The Mighty Fraser – River Of Gold

The Fraser River has been a source of placer gold for more than 150 years. The Department of Mines of British Columbia reported a yield of $28,983,106 in the period from 1860 to 1869. This placer gold at today’s price would be worth more than 290 million dollars. The bulk of this gold came from the Fraser River bars and the Cariboo District farther north.

Between Hope and Yale, which was the centre of the mining, there were probably more than 30 bars named and worked; while between Yale and Lytton there were more than 50, and upon them all the miners were at work with rocker and sluice.

Efforts have continued over the years to wrest from the Fraser the wealth of gold the river is believed to possess. The B.C. Minister of Mines reported in 1903 that in nine days $1,500 in gold was taken from an area of 50 feet square on Saw Mill Bar opposite Yale.

From a point on the river a few miles below Boston Bar (about 16 miles above Yale ) to Sisco Flat, a short way below Lytton, a distance in all of about 25 miles, rich deposits of “heavy” gold were worked. Farther up the river is a second run of “heavy” gold, which appears to have extended from about halfway between Lytton and Foster’s Bar to some little distance above Fountain. Here, nuggets of some size were occasionally unearthed, and there were some exceptionally rich diggings. Nuggets up to six ounces in size were reported to have been recovered near Lillooet.

Chartres Brew, Chief Inspector of Police and Assistant Chief Gold Commissioner, wrote as follows to WA.G . Young, Colonial Secretary, on April 23, 1858: “Out of one claim on Hill’s Bar they took in one day 39 ounces of gold and I saw 16 ounces taken out of another claim after a day’s work. “

ONLY SCRATCHED THE SURFACE

Another Fraser Rive r pioneer, George M . Dawson, D.C., F.G.S., at that time the foremost authority on the mineral resources of British Columbia , wrote in 1889, in his book “The Mineral Wealth of British Columbia ” that the early mining operations barely skimmed the surface of the pay streaks.”

A great portion of all this gold from whatever source derived has been gradually concentrated in the river bottom by the action of the stream, while in many places, paying deposits have been left upon the surface of ‘benches’ at various levels, or buried beneath their material, each such ‘pay streak’ representing some portion of a former bed of the river which has been left behind as erosion progressed.

The mode of working these gold deposits was a comparatively simple one. The so called ‘bars’ were no more than portions of the river bed which, being left bare at low water, could be reached by the miner. They were worked generally to but a very limited depth, often being merely skimmed over in consequence of the trouble from water and the cost of removing any considerable thickness of non-remunerative material to reach the deeper underlying pay streaks. When the exciting discoveries of the Cariboo District became known, the Fraser River was almost abandoned long before its placers had ceased to be remunerative, but since that time more or less desultory work along the Fraser and Thompson rivers has never ceased.

A great number of the high benches have been superficially worked and have, in some cases, yielded excellent results. In the bed of the river itself at each season of flood, a partial rearrangement of the material occurs and additional supplies of gold are brought in by the wearing away of the banks, a feature having important bearing on the probable successful application of hydraulic mining to some of these deposits. Though no longer exceptionally rich, the bars and benches of the Fraser River seem to afford a practically inexhaustible supply of gold.

Hill’s Bar, near Yale , has probably yielded more gold than any other single locality on the Fraser. It was estimated to have produced in all (to 1875) not less than two million dollars worth of gold from an area of less than half a square mile (Report of the Minister of Mines of British Columbia 1875). Its position at the foot of the very rapid portion of the Fraser, where the river first frees itself from the canyon and expands to a greater width with a slacker current, is a suggestive one in respect to the origin of its gold.

The $2,000,000 taken from Hill’s Bar would at today’s price of $1,900 per oz. amount to $190,000,000, and to this should be added the value of platinum which was not even recognized by the early miners. Moreover, by the old methods of recovery, the very fine gold was lost. It seems, therefore, not unreasonable to suggest that the yield from Hill’s Bar would be closer to $218,000,000.

HIGHEST VALUES BELOW LOW WATER

Another Dawson, this time Dr. J.D. Dawson, California mining engineer, examined two claims in 1934, one at Foster’s Bar and another at Willow Bank. Reporting on his investigations, he wrote: “It is my contention that the highest values are still to be found below the low water, and in the river channel proper.”

