Gold is most often found in quartz rock. When quartz is found in gold bearings areas, it is possible that gold will be found as well. Quartz may be found as small stones in river beds or in large seams in hillsides. The white color of quartz makes it easy to spot in many environments.
Alluvium is a deposit of eroded materials and sediment that is gathered into one area. As gold and other materials are eroded, the small pieces are pushed by water and other forces into creek and river beds and other depressions. Because gold is heavier than most other naturally occurring materials, it settles at the bottom of these deposits.
Intrusive rock is formed when molten magma is pushed between layers of existing rock. Intrusive rock is typically very hard and erodes slowly. This allows the surrounding rock to be worn away by wind and water, leaving only the harder rock in place. Heavy particles, such as gold, are likely to accumulate against the harder rock while the lighter materials are more easily moved away.
Jay Motes is a writer who sold his first article in 1998. Motes has written for numerous print and online publications including "The Dollar Stretcher" and "WV Sportsman." He holds a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in history and political science form Fairmont State College in Fairmont, W.V.
I regularly get inquiries along the line of: Hey, I found this rock, and I think it might be gold ore. How can I tell? Prospectors are always on the lookout for gold-bearing rocks that may be the source of any nearby placer gold.
The other opportunity that I see is in seeking unusual types of deposits. Specifically, the prospector would be searching for the stuff no one (or almost no one) is searching for. These deposits are effectively hiding in plain view.
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Barricks Carlin is the largest gold operation in the US and the second largest in the world. Gold production in Q1 2021 of 373 koz was 9% lower compared to the first quarter of 2020, mainly because of lower roaster throughput due to higher carbonaceous content, which in turn also negatively impacted the overall feed grade due to blending.
Another Barricks Cortez mine sits second. Gold production in Q1 2021 of 163 koz was 22% lower compared to Q1 2020, driven by lower production across all processing facilities. Oxide mill production was lower due to the processing of slightly lower open pit stockpile grades. Heap leach production was lower due to a combination of a longer leach cycle caused by a higher proportion of alluvium material and a previously disclosed geotechnical event in the Pipeline pit at the end of the third quarter of 2020, which temporarily delayed the placing of tonnes. Additionally, production from the roasters was lower mainly due to a decrease in ore processed from Cortez Hills Underground as well as lower grades, partially offset by an increase in open pit refractory stockpiles processed.
Another Barricks Turquoise Ridge mine is third. Gold production in Q1 2021 of 149 koz was 9% higher than in Q1 2020 as a result of higher throughput at the Sage autoclave. Improved mining rates at Turquoise Ridge underground in the first quarter of 2021 were largely offset by a fall of ground at Vista underground, which was remediated during the quarter. Major maintenance of the Sage autoclave is scheduled for the second quarter of 2021.
At Kinross Round Mountain gold mine, the fourth largest gold operation in the US, mining activities during the quarter were impacted by precautionary measures taken after wall movements in the north wall of the pit were detected by the sites comprehensive monitoring system. The site deferred mining in the area, which delayed access to Phase W ore and affected production and cost of sales per ounce during the quarter. As a result, the mine produced 74 koz of gold in Q1 2021, which is 12% less compared to Q1 2020.
SSR Minings Marigold mine ranked fifth. The mine delivered gold production of 67,936 ounces for the first quarter, a 16% increase compared to Q1 2020, as the mine moved a record 23.8 million tonnes of material. The record movement was achieved despite a 35 day scheduled maintenance shutdown of the largest shovel.
Operation Major owner / operator Q1 2021 Au production, koz Q1 2020 Au production, koz % change 1 Carlin Barrick 373 411 -9 2 Cortez Barrick 163 208 -22 3 Turquoise Ridge Barrick 149 137 9 4 Round Mountain Kinross 74 84 -12 5 Marigold SSR Mining 68 58 16 6 Long Canyon Barrick 63 42 49 7 Cripple Creek and Victor Newmont 61 69 -12 8 Fort Knox Kinross 56 52 8 9 Bald Mountain Kinross 51 42 22 10 Haile OceanaGold 44 29 51
Newmont Goldcorp(NYSE: NEM) is a leading gold and copper producer with operations in the U.S., Australia, Ghana, Peru and Suriname. Earlier this year, Barrick struck a joint venture with Newmont Goldcorp, called Nevada Gold Mines, which will have three tier-one gold mines: Barricks Cortez; the combination of Barricks Goldstrike and Newmonts Carlin; and Barricks Turquoise Ridge, with Newmonts Twin Creeks. The joint-venture operations making up Nevada Gold Mines owned 61.5% by Barrick and 38.5% by Newmont Goldcorp produced more than 4 million oz. gold in 2018.
