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Monday, November 16 2020
The use of water for grinding and milling has been in practice for thousands of years. From simple water wheels to inventors such as Archimedes of Ancient Greece and Bernoulli, a Swiss mathematician and physicist in the 1700s whose principles appear on modern day dredge nozzles, science has always advanced the use of water in our everyday lives. But have you considered just how much the dynamics of water can affect gold recovery?
Water Flow. The easiest example of how water dynamics affect gold is the classic inside bend in a waterway. When stream flow is straight and velocities are at their highest, gold will be suspended in the flow. As a bend in the stream causes flow to begin slowing down, the heaviest gold begins to drop out because the water no longer has enough velocity to suspend the material. The stream continues to lose power as the bend length increases and smaller and smaller gold continues to be deposited until there is no longer any in suspension, or the remaining water flow and speed cannot carry it farther downstream.
Water velocity and flow affect attempts at recovery in all capture devices in exactly the same way. Each piece of gold in classified material requires a certain flow and length of time to separate, drop out, and be captured based solely on its relative size and weight. If the velocity and flow are too great, the gold will remain suspended and will exit the machine regardless of machine length or method of recovery. This is why some miners are lured into a false sense of security just by using longer sluices.
Improper water depth in the sluice can create additional problems in recovery. Methods of material collection have much less effect if the gold is suspended in the upper part of the water flow. Most sluices provide little or no material agitation to break up the classified material and provide the necessary change in flow that facilitates gold separation. Lack of agitation allows smaller pieces to be carried through the equipment.
Classification. There is a direct relationship between material classification and water speed, which is often overlooked. It is common to classify for ease and speed of filling buckets rather than size of gold being targeted. Larger classification requires increased water speed to push the material through most recovery systems. The trade-off is forfeiting recovery of finer gold by increasing the length of drop time. This reduces the number of gold capture attempts and even machine effectiveness by having concentrations of larger material wedging into riffles, drops, etc.
Running dry material requires the sluice to liquefy the material while it is passing through. Gold particles will suspend in the dry material, reducing the chance of capture. Many miners use a scoop and drop their material into the machine in large clumps. This also allows particles to suspend instead of being processed. Material should always be wet prior to processing, and material should be cast (sprinkled) side to side across the machine when using a scoop.
Riffles. Some riffle designs are actually not that ideal for gold recovery. Some sluice riffles are evenly spaced, making them too far apart to impart the “vortex” or reverse underflow. What actually happens is an up-and-down wave motion as the water travels down the sluice. The only “action” imparted is the same negative flow that happens when water flows over a rock or some other obstacle in a stream. Material suspended at the bottom of the flow is deposited as the water climbs over the riffle and slows. Material that is heavy enough and can no longer be suspended drops. The rest of the material remains in the flow and continues to be carried down (and possibly out of) the sluice.
Flare. Most modern riffle sluices (standard and drop designs) are susceptible to improper setup angle, which can either clog the machine with material or blow it out completely. Either problem results in the loss of gold. Another big mistake in sluice design and operation is the “V” fallacy. The idea that channeling your water towards the center of the sluice using a wide-angle flare will increase its effectiveness and therefore increase gold recovery is false. On top of that, miners drop material into the center of the slick plate. This forces material into the center of the sluice, which is quickly overloaded by the volume of material and will cause the first series of riffles to lose their effectiveness.
Remove the flare from your sluice to eliminate the center concentration and create an even flow across the machine. You can create a V-shaped wing dam with a short straight section in front of your sluice if you need increased water flow or speed. Casting your material across the width of the sluice will eliminate overloading of the riffles.
Understanding how water height and speed changes your recovery can also make all the difference in boosting gold returns:
Water height. Begin with the water flowing just above the riffles or drops. Run small amounts of material and watch as the dirt passes through the sluice. Notice how the material enters the riffles or droops. Be sure to use the correct method of casting material evenly from side to side. Gradually increase the water height until processing suffers. This will determine the minimum and maximum water height for your sluice or highbanker.
Water velocity (speed). Set your sluice water height for max processing and a fairly fast flow, then gradually reduce water speed as you process small amounts of material. You may have to adjust your sluice to maintain proper water height through this process. Note how changes in water speed decrease the quality of material processing.
Spend some time exploring water dynamics. Introduce only one variable at a time, and verify how your gold recovery is affected before moving on. No doubt, with a little more understanding and experimentation, you’ll recover more gold with your sluice!
Tuesday, June 23 2020
Ocean beaches can be compared to the Mother Lode. Why? Because you can find GOLD on many by mining with a highbanker, and by searching with a metal detector. How lucky is that?! TWO ways to find gold at the same location! Think about it, who hasn’t lost a ring or coins at the beach? Whether you prefer recovering gold by swinging a detector or shoveling into a high banker, your chances of both are higher by visiting a beach this summer that is located in a gold-bearing area. And a side benefit is that you’re outdoors and can social distance! So if you’re itching to get out of the house now that COVID-19 lockdowns are lifting, here are some tips for mining the beaches in different ways.
Beach Mining with a Highbanker
When you consider the advantages of beach mining with a highbanker— easy access in all seasons, no classifying material down to size, no digging in heavy cobbles and moving boulders, no worries about rattlesnakes or poison oak— the idea is very appealing. Of course any new environment means there will be a learning curve. Recovering 100 mesh gold from the beach requires a little extra attention to detail to prevent loss, so you’ll need to readjust your equipment and process. Don’t expect chunky nuggets; you’re going for the flour gold here. High tide, not your watch, will dictate your schedule. The general principles you already know are the same, but also keep these tips in mind.
• Slow down. Expect to process about 10 gallons of material an hour. If you try to feed a highbanker faster or use bigger scoops you will likely lose gold. The most efficient way to locate the paying black sand layers is to use a post hole digger or earth auger. The pay layer is usually right on top of a golden brown sand layer that pushes up into the black or blue sand. Frequent storms can remove the light sands and reconcentrate the black sands.
• Use about 25% of the water you would normally use. You may need to modify your spray bar to compensate for less water volume so you aren’t fighting foam and bubbles.
• The beach is a level playing field—literally, so tip your box to a 9-degree angle and go from there. Most beach miners use battery-powered bilge pumps to run their beach sluices. A small gas-powered pump also will work. A Gold Cube is also an excellent piece of recovery equipment to concentrate beach material, then run it through a Blue Bowl.
• Do frequent clean-ups.
Beach Mining with a Metal Detector
Water and sunscreen have a sneaky way of slipping rings from fingers of swimmers and sunbathers, making beaches a lucrative location for metal detecting. There are actually several similarities between beach hunting for jewelry and hunting for gold in the rivers. At the beach, stuff that is lost in the upper sand areas make their way down into the surf during large storm events just like gold is washed downstream in the same storms. You can find an occasional nugget above a river in gold country, but you’re going to make your best finds when you locate the pay streak where nature has concentrated the gold. The same is true of the beaches.
You will find that the surf sorts out materials, and when you are really lucky, you can identify a pay streak. In a river, the gold pay streaks follow the downstream flow of the river, but on the beach the pay streak will typically run horizontal across the beach. After items have been in the sand/surf for some time, the wave and current action tend to sort thing by weight and density. The pull tabs will be in a certain line, the lighter coins further down towards the deeper water, and when you start detecting fishing weights, you are likely nearing a pay streak. That is where you are most likely to strike gold— as in gold rings, bracelets, pendants, etc.
Wet sandy areas are particularly lucrative for detectorists. The reason for this is that beach-goers first congregate at the "towel line" and then migrate to wet sand. The "towel line" is an invisible area where the majority of people plop down their towels and coolers and umbrellas. At the towel line, sunbathers slather on slippery sunblock and tanning oil that acts like a lubricant and lessens friction. After baking in the sun for a while, they will need to go into the water to cool off a bit, which is where the body's natural reaction to cold is to shrivel up. Less friction + shrinkage = rings in the wet sand you can find with your metal detector!
