Prospecting Mine Tailings

Prospecting Mine Tailings is an excellent way to recover gold that the old timer pacer and lode miners missed. Without a doubt its not always easy to know which tailings will be worth the effort. Thus, research and sampling are the keys. I link to this sampling article for mindset, not necessarily technique. And there are both placer gold and lode gold tailings. In Alaska and other areas placer mining was often performed with huge wet gold recovery dredges and in the Southwest U.S. there were even a few large dry land dredges.

Both types of operations left huge placer gold tailings piles. In this article we’re going to talk about lode gold mine and small dig talings that you can prospect. The holy grail of high grade lode gold tailings and digs are hand cobbled and sometimes from Pocket Gold Hunters.

Prospecting Mine Tailings using a Keene RC1 Pilot Mill (G-Force Rock Crusher).
Prospecting Mine Tailings using a Keene RC1 Pilot Mill (G-Force Rock Crusher).

Hand Cobbled means the the old time prospectors looked at the chunks of ore they dug out and if they did not see gold and the weight was not unusual for the its size, the chuck of ore became discarded. Yeah, that’s what really happened. Fortunately we have modern technology and metal detectors. Hand cobbled mines often have chunky ore laying about and what was thought to be good for “seconds” (later processing) was set aside in separate piles from the main talings.

Unless they have been worked by others the old hand cobbled gold digs and prospects show little or no sign of mechanized equipment being used. If you see old equipment, detect metal balls (used in ball mills) concrete slabs, square nuts and bolts its likely you’re not the first to the pile of gold mine tailings. But don’t despair, rather, persist and detect.

Persistence with Mine Tailings

The picture here shows my good friend Las using a Keene RC1 Pilot Mill (G-Force Rock Crusher) while Prospecting Mine Tailings. These small pilot mills can run several tons of talings in a day but you’ll need to sample before getting this involved. A simple inexpensive crusher can be made from a fence post driver and a heavy steel cylinder or bar. The easy way to use these is with a string, don’t beat your hands up smashing potential gold ore. This video is a great example and keep in mind as you sample you also want to learn what host rock the gold was with, its not always quartz. Don’t stop at the video tho there is more to read below.

You can build a similar type crusher to the Keene G-Force with an old lawn mover engine and a reinforced steel drum. I don’t have plans to share but I’ve seen them. But the Keene is a great unit and I recommend it. If you buy one learn to use it. Ask questions from the owner or Keene and learn how many passes it takes to “power the rock”. Not all rock fractures and powders equally so some quart/rock needs only one pass to powder others, several passes. Do it right the first time to get the gold. And pre-screen your material. I like to use 1 inch chicken wire over the hopper as a pre-screen method. These pilot mills are not easy to transport so do plenty of sampling before you invest to even think about taking one off road.

Explore and Find More – Prospecting Mine Tailings

Gold Detecting Tailings Piles. Gold recovered with a Fisher Gold Bug 2 Metal Detector.
Gold Detecting Tailings Piles. Gold recovered with a Fisher Gold Bug 2 Metal Detector.

And let’s not forget about detecting as a method for Prospecting Mine Tailings. Some folks like to start at the bottom of a pile with a rake, others free detect. I’m a proponent of the latter. A few years back I made several week long exploration trips across the Southwest USA to look for and detect small digs that hopefully most other prospectors ignored. Now I’m a long distance hiker (not fast) and love to see what others may have missed. These trips eventually paid off as I located a small dig up on the bedrock bank of a wash, literally in the upper bank.

As soon as a swung my Gold Bug 2 over the tailings I got excited hearing a zip-zip. When I got the old mini sledge hammer out (Reagan Smash I call it) to break open the left behind ore the fruits of my efforts became clear. The tailings were nicely loaded with gold. The the tiny wash produced some nice nuggets and fine gold too. I hope you enjoyed this primer for Prospecting Mine Tailings. Dirty your hands with endeavor, not speculation.

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