In November 2018, Newmont declared commercial production at the Subika underground project in Ghana, which represented Newmonts third profitable expansion last year. The companys consolidated gold production in 2018 totalled 5.48 million ounces. The attributable gold production outlook for 2019 is 5.2 million oz. gold at all-in sustaining costs of $935 per oz. gold.
Southern Copper(NYSE: SCCO) is one of the largest integrated copper producers in the world, with a copper reserve totalling 70.6 million tonnes. The company was incorporated in Delaware in 1952, and is listed on the New York and Lima Stock Exchanges. The company operates in Mexico and Peru, and has exploration projects in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru.
Southern Copper produced 883,689 tonnes copper, 70,778 tonnes zinc and 17.3 million oz. silver in 2018, compared to 876,979 tonnes copper, 68,665 tonnes zinc and 15.9 million oz. silver in 2017. For 2019, the company expects to produce 986,700 tonnes copper, 96,400 tonnes zinc and 21.4 million oz. silver.
In February 2018, the company won the public bidding process for the Michiquillay project in Cajamarca, Peru, with mineral resources of 1.15 billion tonnes and a 0.63% copper grade. The Michiquillay project is expected to produce 225,000 tonnes copper a year, along with by-products molybdenum, gold and silver, for an initial mine life exceeding 25 years. Michiquillay will start production in 2025 to become one of the largest copper mines in Peru.
Phoenix-headquarteredFreeport-McMoRan(NYSE: FTX) operates seven open-pit copper mines in North America (Morenci, Bagdad, Safford, Sierrita and Miami in Arizona, and Chino and Tyrone in New Mexico) and two copper mines in South America (Cerro Verde in Peru, and El Abra in Chile).
In 2018, Freeport produced 3.8 billion lb. copper at an average realized price of $2.91 per lb., and 2.4 million oz. gold at $1,254 per ounce. The company has estimated consolidated recoverable proven and probable mineral reserves of 119.6 billion lb. copper, 30.8 million oz. gold, 3.78 billion lb. molybdenum and 393.1 million oz. silver.
In May 2019, Freeport announced the sale of its cobalt refinery in Kokkola, Finland and related cobalt cathode business to Umicore for $150 million. Production at the Lone Star copper-leach project in Arizona, which Freeport started developing in 2018, should begin by the end of 2020. In December 2018, the Indonesian government took a 51.2% stake in Freeports Grasberg mine in Papua province, Indonesia, in a $3.85 billion deal.
FMC(NYSE: FMC), a chemical company headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., serves the global agricultural, consumer and industrial markets. The company has two business segments: FMC Agricultural Solutions and FMC Lithium. The former offers crop-protection chemicals to enhance crop yield and control pests in non-agricultural markets, while the lithium segment makes lithium for use in products relating to energy storage, specialty polymers and chemical synthesis applications.
In June 2019, FMC announced plans to invest more than $50 million over the next three years in capital-improvement projects, including the reconfiguration of a greenhouse and research facility at the companys global research and development headquarters in Newark, Delaware.
Mosaic(NYSE: MOS) is the worlds leading producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash. The Fortune 500 company, headquartered in Plymouth, Minn., has been publicly traded since 2004. Mosaics principal phosphate-production facilities are in Florida and Louisiana, while its potash-production facilities are in New Mexico, Saskatchewan and Canada.
In 2018, Mosaic sold 8.8 million tonnes potash and 8.4 million tonnes phosphate. This years potash sales are expected to range from 9 million to 9.4 million tonnes, and 8.6 million to 9 million tonnes for phosphates.
In the second quarter of 2019, Mosaic reported a net loss of $233 million, including a $284-million, non-cash, after-tax charge for the permanent closure of its Plant City phosphate facility in Hillsborough County, Fla., in June 2019.
Albemarle(NYSE: ALB) is a global specialty chemicals company in lithium, bromine and refining catalysts, serving markets that include energy storage, petroleum refining, consumer electronics, construction, automotive, lubricants, pharmaceuticals, crop protection and custom chemistry services.
In December 2018, Albemarle entered a definitive agreement to acquire a 50% interest in Mineral Resources Ltd.s Wodgina project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia for $1.2 billion. The joint venture will produce spodumene concentrate and battery-grade lithium hydroxide.