In all types of beach hunting, the discrimination must be kept very low, eliminating only small iron (bobby pins and nails). Aluminum pull tabs and tin foil should not be discriminated or you will lose some gold and/or platinum rings as well. Some beach hunters operate with zero discrimination and dig everything. Use of a sand scoop makes target recovery fast and easy. It’s important to realize that most gold rings will read in the “middle” tones (above iron but below coins). If you’ve ever hunted the beach you have no doubt found your share of unwanted nails and other litter. To solve this, lace a rare earth magnet in the scoop to quickly capture those small, annoying iron targets. If you’re going to hunt the salt beach areas, you’ll want to get a heavy duty plastic scoop. A steel scoop will rust fairly quickly in those harsh conditions.
If you intend to hunt IN the water, of course you will need a waterproof metal detector and waterproof headphones — one that can handle salt water mineralization. There are some good pulse induction machines that work extremely well in salt conditions. Very shallow water is no problem but when you hunt waist deep water and deeper you should consider a mask and snorkel. If possible, hunt at low tide. That way you can get further out and hunt where other detectorists might not have gone. Plus, the surf tends to pull things down the beach and out into deeper water.
Saturday, May 02 2020
Researching new areas in which to prospect for gold, gems, or whatever you are seeking can be a lot of work, but since we’re now about six weeks into the Coronavirus quarantine, most of us have extra time that could be put to good use. Even though you may not be out in the field every day, you can still be prospecting! And even if you’re not making plans for out-of-state road trips just yet, you can still dig down into the history of local areas for new ideas. In other words, use your downtime wisely, so you can hit the ground running with your gold pan, highbanker, pick and shovel, metal detector, or other equipment as soon as shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted.
Monday, October 01 2018
A highbanker, sometimes called a power sluice, is a very flexible and efficient piece of equipment when you’re gold mining in areas with a good amount of water. Their main use is to allow you to pump the water to the gravels rather than carrying heavy buckets of gravel to the water. The optimal place to use a high banker is a location along a river where there are lots of bench gravels that have been left high and dry by erosion. Just shovel material directly into a high banker and let the equipment do the rest of the work! As long as there is sufficient water close by so the hose can reach it, you’ll be good to go. High bankers are available in various sizes. The bigger the unit, the more gravel it will handle in a day. That also means it will likely be heavier and less portable. High bankers are fairly simple to set up and operate. They have three main components: a hopper feed box, and sluice box, and a pump.
Hopper: The feed box contains a grizzly screen with a water spray bar. The water is normally sprayed from simple plastic pipes with a series of small holes drilled into them. A water valve located ahead of the spray pipe controls the amount of water flow going into the feed box sprays. A series of rods are arranged to make a slat-type screen (called a grizzly) that allows water and smaller material to fall through and go down into the sluice box. The large rocks that are caught by the grizzly are washed with the spray and then rejected. The slats should be set on an angle so that most of the larger gravel will slide off the slats by the pull of gravity without you needing to push them off by hand. Some rocks may hang up, but for the most part, they will slide off on their own. The spray water comes out under a lot of pressure and washes any loose sand or clay into the sluice and also provides part of the water needed to move material through the sluicebox area.
Sluice: High bankers utilize a normal sluice to recover the gold from the gravels, and the operation of the sluice box portion of a high banker is basically the same as that of a hand or stream sluice. With a highbanker, the water is supplied by a pump rather than the flowing water of a stream. The matting and miners moss underneath the sluice’s riffles are the same. Gold flakes get caught in the riffles and moss the very same way as it does in a hand sluice. A nice back-saving bonus on a high banker is that it will be on legs, so you can operate it on any terrain. A normal hand sluice lays on the bottom of a streambed.