Experienced mining men concede the richness of deposits in the bed of the Fraser River, and many attempts have been made at recovery. With one exception, all previous attempts employed conventional mining methods. The exception occured at Yale in 1929. A dredge pump with hose and nozzle was mounted on a barge and a miner in full diving gear tried to feed the nozzle among the boulders on the river bed. Failure was due to the boulders and the swift current against which the diver was unable to stand. After a very short life the barge, like all the dredges before it, was carried away and wrecked. However, what little gravel was obtained proved to be very rich.

We have already referred to Dr. George M . Dawson. He is reported to have remarked to a contemporary — “If you could put a trap in the bed of the Fraser River and empty it once a year you would never have to work again.”

Dawson’s dream of a trap in the bed of the Fraser River may soon become a reality. There is sound reason to believe that this methodology could produce substantial amounts of a much needed national and international commodity — GOLD.

British Columbia’s “Gold Hole” – Fact Or Fiction?

In the Cariboo District of British Columbia, about a quarter of a mile past the Barkerville intersection, on the Quesnel-Bowron Lake road, there can be seen a large, water-filled pit. Surrounded by heaps of gravel and rusting scraps of iron machinery, it is the remains of one endeavor by men whose dreams of golden treasure were confounded by the simple, though effective forces of nature.

At the bottom of this pit, a very rich deposit of placer gold is believed to lie. It is estimated that $4,000,000 million in gold awaits those that can solve the mystery of the pit.

During British Columbia’s gold rush era, alluvial gold in incredible proportions was often found on top of bedrock. A half mile away, toward Barkerville, an early mining operation on the east hank of Williams Creek had revealed evidence of an ancient river bed. It had paralleled the present direction of Williams Creek before its course was lost when it veered north-northeast and down into the swampy valley where Williams Creek and Willow River join. Despite the fact that many thousands of dollars worth of gold was mined from the prehistoric river bed, no practical method was available to continue mining beyond the higher ground during those early days.

According to S. Holland, 1974, this story, which appeared in True Treasure Magazine January – February, 1974 is an exaggerated and inaccurate account of placer operations on Devlin Bench. These started in 1952 and 1953 with the dredging operation of Kumhila Exploration Company Ltd. and were followed in 1956 by a second dredging operation in the same area. Finally after a period of inactivity the tailings from the previous operation on Devlin Bench were reworked in 1962 and 1963.

All this work was done on a placer lease which was owned by the Lowhee Mining Co. Ltd. Subsequently the lease lapsed and the ground was relocated in February, 1970 as Placer-mining Lease #7097. At the time, the lease was still in good standing.

The Kumhila Exploration Co. Ltd., which consisted of D. P. Kumle, A. T. Lazzareschi, and L. J. Hickman, all of California, formed this private company and optioned part of the Lowhee Mining Company’s leases at Devlin Bench on the east side of Williams Creek at the Bowron Lake road crossing. After considerable churn-drill testing, the dredge equipment formerly operated by Summit Mines Limited was assembled on the property. This equipment consists of a Hickenbottorn steel-pontoon all-riffle washing plant of 3,500-cubic yards-per-day rated capacity and a Marion 40A walking dragline shovel with an 80-foot boom and a 3-cubic-yarci bucket. As drill testing showed the pay gravel to be at an approximate depth of 50 feet, a Caterpillar D-8 bulldozer was used to strip as much of the barren surface gravel as possible. A crew of eighteen men was employed , and 200,000 cubic yards of gravel was moved , of which 84,680 cubic yards was treated by the washing plant.

In 1953, Kumhila Exploration Company Limited mined 68,200 cubic yards of gravel with their dragline dredge on Williams Creek near Devlin Bench on the Bowron Lake Road. Operations were suspended in early September and the washing plant dismantled when no further pay gravels were located.