In July 2019, Albemarle raised its stake in the Wodgina hard rock lithium project to 60%, and formed a 60/40 joint venture with Mineral Resources to operate the mine and battery-grade lithium hydroxide production facilities.
Royal Gold(NASDAQ: RGLD) acquires and manages precious metals stream and royalty interests, with a focus on gold. The Denver, Colo.-based company owns interests in 186 properties on five continents, including 41 producing mines and 15 development-stage projects. Three-quarters of Royal Golds fiscal 2018 revenue came from its principal producing properties, which include Mount Milligan in Canada, Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, Andacollo in Chile, Wassa and Prestea in Ghana, Penasquito in Mexico, and Cortez in the United States.
In February 2019, Royal Gold acquired a silver stream on the Khoemacau copper project in Botswana, which has a 21-year initial mine life. Khoemacau is fully funded, and production and stream deliveries are expected in the first half of 2021.
Alcoa(NYSE: AA) is a global industry leader in bauxite, alumina and aluminum products. Alcoa is among the worlds largest bauxite producers, with seven bauxite mines, including the worlds second-largest: Huntly, in Australia. It is also the worlds leading producer of alumina, and operates six refineries in Australia, Brazil and Spain. Its three-refinery operation in Western Australia is the worlds biggest single source of alumina.
In 2018, the company produced 45.8 million tonnes bauxite, 12.9 million tonnes alumina and 2.3 million tonnes primary aluminum in 2018. This year, the company expects to ship between 47 million and 48 million dry tonnes bauxite, between 13.6 million and 13.7 million tonnes alumina, and between 2.8 million and 2.9 million tonnes aluminum.
Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio,Cleveland-Cliffs (NYSE: CLF) is the largest and oldest independent iron ore mining company in the United States. Its mines and pellet plants in Michigan and Minnesota are major suppliers of iron ore pellets to the North American steel industry.
In June 2019, Cleveland-Cliffs completed a $100 million expansion of Northshore Mining, a company that mines iron ore near Babbitt, Minn., and moves the ore by rail to a processing plant on the north shore of Lake Superior in Silver Bay.
By 2020, Cleveland-Cliffs could become the sole producer of hot-briquetted iron in the Great Lakes region, with the development of its first production plant in Toledo, Ohio, which started construction in April 2018. The Toledo plant will produce 1.9 million tonnes per year of customized, high-quality, hot-briquetted iron.
Peabody Energy(NYSE: BTU) is the largest private-sector coal company in the world. Its primary business lies in mining, selling and distributing coal for use in electricity generation and steelmaking. The company, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., has majority interests in 22 of the 23 coal-mining operations in the U.S. and Australia, and a 50% equity interest in Middlemount Coal Pty Ltd., which owns the Middlemount mine in Queensland, Australia.
In June, Peabody and Arch Coal entered an agreement to combine their Powder River basin and Colorado assets into a joint venture, which the companies estimate will unlock synergies of $120 million a year in the first 10 years. Peabody will be the operator and own 65% of the joint venture, and Arch will own the other 33.5%.
In December 2018, Peabody acquired the Shoal Creek seaborne metallurgical coal mine in Alabama from private coal producer Drummond Co. Inc. for $387 million. Shoal Creek is expected to ship 2.5 million tonnes of high-quality, hard-coking coal to Asian and Atlantic steel customers in 2019. The company announced on Aug. 9, 2019 that it would close the Somerville mining complex in Indiana, U.S., in October. The mine, which opened in 2000 and supplied 2 million tonnes coal in 2018, has been facing a tough economic climate.
Anyone who pans for gold hopes to be rewarded by the glitter of colors in the fine material collected in the bottom of the pan. Although the exercise and outdoor activity experienced in prospecting are rewarding, there are few thrills comparable to finding gold. Even an assay report showing an appreciable content of gold in a sample obtained from a lode deposit is exciting. The would-be prospector hoping for financial gain, however, should carefully consider all the pertinent facts before deciding on a prospecting venture.
Only a few prospectors among the many thousands who searched the western part of the United States ever found a valuable deposit. Most of the gold mining districts in the West were located by pioneers, many of whom were experienced gold miners from the southern Appalachian region, but even in colonial times only a small proportion of the gold seekers were successful.
Hydrogeochemical prospecting for gold: Groundwater collected from wells, springs, and drill holes may provide clues to the presence of subsurface gold deposits. As groundwater flows through the deposit, minute amounts of gold are leached from the rocks. These can sometimes be detected in groundwater samples collected from wells located down gradient from the deposit. USGS image.