Pump: The centrifugal type pump should be set near the water as it is more efficient to pump water uphill to the sluice than to suck it up to the pump. This is only important where there is a lot of vertical distance between the pump and the sluice. If there is less than 10 feet of vertical distance, it does not matter much. Pumps can be set up quite a distance away horizontally from the sluice. It will work so long as there is sufficient water at the source where the pump is located. Vertical distance is more of a problem than horizontal distance; 30-40 feet is the maximum vertical climb for most pumps. The standard lay flat type of hose is used to carry the water up to the feed hopper. Be sure to have enough hose and some extra in case you spring a leak! Remember to position the pump so that you aren’t breathing motor exhaust fumes all day!
The big advantage of a highbanker is working materials that are found in a location away from a river, like benches and other isolated patches of gravel. Moving the water to the sluice with a pump saves you from carrying the material down to the stream. The only disadvantage to highbanking for gold might be that it’s more equipment to pack around than just your usual digging equipment. It would be wise to test your ground before hauling in your high banker. Testing will indicate if there is enough gold in the gravels to warrant bringing in more than a hand sluice. If you have at least an amount of gravel that represents a full day of digging and sluicing, bring in a highbanker.
The adjustment of a high banker is much less than the steep slope you usually would use with a hand sluice. Adjust the water flow to the minimum flow rate that it takes to get all the rocks that fall through the screen to keep moving down the sluice box section. If rocks or gravel hang up and bury the sluice, you need more water and perhaps a steeper box angle to wash that stuff away. The height of the feed box is another important adjustment. You want it low to allow you an ease of feeding in the material. If too high, you will hurt your back lifting heavy shovels full of gravel. Too low and you may be constantly sweeping away tailings at the back of the sluice.
The feed box itself should be adjusted to ensure the angle of the slat screen rods (the grizzly) allow the gravel to be well washed before it moves out as waste. This is because a lot of small gold adheres too the larger cobbles. If rocks and cobbles just roll through without getting a thorough washing, you will be losing gold. The rejection of the large oversize rocks is important as it lets your sluice to a better job. If those bigger rocks make it into the sluice, you’ll be getting much worse recovery of fine gold.
Be sure the foot valve or strainer on the intake hose is clear and able to deliver a full water flow. Sometimes the foot valve can get clogged with leaves or other debris. A blocked or partially obstructed foot-valve won’t allow the high banker to operate properly. For environmental reasons, it is a good idea to have your water drain into a pond or pit that is not directly connected to the stream. This is so that the clay and mud can settle out, otherwise make sure there are no legal issues of putting that mud back into a flowing stream.
Some models of highbankers can also be run as a dredge. These highbanker/dredge combos can save you money, offer flexibility, but are also a bit of a compromise since the dredge portion is generally small. Combo units will be equipped with a suction nozzle type of intake. This design is best for working small shallow streams and tributaries. These systems are designed to be set up alongside the stream edge and have adjustable legs rather than float systems that you’d normally see on a larger suction dredge. With a suction nozzle and more hoses, the combo unit will operate as a suction dredge, picking up material from underwater crevices and delivering it to the sluice. Highbanker/dredge combos also can be ideal for working in and around ponds in old hydraulic mining pits.
The next time you are out in the field, consider if a highbanker or power sluice can help you get more gold. To determine if the answer is yes, ask yourself these questions: Where is the nearest water? Can I shovel directly from the diggings into the feed hopper? Can I set it up to allow gravity to do a lot of the tailings clearing work? Where will the pump go? With a little thought and planning, you’ll be able to decide if highbanking for gold will increase your productivity. In most cases it will. Move more dirt, get more gold! Good luck!
Wednesday, June 14 2017
Fun and exercise are two great reasons to go gold prospecting, but you might as well make some money while you're at it, right? The best way to do that is to increase production rates. Assuming you are mining on a known gold-bearing claim or waterway, volume is the key to your success!
Graduating from the basic gold pan to some other form of simple equipment is the best way to increase production rates. Just going from a pan to a sluice will increase production by at least 500%, depending on how it is used. A highbanker will work about the same amount of material as a well-run sluice, though it can move the water to you instead of you bringing the gravel to the water, thereby dramatically increasing volume of production. A drywasher will produce similar results by allowing you to work without water.
