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A Word Or Two (actually Much More) On Gold Mining Trommels, Exploration, & Gold Mining


GhostMiner

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   From time to time I like to take things back to reality and talk about what I love - mining & exploration with the emphasis on exploration. I know this is a metal detecting and prospecting site but exploration using heavy equipment could qualify as prospecting on a larger scale. Maybe there are some people out there who have an interest in scaling up their efforts. So I thought i'd share what I have learned from 11 yrs of work on mining claims. 

   I have used several trommels. One was a large home made job that processed about 40 cubic yds of gravel per hour. The last two I used were a Gold Claimer Pioneer 30 & a brand new Heckler Fabrication 2410V. The Pioneer 30 was very easy to use and did it's job withot any real issues even though it was an older unit. The sluice box was very easy to set up. After we constructed a pad to set it on we had it ready for water in less than two hours. It is towable as it comes mounted on an off road trailer. Very mobile and I liked it. It is rated for 15 - 30 yards/hr. We never processed more than the lower end of the range. One thing I have learned about the yardage ratings on most trommels is to cut them in half and if you know that going in you won't be disappointed.

   The Heckler Fabrication trommel was a beast. Everything on it is heavy duty. It is also mounted on a triler. The 2410V gives you a shaker hopper / feeder as well as the trommel. It is built to last but we had a few issues with jam ups as material entered the trommel from the shaker. it required us to keep a man on the back end dedicated to watching for rock & gravel jam ups because if you don't catch them quickly be prepared for an hour or more of shoveling out the hopper & sometimes even crawling into the barrel with a hammer. Not fun as the barrel is tight. Once again the rated yardage was about double what we achieved which was around 14 yards/hr. The yardage of each trommel matches up pretty close but the Heckler is cheaper and gives you a shaker if you buy the V series. The capture was better on the heckler. I think this was due to the shaker which had a pre-wash and a superior sluice box. Speaking of the sluice box on the heckler, it's a royal pain to set up. It has a short rubber sleeve that the box attaches to and a lousy hose clamp to hold it in place. Forget it. It wouldn't  hold and it is very hard to get the box level while keeping the stubby rubber sleeve attached. We ended up chaining it in place. The first time we set up the Heckler it took an entire day because of the sluice box which drove us crazy and caused tempers to flare.

   The other lesson i learned about the mining aspect of trommels as opposed to exploration is that more yardage is almost always better. If your digging with a mid sized excavator and loading with a skid steer you are very capable of processing 30 - 50 cubic yards of pay gravel per hour. Skid steers work really good as pay loaders. They are fast and much cheaper to operate than a loader. If you're going over the 50 yard per hour range you may need to go to a loader. So it becomes very frustrating when you limit yourself to a 15 yard per hour trommel. When we processed gravels on one of our good locations we had to pump water nearly 2000 ft across a mountain. We used two three inch pumps in series to get enough lift to get over a 100 ft rise. One pump couldn't do it. Things never go as expected and it's rare to run all day withou stopping for something giving you an issue. Our last test run was at a location where hydraulic mining had stopped in 1860 & we were the first ones back in. We were able to run 50 - 60 yards per day and were averaging about an ounce a day. That's with a 15 yard per hour trommel. So you can do the math on a larger trommel. We leased that project out to a group in Nevada.

   Anyway, that's a little bit of what I have learned over the years. Living off grid on a mining claim & making gold is a feeling like no other. I think they call it freedom.

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In this example we were actually runnubg the Heckler 2410V and feeding it with a custom built Gold Claimer hopper feeder to keep a staedy feed pace. 

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Here is an example of the Gold Claimer Pioneer 30 with a shaker hopper feeder. If I were mining full time I would want a larger trommel able to process more yardage.

http://www.goldclaimerbrand.com/Pioneer30Shaker.html

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This would be a good size trommel to match up with a mid sized excavator and skid steer being used as a feeder. You could count on 35 - 40 yds per hour production. 

https://www.savonaequipment.com/en/new-savona-equipment-st70-trommel-p111383

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   So another question people ask is what does it cost to go mining. That is pretty open ended and dependant on scale of an operation. Up in northern California you can rent a new or nearly new mid size excavator & skid steer for around $10K / month. You'll need some good pumps and water line. Lay flat is fairly cheap and will do the job well. You'll need a generator. The other item is the wash plant/trommel. Buying a new one is expensive. For a 15 yard trommel you'll pay around $40 - $50K. They go up from there. I wouldn't waste money on a 15 yard an hour trommel because it's not enough processing capacity to make money and you aren't utilizing your other equipment's capability. You may be able to do a deal for gold or rent one. If you're flush with cash or have great credit you could just go out and buy a larger trommel. Plan on spending over $100K. Or, find a good used trommel somewhere or make your own.

   If you've got ground that pays an ounce per 100 yds & you process 300 yds/day that comes out to 3 ounces of gold a day. You'll need a minimum of 2 people but most likely 4 or 5 people. A good mechanic is an absolute must because they are the most important person on a mine. If you are a good mechanic then you already have a jump on the process. Also, you must have a welder on site as well. Usually the mechanic & welder are the same guy. Then subtract other expenses such as payroll unless everyone works for gold and also fuel. That's why a 15 yard per hour trommel isn't enough. It would barely pay the bills.

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   How risky is gold mining? That depends. You should have lots of info on a claim before you start mining. Hopefully you know the history of what has happebed there in the past. Who mined there previously? How did they do? Why did they leave? Then comes the exploration phase. I wouldn't commit to a mining project unless you have prospected the likely ground. By hand & hopefully with heavy equipment. Bulk samples. I prefer trenching. Possibly 20 - 50 yards at each trench and moving across a possible permit area. Then crunch the numbers. keep all emotion out of it & never fall in love with a property. I once personally witness a guy lose $300K in one short season because he didn't do his homework and relied on info from someone selling the claim. Nothing wrong with getting info from a claim owner but do independant research as well. And TEST THE CLAIM BEFORE MAKING A COMMITMENT. There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule.

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3 hours ago, GhostMiner said:

In this example we were actually runnubg the Heckler 2410V and feeding it with a custom built Gold Claimer hopper feeder to keep a staedy feed pace. 

IMG_5741.jpg

IMG_5740.jpg

IMG_5739.jpg

beatup, I have not heard from you in quite awhile. 

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I have been out out the backhoe most of the summer fixing our ditch triing to keep the irrigation water running ,110 year old ditches take almost as much work as you are putting in mining

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1 minute ago, beatup said:

I have been out out the backhoe most of the summer fixing our ditch triing to keep the irrigation water running ,110 year old ditches take almost as much work as you are putting in mining

Sounds like a good project for sure.

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It,s a project don't know if it was good , i was up in the mountains today at the reservoir and shut the water off for the season ,so now i can start more work this october , new liner in one spot and several more outside corners to rebuild and then off metal detecting this winter.

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