Over the past several centuries the country has been thoroughly searched by prospectors. During the depression of the 1930's, prospectors searched the better known gold-producing areas throughout the Nation, especially in the West, and the little-known areas as well. The results of their activities have never been fully documented, but incomplete records indicate that an extremely small percentage of the total number of active prospectors supported themselves by gold mining. Of the few significant discoveries reported, nearly all were made by prospectors of long experience who were familiar with the regions in which they were working.
The lack of outstanding success in spite of the great increase in prospecting during the depression in the 1930's confirms the opinion of those most familiar with the occurrence of gold and the development of gold mining districts that the best chances of success lie in systematic studies of known productive areas rather than in efforts to discover gold in hitherto unproductive areas.
The development of new, highly sensitive, and relatively inexpensive methods of detecting gold, however, has greatly increased the possibility of discovering gold deposits which are too low grade to have been recognized earlier by the prospector using only a gold pan. These may be large enough to be exploited by modern mining and metallurgical techniques. The Carlin mine near Carlin, Nevada, produced gold from a large low-grade deposit that was opened in 1965 after intensive scientific and technical work had been completed. Similar investigations have led to the discovery of a Carlin-type gold deposit in Jerritt Canyon, Nevada.
Many believe that it is possible to make wages or better by panning gold in the streams of the West, particularly in regions where placer mining formerly flourished. However, most placer deposits have been thoroughly reworked at least twice--first by Chinese laborers, who arrived soon after the initial boom periods and recovered gold from the lower grade deposits and tailings left by the first miners, and later by itinerant miners during the 1930's.
Geologists and engineers who systematically investigate remote parts of the country find small placer diggings and old prospect pits whose number and wide distribution imply few, if any, recognizable surface indications of metal-bearing deposits were overlooked by the earlier miners and prospectors.
Convergent plate boundaries are the plate tectonic setting of many gold deposits. There, magma produced by the melting of descending lithosphere rises as magma chambers and crystallizes close to the surface. Gold in these hot environments is often dissolved in superheated water and carried away from the magma chamber along faults and fractures. The water temperature is very high near the magma chamber but drops with distance. As the water travels farther from the magma chamber, gold starts to crystallize out within the fracture to produce a vein gold deposit. USGS image.
One who contemplates prospecting for gold should realize that a successful venture does not necessarily mean large profits even if the discovery is developed into a producing mine. Although the price of gold has increased significantly since 1967 when the fixed price of $35 an ounce was terminated, the increases in the cost of virtually every supply and service item needed in prospecting and mining ventures have kept profit margins at moderate levels, particularly for the small mine operator. In general, wide fluctuations in the price of gold are not uncommon, whereas inflationary pressures are more persistent. The producer of gold, therefore, faces uncertain economic problems and should be aware of their effects on his operation.
Convergent boundary map: A present-day convergent boundary is located along the Pacific Northwest portion of the United States and extends north along the coast of Canada. Volcanic activity there will produce the gold deposits of the future. Gold deposits being mined today were produced by ancient activity on current plate boundaries or ancient activity on boundaries that are no longer active. USGS image.
Today's prospector must determine where prospecting is permitted and be aware of the regulations under which he is allowed to search for gold and other metals. Permission to enter upon privately owned land must be obtained from the land owner. Determination of land ownership and location and contact with the owner can be a time-consuming chore but one which has to be done before prospecting can begin.
Determination of the location and extent of public lands open to mineral entry for prospecting and mining purposes also is a time consuming but necessary requirement. National parks, for example, are closed to prospecting. Certain lands under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management may be entered for prospecting, but sets of rules and regulations govern entry. The following statement from a pamphlet issued in 1978 by the U.S. Department of the Interior and entitled "Staking a mining claim on Federal Lands" responds to the question "Where May I Prospect?"
"There are still areas where you may prospect, and if a discovery of a valuable, locatable mineral is made, you may stake a claim. These areas are mainly in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Such areas are mainly unreserved, unappropriated Federal public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of the U.S. Department of the Interior and in national forests administered by the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Public land records in the proper BLM State Office will show you which lands are closed to mineral entry under the mining laws. These offices keep up-to-date land status plats that are available to the public for inspection. BLM is publishing a series of surface and mineral ownership maps that depict the general ownership pattern of public lands. These maps may be purchased at most BLM Offices. For a specific tract of land, it is advisable to check the official land records at the proper BLM State Office."
