Old mining sites are rich spots for the prospector, offering the possibilities of rich gold ore and more. When prospecting old mine sites it is important to keep safety in mind at all times. Never enter too far into old mine shafts. Not only do they have the possibility of collapse, but poisonous gases also linger in them.
It is from the tailings piles that great mineral, gold, and lapidary finds are likely to be made. The materials comprising the tailings come from deep within the mine and give you a “bird’s-eye” view of what is deep inside without having to enter the mine. Commonly, such items as crystals and semiprecious material can be found among the tailings, and if you are lucky, a nice specimen of gold ore. This is where you’re metal detector will come in handy. For all areas, bring your gold pan and a canteen full of water. Many of these areas do not have water and the water from your canteen can be used over and over.
Hunting through mine dumps is always entertaining and rewarding. Many unique finds such as rail spikes, iron spheres from old ball mills, old tins, and glass pharmaceutical bottles. A metal detector can be used to search for coins or gold caches and hidden gold pokes around building foundations. If building walls and chimneys are intact, pass your detector over the walls as well. Old time prospectors liked to hide their gold pokes in the walls of their cabin or behind loose stones in their hearths and chimneys.
A portable black light is another useful tool. The ultraviolet light will reveal the blue-white glow of scheelite, or the blue-green glow of calcite. Be sure to take along your camera. The old mine workings and their surrounding natural vistas provide interesting and memorable photographic opportunities. Bring along a canvas bag. You can carry your rock hammer, geology pick, chisels, etc. in it and it makes for a great way to carry your samples.
With winter approaching, it is a great time to do your research. A side trip to an old mine site can add a new dimension to your prospecting. Remember that caution and attention for both young and old alike will ensure your trip is fun and rewarding. Keep your eyes to the ground and your mind open, and you never know what wonderful and valuable treasures you may find.