In 1956 the Lowhee leases on Conklin Gulch and Williams Creek were under option to L. A. Prosser of L and L Dredging. In 1962. Williams Creek Hydraulic Mines Ltd. commenced to rework the old tailings on Devlin’s Bench on P.M.L. 3354, about midway between Wells and Barkerville and approximately one-half mile up the road to Bowron Lake and just north of the road. 150,000 cubic yards of gravel was treated and the gold recovered is reported to be fairly coarse. In 1963, a further 90,000 yards of gravel was put through the sluice-boxes.

The officially recorded production of placer gold from these operations is as follows:

1952 yielded 6044 ounces, 1952 yielded 4827 ounces, 1956 yielded 326 ounces, 1962 yielded 272 ounces, 1963 yielded 430 ounces, and 1964 yielded 129 ounces, for a total production of 12,028 ounces. The price of placer gold ranged from $28.18 per ounce in 1952 to $29.96 per ounce in 1964. It is true that about $400,000 was recovered by dredging and hydraulicking.

According to the story, the miners had reached bedrock, where the long-sought mass of placer gold was believed to lie. Unfortunately, this bedrock lay in a saw-toothed, criss-cross pattern with deep crevasses between up-thrusting pinnacles of rock. Some of the fissures were 100 feet underwater, some peaks of the bedrock only 80 feet. The extreme depth of the pit itself was now a problem.

Among the ordinary nuggets they found, was a very curious one. It was unusually long, about the length of a man’s thumb, pointed at one end, and almost flat at the other end. After examining it, the manager ran to the pile of tailings at the end of the sluice where he found the rest of the nugget. It measured nearly 4 inches long and had apparently sheared off in the sluice.

One cannot help wondering how many more large nuggets like the last one still remain in that watery hole, as well as who eventually may have the good fortune of finding out. Someone eventually will beat fate and have a solution to the Gold Hole’s riddle. If you get the chance, visit the site for yourself. It is practically alongside the road to Bowron Lake, just beyond Wells. Then you can decide whether the story is FACT OR FICTION!

Happy Prospecting!






The Klondike Goldfields

The Klondike goldfields are situated east of the Yukon River, in latitude 60° north. They are bounded by the Yukon River on the west, by the Klondike River on the north, by Flat Creek and Dominion Creek on the east, and by the Indian River on the south. The area included between these boundaries is about 800 square miles.

HISTORY OF THE RUSH

The Klondike River was originally named “Tron Deg” by Harper and McQuesten, the name being derived from local Indians. Indian names were in place on most rivers and gulches when white men came into the country, but the names were too long and difficult to understand and were quickly changed to easier pronunciations. The correct native name for Klondike is “Trondiuck.” In English this means “hammer-water.” Stakes were hammered into the gravel bottom which provided a basis for the salmon traps.

The name “Trondiuck” being too difficult to pronounce, was changed into the present Klondyke or Klondike. It was here, on August 17, 1896, that prospectors Skookum Jim, Tagish Charlie and George Carmack discovered gold and touched off one of the largest gold stampedes in the world. Nearly 100,000 gold hungry prospectors climbed the Chilkoot Pass into the Yukon Territory and floated the Yukon River to Dawson City to search for gold.

About halfway down Rabbit Creek (later named Bonanza Creek), Skookum Jim saw a moose and shot it for food. While waiting for his partners, Jim went to the creek for water and noticed gold in the sand in greater quantities than he’d ever seen before! They decided to stake the claim, but got into a dispute as to who should stake it. Jim claimed he was the discoverer, but there was a question about staking a claim because he was Indian, so to be safe, Carmack staked and recorded it, assigning half interest to Jim. On August 17, 1896, Carmack staked the Discovery claim five hundred feet in length up and down the creek, and Number 1 below Discovery the width of the creek valley.

In the autumn of 1896, there were about 1,700 prospectors in the Yukon basin, and about half were located on the Alaska side. During the winter the population increased by 600. By spring of 1897 there were 1,500 in the Klondike region and the town of Dawson began to take form with a population of 100.

It was not until the summer of 1897, when gold began coming out on the boats, that the world became aware of this rich goldfield. The first of these ships, the Excelsior, steamed into San Francisco on July 16, 1897, with $400,000 in Klondike gold. Two days later, the Portland docked in Seattle with about $700,000 in gold. On board were many of the rich prospectors dubbed by some as “Klondike Kings.” Glaring headlines from the Seattle paper announced the arrival of a “ton of gold” from the fabulous Klondike. The news was wired throughout the world and within a few weeks the Klondike Gold Rush was on!


