I had an hour tonight between running kids to activities and have made sure to keep the van stocked with gold pans, sluice box, metal detectors, etc.. Given my limited amount of time some evenings, if anyone were to locate interesting finds close to home it will be me.
Location: 19T 0679958 E 5095483 N
AKA: Off of Route 105 heading towards Douglas
With limited time I headed down a near-by stream with little expectation of finding much of interest. With my metal detector in hand, gold pan and some digging tools in my backpack I decided to do a quick sweep of the area. First of all I was surprised how clean the area was of debris, surprising given how close it was to the highway. With the metal detector I picked up the standard debris, the most valuable ‘relic’ and alpine beer cap from the 70’s.
I did a quick sweep down a small brook which was littered with larger rocks also pervasive in the surrounding sparse woodland cover. The rocks were ‘hot rocks’ in metal detecting terms indicative of mafic extrusive stones left behind by volcanic activity possibly deposited by glacial movements. This wasn’t surprising given I was less than a kilometer from Currie Mountain which is a known basaltic flow.
When metal detecting didn’t turn up much of interest I turned to a bit of panning, more for practice sake than anything as I was a bit rusty. Keep in mind I still had to make an appearance at one of my kids events, and was a relatively well dressed prospector at the time. Ok.. so I looked a little out of place.
I was practicing on a small stream, a tributary of a now ‘large’ stream given the high water level. The game plan was to avoid getting wet, that being said I wasn’t adventurous in choosing my sample. Large rocks, clay, and tree roots act as natural riffles and can trap gold and other heavy minerals. Digging among the tree roots down to clay, and behind the rock in the picture I scooped up some material.
First step is dissolve the mud by running your fingers through the material in the pan breaking up any large clumps. Given environmental concerns I was careful to dump the muddy silty water on the shore, strained by the nearby moss. Next step is to pick out any large stones, tree roots and other debris. Once all of the larger pieces have been removed it’s time to get down to business.
Maintaining the correct amount of water in the pan I believe is part of the trick. You want to have enough to keep all of the material in suspension and nothing more. I start with some large circles, once content the sand is moving well I tilt the front end slightly downward and progress more from side to side slowly tipping the end until material slides off the front end using the riffles as an aid.
After the first pass I repeat the process using the free hand to assist with moving the lighter top material as well as dipping the end down in the stream and using the current to assist. When it’s all said and done the last thing to move when you swirl the water in your pan will be a trail of black sand (magnetite) and if you are lucky plenty of ‘colour’. As you can see from the photo there is just a bit of trailing black sand, and alas I am headed back to work tomorrow… no ‘colour’.
Consider the following table to get an idea of the specific gravity of different minerals/metals and where they would be expected to settle out in a suspension during the panning process: