Gold Prospecting Basics

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1. Locating Gold


Basic Information

Name: Gold
Symbol: Au
Atomic Number: 79
Atomic Mass: 196.96655 amu
Melting Point: 1064.43 °C (1337.5801 K, 1947.9741 °F)
Boiling Point: 2807.0 °C (3080.15 K, 5084.6 °F)
Number of Protons/Electrons: 79
Number of Neutrons: 118
Classification: Transition Metal
Crystal Structure: Cubic
Density @ 293 K: 19.32 g/cm3
Color: Gold

Gold is heavy! Gold is 19 times heavier than anything else you will be likely to find in your pan. This is the key to locating and recovering the precious metal. Au, is the scientific symbol for Gold. Gold, silver and platinum were deposited as an intrusion by volcanic pressures into fissures in harder material such as granite. Gold is associated with quartz because the same geologic forces of heat and pressure are necessary to create both. Other indicators created by the same geologic factors would include orange to yellow colored stains in the rock created by iron and copper oxides. These oxides create what is known to prospectors world wide as "black sand", and being heavy, will be mixed in where you find the gold. Water and weathering erode the deposits and the gold being dense works it's way down to the lowest levels ultimately sitting on the bedrock. Look for places where the stream has cut down to the bedrock, Gold will find it's way down to an impenitratible level.

The Rocky Mountains have risen and been eroded down twice over geologic time. Glaciers eroding the mountain sides took the ore deposits and ground them up as they slowly slid down the valleys. These placer deposits have been historically the best place to find "free" or loose gold (placer). As the glaciers melted they dropped their burden of ore laden rock in pockets and streaks. The ore was further washed downstream by the glacier melt. These ancient river beds are known as aluvial deposits and can be identified by the round river rock.

As the present Rocky Mountains were uplifted the ancient river beds were "relocated" into mountain valleys and benches. These "new" mountains have been through the glaciation process as well and these ore bearing deposits are generally located in the same mineral belts. By sampling in likely spots along current day streams in the mineral belts where the flow has cut down to bedrock through the aluvial deposits the educated prospector can locate GOLD!

Naturally, this is only a very brief description of how the gold got to it's present location and what conditions to look for. We'll go into a lot more detail but, here are the basics look for:

1. The historic mineral belts in your area of interest. Remember that a lot of erosion has occured over the last 100 or so years.
2. Locations where streams and construction have exposed possible ore bearing deposits.
3. Locate cuts that go down to bedrock, look for round river rock up in the bank that has been exposed by the stream.

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