THE LEGENDS WERE TRUE

Some of the reports that came out of the Klondike goldfields were staggering. A ledge, twenty feet by four feet, yielded $40,000 in less than a month.

Miner Fred Bruceth mined $61,000 in one day. Bruceth hired a dozen men to work ten-hour shifts, and they recovered that amount in one day from a sluice line of five boxes. Some of the nuggets Bruceth found were scattered all over the ground. In some instances, all he had to do was pick them up.

Pack trains of gold were brought over rugged trails by dog trains or horses One train of 15 dogs carried out 30-pound packs of gold from Eldorado Creek worth $122,000 ($14.7 million at $2500 per ounce Canadian).

The first bedrock on Eldorado was struck by two miners named Sloan and Wilkerson on claim number 14. They took out $10,000 in nuggets. Each nugget averaged $10 apiece. This is when gold was $16 an ounce. At eighteen feet down, they struck black sand and test pans began showing $12, $14, $50, and $85 pans. They found from $5 to $500 a pan. When spring came, they washed out $100,000 in gold.

George Coffey took two shovelfuls of paydirt from his Bonanza Creek claim and panned out 63 ounces. This included three nuggets worth over $100 each. It was possible to see the gold in the gravel standing twenty feet away. Peterson and Kresge made a big discovery on Gold Hill above Bonanza. In ten days, they rocked out nearly $6,400 in gold from a 100-square-foot claim. On the second afternoon, after the initial discovery, they found $1,100 in nuggets just under the moss.

Klondike King Clarence Berry panned out a $495 pan and two days later panned one out worth $1,200. Clarence Berry took out $250,000 in the first year. He paid $22,000 in wages, took home $130,000 in gold dust, and had $84,000 in nuggets. Miners Densmore and Spencer washed out 90 pounds of gold in a single day. They used the money to build a saloon.

The gold on Eldorado was bigger than any other creek. Half-pound nuggets were not uncommon. One nugget found weighed 35 ounces, while another one weighed in at 16 ounces. A lot of the larger nuggets were pieces of quartz with gold imbedded. Smaller nuggets were usually free of quartz.

On Bonanza Creek, the richest gold claim fraction was 74 feet long and was staked by Dick Lowe. Lowe found gold by the cupful. The first four pans were worth $700 apiece. The first cleanup was worth $60,000 and the second cleanup, taken off the surface, was $75,000.

In 1910, a 20-pound chunk of quartz laced with gold was found by Mike Golobiek, on the hillside opposite the upper half of 79 below on Bonanza. Golobiek also found a 17.5-ounce nugget that was half gold and half quartz.

THE GOLD AND MAJOR CREEKS

BONANZA CREEK

Bonanza Creek has been the most important of the gold-bearing creeks of the Klondike. The creek gravels of the Bonanza valley have proved productive from Victoria Gulch down to the mouth of the creek, a distance of about thirteen miles. The gold is distributed along the creek somewhat erratically. Claims 25 through 36 all proved remarkably rich.

In 1898, some of these 500-foot claims yielded upwards of half a million dollars each at the rate of over $1,000 per running foot of valley, or 58 ounces per foot. A short stretch of the creek above the Discovery claim, half a mile in length, was exceedingly rich. A fraction at the mouth of Little Skookum Gulch, about eighty feet in length, commonly known as Dick Lowe’s fraction, was reported to have yielded over $300,000.

A boulder from Bonanza Creek near Discovery, weighing 60 ounces, contained 20 ounces of gold. Additional evidence of the detrital origin of the gold is afforded by its worn character in the creeks, while the younger grains and nuggets found in the gulches are always rough and angular. Among the more important Bonanza gulches are Victoria, O’Neil and Ready Bullion on upper Bonanza; and Big Skookum, Magnet, American, Fox, Monte Christo and Lovett gulches on lower Bonanza. Victoria Gulch, the most productive of the upper Bonanza gulches, enters Bonanza Creek from the left, 1.75 miles below Carmacks fork, and almost at the head of the productive part of the creek.

