Alaska Gold Dredging Adventure 2013
2013 is a very big year for me. I have decided to retire from my day
job and for the immediate future focus on prospecting and writing. I
anticipated this for some time and have spent the last couple years
trying different things looking for my best options for getting gold.
I've decided for 2013 to focus on suction dredging for gold as my best
option. My partners
and I have ground up in the historic 40 Mile mining district of Alaska
on Jack Wade Creek. The creek has been mined for over 100 years so there
is no question there is gold there. The question is after all that
mining how much can I get there with a suction dredge?
I would not get all that excited over the prospects except for some
100 year type flooding that occurred the summer before last.
A lot of bank material which is composed of old tailings fell into and
was reconcentrated by the creek. The tailings are not full of gold by
any means, but the volume of gravel washed and reconcentrated was
considerable. Chances are there are some decent prospects in the area.
My last short trip in the fall was to drive up and look the creek over.
I decided the stretch of creek below will be the target for a dredging
operation in 2013. The long inside curve looks inviting and a stretch of
steeper, fast water just downstream will act as a good tailings dump.
Jack Wade Creek, Alaska
The gold in the area is heavy, thick, well worn stuff. Old gold
reconcentrated from ancient river channels. Here is a couple ounces I
found detecting in the area to give you an idea what the gold looks
like. The largest nugget is 17.6 pennyweight (20 pennyweight in a Troy
ounce). The stuff is deceptively heavy compared to the quartzy gold I am
used to finding and adds up fast. There is a chance we will get into a
good quantity of this stuff in deep pockets and crevices in bedrock that
got missed in previous mining.
40 Mile Gold found Metal Detecting
I am going to partner up with my brother and use a Keene 6218GHM 6"
dredge for the main operation. We will generally work split shifts but
double up if need be. Long daylight hours in Alaska means we can both
get a full days work in each day. Details on the dredge can be found at
I am going to rig it with 30 feet of suction hose and outriggers to
carry the extra forward weight of the motor and hose combo. The long
hose is not for going deep, it is to allow the dredge to stay in one
location while a large area is worked. We should be working well under
10 feet deep at most but that is another area a bit unanswered at the
moment. I am hoping maybe 6 feet to bedrock on average but that is
nothing more than an educated guess.
The 6218GHM comes with 20 feet of 6" suction hose. I ordered mine
with an additional 10 feet of SH6 6" hose. It is important to do this at
time of order to get one continuous piece of hose. It is possible to
attach two pieces of hose together with a thin steel sleeve (part number
SHC6) but this creates a clog point due to the sleeve catching and
flipping long flat rocks. It is something I will avoid if possible but
sometimes two pieces are preferable due to transportations issues, like
stuffing the hose in a Super Cub. There are also cases where it may be
desirable to have the flexibility of running 20 feet or 30 feet of hose,
so again a splicer is an option.
Keene 6218GHM 6" Dredge
The PFA5OK outrigger kit consists of two extra marlex pontoons and
frame extensions for side mounting the extra floats outboard of the
motors. I think I would prefer the floats inline and ahead of the main
float assembly as I am not sure I want to make the unit any wider. I
have never used the system though and it is all set to go as a kit so it
will probably get used as is. I can always modify it later if need be.
I expect we may get high water that keeps us from dredging at times
so I have also ordered a Keene 175X12 power sluice with extended 12 '
sluice and 3" dredge attachment. I intend on adding more suction hose
and a 3" HydroForce nozzle to vacuum shallow gold bearing gravel from an
exposed bench location on the claim. More on the power sluice here
The extra long sluice is not for gold recovery so much as getting
sufficient clearance for dumping tailings.
The power sluice motor and pump also serves double duty as a backup
unit for the 6" dredge. A 6" can run off a pair of the GX200 P180 pumps
that run the highbanker so if a GX270 on the 6" goes down for any reason
I can toss this on. Always good to have a backup pump if possible. I am
still considering whether to get a frame and float set for the power
sluice which would give us a floating 3" dredge for prospecting.
Keene 175X12 Power Sluice with 3" Dredge Attachment
I filed for the permits this summer while I was busy on other
projects so have all that taken care of already. This is federal land
and it took several months to get all my permits lined up due to heavy
case loads these days so plan in advance on this stuff. The main issue
was long term camping which took a bond in this particular case. The
days of just going out and camping long term on "public land" are over
and anything more than a couple weeks expect that you may need a permit.
So we will be mostly dredging, with some high banking, and also
breaks for detecting in the area depending on our mood and weather, etc.
We will start mid-June and run an open ended operation. If the gold is
good we just keep going until we get froze out but we will probably burn
out before then. It all really just depends on gold and weather more
I am starting pretty fresh equipment wise so will keep you all
informed as I go as to thought processes and costs just in case anyone
is actually thinking of doing something like this or at least just
curious. Old hat for me but not something I have done tons of for awhile
so a bit of a switch from detecting. I did get a couple solid weeks of
nozzle time on a 4" this summer just to get back in the swing of things.
That just made me miss a 6" more than anything. A 6" is a very good
production unit for a one or two person operation. Anything smaller I
use more for prospecting than mining. I considered an 8" for this
operation but decided on a 6" for more flexibility in the future. If the
summer pays well enough an 8" may be in the cards for down the road.
So far I am investing $6995 for the 6" and $2745 for the power
sluice. The SH6 hose is $20.00 a foot so ten extra feet runs $200.00 and
the PFA5OK outrigger kit is $450.00. In for over $10,000.00 so far and barely got started, but that is
a big chunk of it. That will probably go in on a 5 year depreciation
schedule though that is up to the accountant and new tax changes. I am
not going to count claim costs and permitting costs directly as I have
several partners in the claims so that all gets spread out over the
years we own the claims. The main immediate overhead in that regard will
be the 10% the partnership collects for claim expenses and cost
recovery. Since I am funding the operation I will probably take another
10% myself to cover wear and tear on equipment and fuel costs. My
brother and I will split the remaining 80%. All he needs to do is pony
up for travel costs, food, and his drysuit.
While I am on the subject let's talk business for a moment. My
prospecting is a for profit enterprise, one that has made me a
surprising amount of money over the years. As such I run it as a
business. I have a business license for Herschbach Enterprises and file
a schedule C yearly. It has been a going concern under a couple
different names for over 30 years now.
The key is to be serious about running things in a businesslike
fashion. I have a business checking account and keep my business
spending separate from my personal spending. I have been very low level
the last few years but now that I am ramping up in 2013 I am cleaning up
the books. I even went so far as to buy Quickbooks and am working on
getting everything plugged into that now. Since I am retiring from my
regular day job Herschbach Enterprises will now be my main source of
income so I need to keep it neat and tidy in case the IRS comes
It is something rarely discussed, I assume because most people do
this as a hobby. Even then if you do it right you can write off the
expenses against the profits, but you cannot show a loss. I rarely show
a loss myself though in a year where I make a lot of purchases and hold
back on gold sales it can happen. However, with the price of gold as
high as it is now it does not take much selling to end up showing a
profit. In any case, if you are someone who is actually finding any
quantity of gold it is something well worth learning about.
Business or Hobby?
Placer Mining Business
Kind of boring stuff but extremely important things that need to
thought about and planned for if you want to do it right. Needless to
say I am pretty excited about the coming summer though! Now I need to
start thinking about which drysuit I want to use. More to come so check
back from time to time for updates.