Placer-gold production has generally declined since it’s peak production in 1863. There are, however, local peaks which indicate increased production due to new discoveries, new methods of working, and to the increase in the price of gold.
Known placer deposits are progressively being worked out and important new discoveries are infrequent, consequently it is probable that placer-gold production will continue slowly to decline. Nevertheless, possibilities do exist for the discovery of virgin creeks or of ancient unknown channels in old camps. Important new finds, such as those on Cedar Creek in 1921, Squaw Creek in 1927, Wheaton (Boulder) Creek in 1937, and most certainly the Golden Triangle in the Atlin region, suggest that the possibility is not too remote. Ancient channels, either buried or elevated, are apt to be suspected around an old placer area, but the proof of their existence and their testing for workable values may constitute an undertaking that poses considerable difficulty and expense.
Other possibilities exist in the adaption of new methods of working deposits already known. Mechanical methods of mining using the latest and cheapest dirt moving equipment and techniques might be applied to deposits that in the past could not have been worked profitably. An example of a new technique is the dragline-dredge that is so successful in working certain types of deposits. Opportunities also exist for the development of a technique for the successful mining of deep leads, such as those on Lightning Creek, as well as for the working of small yardages of bench deposits remote from water and too small to warrant a dragline-dredge operation.
In established camps, as old operations cease and water rights are relinquished or transferred, water in volume may become available for the hydraulicking of other deposits that have been handicapped by a shortage of water.
Finally, for the individual there is always sniping. Just so long as there are men with ideas as to where gold may be found, and just so long as there is bedrock to be cleaned, and there are men who would rather work for themselves than for someone else, sniping will continue. The number of men at work sniping varies considerably with economic conditions. When work is plentiful or wages are high, the number diminishes, but when work is scarce and unemployment is high, the number increases many times over. In the Cariboo and on the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers, even one-hundred years after the discovery of gold, places still remain on the bars and benches and on bedrock where a man may work and recover some gold.
Sniping is an art in itself. It may mean cleaning bedrock that was not thoroughly cleaned in the original operation, or reworking old tailings that contain recoverable gold. For example, when water is scarce boulders from a drift operation may not be thoroughly washed, or when the gravel is heavy with clay, sufficient water may not be available to break up the balls of clay that will roll through the sluice-boxes and rob them of gold. In other instances it may mean doing a lot of dead work to reach a piece of virgin ground that because of low values or some other reason was left unworked by the old-timers. It may mean waiting for extreme low water in order to get out on to river bars to skim the upper few inches of sand and gravel. Sniping means hard work, but at the same time it offers a livelihood and promises independence for the individual miner.