HUNKER CREEK

Hunker Creek is a tributary of the Klondike six miles above the mouth of Bonanza. It heads close to the Dome with Dominion Creek, and flows in a northwesterly direction. It has a length of fifteen miles, and is about equal in size to Bonanza Creek. The most important tributaries are Last Chance and Goldbottom Creeks, both of which come in from the left.

Andrew Hunker, an old Cariboo miner and early 40 Mile miner, found gold about 12 miles above the mouth of Hunker Creek on September 1, 1897. He took out $22.75 in two hours of panning only surface gravels. This was considered extremely rich. Hunker became one of the richest gold placer creeks in the world, next to Eldorado and Bonanza.

Hunker Creek gold occurs in bulky, rounded grains along the upper portion of the valley, and is the usual rough, flattish grains and scales farther down. Nuggets are fairly numerous in the rich stretch near Discovery claim, and also in some of the claims below Goldbottom. They are occasionally found as far down as Henry Gulch. On middle Hunker Creek, one of the large gold dredges recovered 11,000 ounces of gold in an eight-hour shift.

DOMINION CREEK

Dominion Creek is the largest, and one of the most important of the gold-bearing creeks. Above Lombard Creek, it occurs in rough rounded grains and small nuggets. Farther down, a mixture of heavy grains, some well-worn and others quite rough and flaky are found, along with an occasional large, well-worn nugget. Below Lower Discovery the gold becomes finer and flakier and nuggets are only occasionally found. The gold on Lower Dominion, below the mouth of Gold Run, is coarser than on portions of Upper Dominion and was probably largely derived from Gold Run Creek.

The bench or terrace gold often occurs in fairly large flat grains more uniform in size, smoother and more worn than the creek gold. The claims along the lower part of Gold Run Creek, while not equal to those on Eldorado Creek, proved exceedingly rich. A number of the best claims probably yielded over a quarter of a million dollars worth of gold.

“Hootch” Albert Fortier (from Quebec he got his name Hootch for his ability to make alcohol out of nearly anything) actually found gold here in 1896, but did nothing about it until He staked Lower Discovery in May of 1897. John Brannin staked No. 1 Above on June 12. At the same time, Frank Biederman found gold on Upper Dominion and thought he was the first to find gold here. The Canadian government allowed both discovery claims and gave the creek the name Dominion.

ELDORADO CREEK

Eldorado Creek is a small stream about seven miles in length, and from three to six feet in width at its mouth. Eldorado Creek has proved the richest creek in the Klondike district, and one of the greatest placer creeks ever discovered. The first thirty-seven claims, with a few intervening fractions, yielded gold of an estimated value of $20-$25 million in early days, and millions more have been added in recent years.

The most productive portion of the creek extends from its mouth up Gay Gulch a distance of about three and a half miles. The gravels on this stretch were all extraordinarily rich. No. 17, at the mouth of French Gulch, was reputed to be the richest claim in the whole district, yielding nearly a million and a half dollars worth of gold, and claims 5, 16 and 30 almost rivaled it in importance.

Eldorado gold is very coarse and is often angular and almost unworn. Nuggets are more plentiful than on any other creek in the Klondike, and are often crystalline in form. Several nuggets, weighing in at 23 and 57 ounces, were found on the upper end of the paystreak. A 7-pound nugget was discovered on Chief Gulch. A number of specimens of unworn crystalline gold, in filiform and dendritic shapes, were found on Eldorado and other Klondike creeks.

SULPHUR CREEK

Sulphur Creek has a length of seventeen miles. Pay gravels occur fairly continuously along Sulphur Creek, from a point a short distance above the mouth of Green Gulch down to claim No. 35 below, a distance of about seven miles. The claims along this stretch were seldom exceptionally rich, and a few were barren or nearly so, but most of them yielded fair returns. Gold occurs in large angular pieces in the Upper Gulch part of the creek, and in small, flaky, rough grains farther down.