Core drilling for gold: Core drilling the Bend massive sulfide deposit, located in the Medford District of the Chequamegon National Forest, Michigan. It is a small, metal-rich sulfide body hosted by Early Proterozoic Penokean volcanics. The mineralized horizon subcrops beneath 100-120 feet of glacial cover, and consists of massive pyrite with varying amounts of chalcopyrite, tetrahedrite-tenantite, bornite, arsenopyrite, chalcocite, and rare gold-silver tellurides. USGS image.
Successful gold mining under present conditions is a large-scale operation, utilizing costly and sophisticated machinery capable of handling many tons of low-grade ore each day. The grizzled prospector with a burro is no longer a significant participant in the search for mineral deposits, and the small producer accounts for only a minor share of the total production of metals including gold.
Gold core at the lab: The core recovered from the Bend massive sulfide deposit (see drilling photo above) was 3" in diameter and was recovered in 10-foot sections. The sections were extracted from the drill stem into plastic bags and taken to a laboratory for careful examination, sampling and analysis. USGS image.
Some degree of success in finding gold still remains for those choosing favorable areas after a careful study of mining records and the geology of the mining districts. Serious prospecting should not be attempted by anyone without sufficient capital to support a long and possibly discouraging campaign of preliminary work. The prospective gold seeker must have ample funds to travel to and from the region he selects to prospect and to support the venture. He must be prepared to undergo physical hardships, possess a car capable of traveling the roughest and steepest roads, and not be discouraged by repeated disappointments. Even if a discovery of value is not found, the venture will have been interesting and challenging.
Locations of important gold-producing districts of the United States are shown in some of the reports of the United States Geological Survey listed at the bottom of this page. Geological surveys of the principal gold-producing States where additional information may be obtained also are listed. Information may be obtained, too, from U.S. Bureau of Mines State Liaison offices located in the capital cities of most States. There are also a large number of layman's books about gold that describe gold deposits and gold prospecting.
Hydraulic placer mining at Lost Chicken Hill Mine, near Chicken, Alaska. The firehose blasts the sediment outcrop, washing away sand, clay, gravel and gold particles. The material is then processed to remove the gold. USGS image.
A placer deposit is a concentration of a natural material that has accumulated in unconsolidated sediments of a stream bed, beach, or residual deposit. Gold derived by weathering or other process from lode deposits is likely to accumulate in placer deposits because of its weight and resistance to corrosion. In addition, its characteristically sun-yellow color makes it easily and quickly recognizable even in very small quantities. The gold pan or miner's pan is a shallow sheet-iron vessel with sloping sides and flat bottom used to wash gold-bearing gravel or other material containing heavy minerals. The process of washing material in a pan, referred to as "panning," is the simplest and most commonly used and least expensive method for a prospector to separate gold from the silt, sand, and gravel of the stream deposits. It is a tedious, back-breaking job and only with practice does one become proficient in the operation.
Many placer districts in California have been mined on a large scale as recently as the mid-1950's. Streams draining the rich Mother Lode region--the Feather, Mokelumne, American, Cosumnes, Calaveras, and Yuba Rivers--and the Trinity River in northern California have concentrated considerable quantities of gold in gravels. In addition, placers associated with gravels that are stream remnants from an older erosion cycle occur in the same general area.
Much of the gold produced in Alaska was mined from placers. These deposits are widespread, occurring along many of the major rivers and their tributaries. Some ocean beach sands also have been productive. The principal placer-mining region has been the Yukon River basin which crosses central Alaska. Dredging operations in the Fairbanks district have been the most productive in the State. Beach deposits in the Nome district in the south-central part of the Seward Peninsula rank second among productive placer deposits of Alaska. Other highly productive placers have been found in the drainage basin of the Copper River and of the Kuskokwim River.
In Montana, the principal placer-mining districts are in the southwestern part of the State. The most productive placer deposit in the State was at Alder Gulch near Virginia City in Madison County. Other important placer localities are on the Missouri River in the Helena mining district. The famous Last Chance Gulch is the site of the city of Helena. There are many districts farther south on the headwaters and tributaries of the Missouri River, especially in Madison County which ranks third in total gold production in the State. Gold has been produced at many places on the headwaters of the Clark Fork of the Columbia River, particularly in the vicinity of Butte. Placer production from the Butte district, however, has been over-shadowed by the total output of byproduct gold recovered from the mining of lode deposits of copper, lead, and zinc.
