flurry of prospecting as soon as the weather permits.
Go get u sum
By Reno Chris
I am doing up a more detailed coverage of this for the ICMJ, but I want to post at least a little on this here:
I've gotten several contacts in the last month from folks who have bought claims through ebay or by other means over the internet. These are people who don't know much of anything about mining or claims or anything else. They make old weird beard on Gold Rush look like a know-it-all mining genius. They ask me for help in recovering the millions and millions of $$$$$$$$ they just know are on their claim. I've also been contacted by folks who have filed legitimate claims and had encounters with these folks who stake over their valid claims to sell them to the inexperienced.
Now don't get me wrong, it is totally legitimate to stake and then sell a mining claim. it's totally legal to stake a claim with the idea that you might sell or lease the claim to another person. No problem there. The problem is mis-leading your buyers with things that just really are not true. Leading your buyer to believe there is valuable ore on the claim when you have no sample data to show that is simply fraud.
What they sell is more like a dream than a business - the buyer thinks something like: ooooh! Owning my own mining claim sounds so dreamy....
Those of us who have been doing this for a while are less dreamy eyed and more practical about it.
I know most of the guys who regularly post have a reasonable level of experience. I post this to the new guys and those who lurk here to learn. Here are my iron clad rules about buying mining claims that you should always follow:
1. Take everything the seller says with a giant grain of salt - they want to make a sale and will tell you what you want to hear. Let the buyer beware!
2. Never buy a claim until you have the skills to go out and sample the claim and evaluate it for yourself. Until you have those skills, you have no business trying to buy a claim.
3. Never consider buying a claim until you have the knowledge needed to go out and stake your own claim independently and maintain it with the government in good standing. You will need this information to determine if the claim you are buying is valid or not.
4. Never, never buy a claim without first inspecting it on site and in person, and performing a full property evaluation for yourself as noted in No. 2 above.
Buying a claim is a business decision and should be made like a business decision, not made as a daydream to seek and hope for something good.