BENCH PLACERS

On Cheechako Hill, Oliver Millet, while working a claim on Eldorado, formed a theory about an ancient stream channel that formed Bonanza. In the winter of 1897-98, Millet struck gold on the white channels several hundred feet above the creek channel. Millet took out $20,000 from a 100 square foot claim and sold it for $60,000 due to illness from scurvy. The new owner took out $500,000.

French Hill is one of the famous hill and bench gravels in the white channel that extended all the way over to Hunker Creek. On October 20, 1897, William “Cariboo Bill” Dettering, an old miner from Illinois, and his partner Joe Stacey staked the first claim. Cariboo Bill had a theory similar to Millet of Cheechako Hill about the high bench deposits. He sunk a shaft on the hill and the first pan from bedrock reportedly carried 11 ounces. They took out $13,000 and sold the claim for $40,000.

On July 23, 1897, Nathan Kresge and Nils Peterson staked the Discovery Hill claim on Gold Hill. In ten days, using a rocker box and recirculated water, Kresge took out $6,375 from a piece of ground 11×17 feet and three feet deep. Peterson moved further up the hill, sank a shaft 63 feet deep, and discovered even richer ground. By September 14, every possible claim on the hill was staked, and a few days later the Hunker Creek white channel was discovered from this proven theory.

Early Gold production from this region was phenomenal. The following figures were estimated at $20.67 per ounce.

1896—$300,000

1897—$2.5 million

1898—$10 million

1899—$16 million

1900—$22.275 million

Much of the area is under claim and activity continues to this day. Interested parties must check with local agencies to determine if an area is open to claim.


Gold In Tailing Piles

Many old-timers and even more modern miners lost a remarkable amount of gold in their mining operations. Some tailing piles contain fortunes in lost gold values if identified and properly reworked with modern mining methods.

Lode or hard rock tailings and mine dumps can be very productive sources of gold specimens, as many times good material was often accidentally discarded with the mine waste. If the material is rich enough, it can easily be located with metal detectors or more simply with a crack hammer.

Placer tailing piles can be much more readily reworked profitably, having been already excavated and even stacked up, ready to process. Quite often there is a large hole in the ground nearby that represents the original source of the material. Most small-scale prospectors and miners look at old mine workings and tailings in a much more limited way, looking for small portions of missed virgin ground. Larger placer operations often bypassed or overlooked a few yards here and there, having been inconsequential in the scale of the original operation but can provide many days or weeks of returns for those operating with very small-scale equipment.

Attempting to capture small gold while employing enough water force to move large rocks through a sluice box or high-banker is problematic. While many ingenious riffle designs have been tried singly or in combination to deal with the problem, there is no perfect solution and processing all material through a sluice box with no pre-screening often results in substantial gold losses. The only pre-screening that took place was often done by hand in older operations as larger rocks that would not wash to the sluice box were stacked aside. Other rocks made it to the sluice box but hung up in the first section of the sluice and were tossed out to both sides. It is easy to find locations where a low gully with a pile of rocks on both sides marked the location of the initial sluice run.

Bulldozers and other heavy equipment made things even worse, pushing everything into a box. In many sluice designs the main concern seems to have been how to build the box to handle large rocks rather than on how to capture gold. The use of railroad track as riffles became a common practice due to the ability it had to stand constant long-term pounding from large rocks. Recovering more gold from tailing piles of this type is simply a matter of running them once again through a modern wash-plant that properly screens the material before processing. The real pay here is in the fine gold, but these types of operations lost surprising amounts of large gold as well, especially if the gold contained or is mostly composed of quartz. Large gold-quartz specimens just rolled through these systems along with the other rock.

These simple sluice systems were often also subject to overfeeding of material, surging, and riffle packing from infrequent cleanups. While overfeeding posed a huge problem, was another major contention. A box could sit for some time with no material running though it, resulting in the material scouring out between the riffles. Then a huge volume got pushed in, completely burying the riffles. Rocks could sit in the riffles, and water gushing around and over the rock again could blow gold out of the riffles. Let the sluice run too long between cleanups, and magnetite and other heavy materials could pack into riffles so hard that gold had little or no chance of being captured.