Idaho was once a leading placer-mining State. One of the chief dredging areas is in the Boise Basin, a few miles northeast of Boise, in the west-central part of the State. Other placer deposits are located along the Salmon River and on the Clearwater River and its tributaries, particularly at Elk City, Pierce, and Orofino. Extremely fine-grained (or "flour") gold occurs in sand deposits along the Snake River in southern Idaho.
Placers in Colorado have been mined in the Fairplay district in Park County, and in the Breckenridge district in Summit County. In both areas large dredges were used during the peak activity in the 1930's.
The most important mining regions of Oregon are in the northeastern part of the State where both lode and placer gold have been found. Placer gold occurs in many streams that drain the Blue and Wallowa Mountains. One of the most productive placer districts in this area is in the vicinity of Sumpter, on the upper Powder River. The Burnt River and its tributaries have yielded gold. Farther to the west, placer mining (particularly dredging) has been carried on for many years in the John Day River valley. In southwestern Oregon, tributaries of the Rogue River and neighboring streams in the Klamath Mountains have been sources of placer gold. Among the main producing districts in this region are the Greenback district in Josephine County and the Applegate district in Jackson County.
Minor amounts of placer gold have been produced in South Dakota (the Black Hills region, particularly in the Deadwood area, and on French Creek, near Custer) and in Washington (on the Columbia and Snake Rivers and their tributaries).
In addition to these localities, placer gold occurs along many of the intermittent and ephemeral streams of arid regions in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California. In many of these places a large reserve of low-grade placer gold may exist, but the lack of a permanent water supply for conventional placer mining operations requires the use of expensive dry or semidry concentrating methods to recover the gold.
In the eastern States, limited amounts of gold have been washed from some streams draining the eastern slope of the southern Appalachian region in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. Many saprolite (disintegrated somewhat decomposed rock that lies in its original place) deposits in this general region also have been mined by placer methods. Small quantities of gold have been mined by placer methods in some New England States. Additional placer deposits may be discovered in the East, but prospecting will require substantial expenditures of time and money. The deposits probably will be low grade, difficult to recognize, and costly to explore and sample. Moreover, most of the land in the East is privately owned, and prospecting can be done only with the prior permission and agreement of the land owner.
Lode gold occurs within the solid rock in which it was deposited. Areas likely to contain valuable lode deposits of gold have been explored so thoroughly that the inexperienced prospector without ample capital has little chance of discovering a new lode worth developing. Most future discoveries of workable lode gold ore probably will result from continued investigations in areas known to be productive in the past. The districts in which such new discoveries of gold may be possible are too numerous to be listed in detail in this pamphlet. Some of the famous districts are: in California, the Alleghany, Sierra City, Grass Valley, and Nevada City districts, and the Mother Lode belt; in Colorado, the Cripple Creek, Telluride, Silverton, and Ouray districts; in Nevada, the Goldfield, Tonopah, and Comstock districts; in South Dakota, the Lead district in the Black Hills; and in Alaska, the Juneau and Fairbanks districts. Deposits in these districts generally are gold-quartz lodes.
Prospecting for lode deposits of gold is not the relatively simple task it once was because most outcrops or exposures of mineralized rock have been examined and sampled. Today's prospector must examine not only these exposures, but also broken rock on mine dumps and exposures of mineralized rock in accessible mine workings.
Gold, if present, may not be visible in the rock, and detection will depend on the results of laboratory analyses. Usually, samples of 3 to 5 pounds of representative mineralized rock will be sent to a commercial analytical laboratory or assay office for assay. Obviously, knowledge about the geological nature of gold deposits and particularly of the rocks and deposits in the area of interest will aid the prospector.
Sometimes I get asked, What should I look for when metal detecting that will tell me there is gold present in the ground? I always respond that I wish there was a simple, easy answer. The problem is that gold occurs in many types of deposits, and what indicators work great for one type of deposit dont always work well for another. As an example, in some places the presence of vein quartz on the ground is a valuable indicator, yet I have been in places where there is so much vein quartz everywhere that is worthless as an indicator, and other places that have good gold but are essentially devoid of any vein quartz at all.
Know Your District The geologic concepts and indications that are the most important for finding gold vary from location to location. There is no one indicator of gold that always works. What works well in one district may not always work so well in another. In one place a certain type of rock may host all the deposits. In another district the most important may be areas colored red by high iron concentrations. Perhaps the most important thing in prospecting is to know the characteristics of the district you are hunting! Like sports, there is a home court advantage for prospectors who have learned the particulars of the district in which they are working.