I found a prospecting entry today from the summer of 1997 that I’d like to post:
“Most of the prospecting I get to do is in the summer (up here in Canada) because that's when things thaw enough to get out and root around. Well, one summer in the Omineca region of British Columbia, I was working with some miners who were stripping a large placer cut in an area that had historically produced coarse gold in quantity.
They got down to bedrock and as they worked the excavation of the pit, the gold got better and better as they worked from the front (south) to the back (north) of the pit.
When things got real interesting (that is when nice nuggets and coarse gold were turning up in the sluice) they hit a massive series of what the local miners called drift mines (they described drift mining as tunneling from a lower elevation in relation to the pay-layer to allow for drainage from seepage). Once the old-timers hit the pay-layer, they worked back and forth following the good pay. It could be done underground all winter long and the stockpiled material was then processed in the Spring.
In fact, the entire back end of the pit had been roomed out (roomed is the term they used when the tunnels were so close together they went back and forth in a series of parallel tunnels literally taking all of the material from a pay layer, thus leaving a large underground pillared and lagged [wood that forms the roof of the room].
At any rate, the placer pit was now abandoned and scheduled to be refilled. They said I could poke around, but to stay out of the old drifts as they were dangerous. Well, that didn't take any convincing on my part. I have done a bunch of caving and rappelling but the tunnel works were there for well over a hundred years and the wet lumber had changed somehow and broke in chunks with the consistency of celery, nothing like wood at all.
As I poked around, there was seepage everywhere, and the lagging on the ceiling of the tunnels was all cracked and caving. In addition, the pit was rapidly filling with water from the front to the back where I wanted to prospect, so I didn't have much time.
The modern miners had displaced a bunch of the large upright pillars (large hand-hewn logs) with their machinery when they hit the drifts. I panned some of the material from the false bedrock and true bedrock they had scraped. There was a little gold, mostly small flakes. I reasoned that when the old-timers were putting in their pillars and posts they must have covered up some pay, even if it was a small amount.
As well, I knew from all the work they had done (extremely difficult manual labor) that the pay had to have been excellent; the modern pit had proven that as well.
So, I found a nice fat displaced pillar, levered it out of the socket with a large bar and carefully collected the material from around it and in the socket forming the bottom of the hole. I panned it out and man you should have seen the pickers!
I scratched around the base of another pillar but I couldn't move it out of its place and yet I still found some more coarse gold.
However, time was running out. The seepage was real bad and the upper bank material started to slough off from above, and let me tell you, when that starts to happen, it’s time to get out fast! All the gold in the world isn't worth a lick if you’re dead.
Standing above the bank I watched as the wet material oozed down into the pit which then collapsed the bank, with a slurping sound, down into the cut.
There would be no more getting the gold there anymore, it was kind of sad, but I had found out something truly valuable: anytime I come across old drift workings that are exposed by modern mining, if the conditions are safe, I'll happily gather the material from around those old pillars and pan it.”
I found out more about the type of gold some of that false bedrock (I mentioned earlier) was holding on another day, but that’s a story for a later time.
May you all find something golden to smile about, and all the best,