LET’S LOOK AT SCREENING SYSTEMS

The amount of gold remaining in these types of tailing piles can be very substantial. A small mine that produced 10,000 ounces of gold with a loss rate of 20%, which is not extreme at all, could mean 2,000 ounces or more sitting in the tailing piles waiting for the savvy miner with a proper recovery system.

The screening systems were tailored to remove the rock efficiently while passing nearly all the gold to the recovery system. In general, a screen of 2” more or less will allow for high volume screening and the design of a reasonably efficient recovery system, although actual screen sizes employed may vary from as little as 1” to as much as 3” in size. Smaller sizes result in more efficient fine gold recovery, but impede volume, while larger sizes may sacrifice some small gold recovery in return for higher volumes. The nature of the material to be processed and the gold itself determine the best overall solution for any given operation.

The most obvious problem with screening systems are nuggets or gold specimens that are actually larger than the screen size. In most gold deposits, these over-sized nuggets are so nearly non-existent that they are of no concern. In other situations the nuggets exist, but are so rare that the actual percentage of gold lost as a result falls well into acceptable limits. However, in very rare cases, large nuggets were common enough that various attempts were made to employ “nugget traps” and even spotters to watch for large nuggets on the way to being discarded. Despite these precautions, many large nuggets were lost and discarded into tailing piles.

Clumping of material from lumps of clay, cemented gravels or frozen material could also result in gold smaller than the screens passing through along with the large rocks, so it’s not always just large gold found in the cobble piles left from screened mining operations. A poorly maintained or overfed screen can clog and allow smaller gold to escape.

One way gold was commonly lost was in the stripping of overburden. In many cases gold-bearing gravels are overlain by worthless material called overburden. It would cost money and wear out equipment to process this material, so an important part of mining lies in efficiently stripping and pushing this material aside. In modern operations this material is stockpiled and used later to cover and reclaim mined areas. In the past, however, it was simply pushed aside and stacked up. The dividing line between gold-bearing material and overburden is not always obvious, and can also vary in depth. The result often was that some gold was lost simply by being pushed aside and left in piles of stripped overburden. In wetter climates, these piles of overburden often contained topsoil and plentiful organic material. They are often recognizable by being much more vegetated than normal tailing materials, which tend to have little or no vegetation.

Whenever you are dealing with tailing piles that are created by digging and then dumping material on top of a pile, the last material processed is often the richest. Gold tends to lie on or near bedrock, and as an excavation is dug to reach this gold, the leaner material goes in the pile first. The richest material ends up last and, therefore, very often right on top of the tailing piles. Another important item to remember is that when piling up mixed materials the largest material, rocks or gold nuggets, tends to roll off the top and down the side to rest near the bottom. Just look at any pile or slope of gravel and rocks to see the larger rocks resting near the bottom of the pile or slope. The wetter and looser the material is, the more this happens.

Old mine workings and tailing piles can represent fantastic opportunities for the modern prospector, from the chance of finding a nugget on up to the reworking of the old tailings in a modern washplant or high-banker.

Good luck and Happy Prospecting!

Monashee Creek Gold

On a recent prospecting trip to the Monashee, we decided to stop at the Goldpanner Campground near Cherryville. The Gold Panner Campground was founded on a Chinese heritage mining operation and the grounds are steeped with history dating back to the 1840’s.

While at a first glimpse the campground appears somewhat hokey, it is deeply authentic. The 35 acre property is surrounded by real wilderness, includes real artifacts, and was once the hub of a very real gold rush.

The prospector’s cabin is authentic and once belonged to “Old Gus,” who built it next to nearby Heckman Creek in 1936.

The bridge over Heckman Creek is an interesting spectacle with it’s bedrock walls below and ample bars to prospect. A great area for some sniping.

The Never Sweet Mine. Today the Gold Panner Campground is still home to 2 active gold claims. These are open to the public for a fee. A day pass for panning is $10. The use of sluices, metal detectors, or high-bankers is strictly forbidden.

Old Rocker Box

Old Pulley Tram For Crossing The River

Some Of The Old Workings

Monashee Stage Lines

One Of The Panning Areas

Some Of The Gold We Found. Slightly Over 3 Grams.

The current Goldpanner owners, are working to have the Chinese diggings, or pilings, down by Monashee Creek declared a heritage site. The diggings are rocks that were meticulously washed and sorted into piles, the remains of a kind of open-pit mining done by early Chinese prospectors. From 1863 to 1895, the camp grew to a population of more than 100 prospectors; about half were Chinese.

Figures from the Cherryville and Area Historical Society suggest that the total amount of gold extracted here from 1863 to 1930 would be worth about $112-million by today’s standards.

The gold has a low average fineness of 700. Nuggets up to 264 grams (8.5 ounces) have been found. It is rumored that a 17 ounce nugget was found at the Gold Panner Campground.

All in all, a great trip and a wonderful campground that offers pay showers, outhouses, full service RV sites, cabins and chalets, and tenting campsites. We definitely recommend visiting this wonderful historic site and we will be back again and again.

Epithermal Gold Deposits

Epithermal gold deposits are among the richest gold deposits in the world with some bonanza grade ore shoots containing more than 1000 g/t gold, or in other words, a kilogram of gold for every tonne of rock mined. Unfortunately, the tonnage of ore in epithermal veins is typically small compared with other types of lower grade gold deposits.

Gold mineralization within epithermal veins can occur over vertical intervals of a few hundred metres, vein thicknesses of 1-2 metres and lengths of up to several hundred metres. Epithermal deposits are typically high grade, small tonnage and relatively shallow deposits. They are best mined by underground narrow vein methods.

There are two main types of epithermal gold deposits; low and high sulphidation.

Low Sulphide Deposits

When ground water comes into contact with hot molten rock deep under volcanoes, silicate minerals within the rock are dissolved along with metals  including gold, silver, arsenic, cadmium, lead, zinc, antimony and mercury. Large kilometre-scale circulation cells are set up by the movement of these heated ground waters, which are also known as hydrothermal fluids. These fluids move through cracks, joints and faults in the rock. As the fluids rise towards the surface, they cool with the precipitation of mainly quartz, some calcite and adularia, which is a type of potassium feldspar.  Within the quartz veins are found concentrations of the metals being carried in the super-heated ground water.

High Sulphide DepositS

As the name suggests, high sulphide deposits tend to be more sulphide-rich; containing pyrite (iron sulphide), enargite (copper-arsenic sulphide) as well as gold and silver. They appear to be genetically and spatially linked to deep seated porphyry copper-gold deposits High sulphide deposits are formed in a similar manner to low sulphide deposits, just at a greater depth with a more direct link to the underlying magma.

Historically epithermal gold has been mined by underground techniques as miners followed the narrow, twisting veins from the surface outcrops far underground.  Modern mining techniques,  mean that today most epithermal deposits are mined using open-cut pit techniques.

Epithermal Gold-Silver Specimen

The Toodoggone River camp and Queen Charlotte Islands provide excellent examples of Epithermal gold deposits.

Queen Charlottes Gold Rush, 1850

Gold was first formally discovered by non-indigenous people at Gold Harbour on the west coast of Moresby Island in the Queen Charlotte Islands, near the Haida village of Tasu on Mitchell Inlet, an arm of Gold Harbour. A brief gold rush – the Queen Charlotte Gold Rush – ensued in the following year, leading to the declaration of the Colony of the Queen Charlotte Islands to prevent the archipelago from being overrun by Americans and so claimed by the United States.

The extent of the ore body proved superficial, and there are various stories of American prospecting parties harassed by the Haida people, who were still very numerous and powerful. In later times, Gold Harbour and Mitchell Inlet became the location of a modern mining operation, also called Tasoo or Tasu, but for iron rather than gold.

In 1969, a local logger, Efrem Specogna and his brother-in-law, John Trinco made the initial gold discovery of the Specogna (Babe) Gold deposit west of Port Clemens on Graham Island. By 1979, a 2 million ounce gold deposit was defined by exploratory drilling by major mining companies, Cominco, Kennco Explorations (a subsidiary of Kennecott) and Quintana Minerals. A junior exploration company continued drilling the project and a gold rush ensued from 1979-1981. The Specogna gold deposit remains an un-mined deposit with over 3 million ounces of gold and is categorized as an Epithermal type gold deposit.