A dredge or highbanker/suction dredge combo is the next step up. A dredge uses a gas motor to generate the suction that will load and transport the material to the sluice, which greatly increases volume, as well as allows you to reach gravel on the river bottom that would otherwise be inaccessible (unless the river is seasonal or there is a prolonged drought). The more material a dredger can push across the riffles, the more gold can be recovered. An additional benefit to dredging is that it also allows you to clean gold out of all the cracks and crevices in the bedrock. A shovel just cannot do that.
The size of the dredge intake nozzle is the most important factor in how much material a dredge can process, but it is not a direct one-to-one relationship. For example, a 5 inch dredge will not move twice the material that a 2.5 inch dredge can move. It actually can move much more. The surface of the hose is figured in square inches, the area (and therefore the volume) goes up much faster than the diameter and the corresponding production rates go up proportionally. A larger hose size will also clog less because more sizes of rock and gravel will pass through. Having to stop and remove clogs can significantly reduce the time you get to spend actually moving dirt and finding gold. No matter the size, you're likely to have rocks jam up the hose from time to time, but generally, the larger the hose the less frequent the clogs that slow or stop production. In most areas of the country, a 2 inch dredge is considered a "recreational" size and may not require a permit to use, whereas much larger nozzle sizes would require a permit. Always know the laws where you intend to gold prospect and mine before you buy equipment.
Beyond dredges or highbanker/suction dredge combos, you can get into some professional mining set-ups that use trommels and jigs and shaker tables and earth moving equipment. Every deposit is different, varying in size and grade and structure. Environmental conditions and access will dictate mining methods and knowing the rock types and size of the gravel is critical in determining which equipment will work best for increasing your production. Finding a suitable deposit to mine and finding a way to work it economically— to justify your time and expense— is the first step. Then choose the right equipment to increase your recovery rate and speed of recovery and make more money. Good luck!
Saturday, July 02 2016
Although there are many variables that go into catching gold in a sluice, perhaps properly “tuning” your sluice is the most critical. A few months ago, Steven “Doc” Vetter, owner of Gold Hog brand mats, wrote an interesting article for Gold Prospector Magazine that focused on a few key factors that all miners should pay attention to. The following ideas from his article are all about achieving the proper tuning exchange, meaning letting the junk flow out, or be worked out by exchange zones, and holding the stuff you do want—gold. A well-tuned sluice will have heavy gold concentrations up top, medium gold in the middle, and trace gold near the end, and maybe a teeny tiny bit in the tailings. Here’s why:
Hydraulic Equivalence: By definition, “hydraulically equivalent” (HE) refers to particles of varying size, shape and density that fall out of a water flow and deposit in the same area. While quartz rock and gold vary greatly in specific density, you can make them collect in the same place by making the quartz rock bigger and rounder. A 2 inch quartz rock and a 1 mm sphere of gold will fall through water and deposit in about the same place— making them hydraulically equivalent (HE). An opposite example is a .25 inch round piece of gold and a .25 inch round piece of quartz. The gold will sink through the water and likely land straight down. The quartz rock, however, will not fall as fast and will be pushed several feet away before it settles. These two items are not HE.
The shape of the gold has a big influence on its HE. Flat things move more easily than spheres when either moving water or air is introduced. HE is a huge factor in gold mining and is often the main reason for classifying material to a certain size— the theory being if everything is about the same size, the heaviest material will stay in the sluice. When you slow down a sluice, you start to have a traffic jam. Things that are HE all want to gather in the same deposit zone and you start to gather/open the window for more non-gold particles to pile up and that’s not good.
Incremental Processing: A great analogy of how this principle works is to picture a city bus. Imagine a rule where all passengers must enter through the front and must exit through the back. As they enter, passengers must fill the seats in the front of the bus first. Every time the bus makes a stop (you shoveling dirt into the hopper of your highbanker or sluice), the first few rows fill up quickly and remain full for a short period of time. As a new passenger (each new shovel full of material) gets on and finds the front seats taken, he must move further down the bus (sluice). The result is a bunch of folks all competing for the same seats up front and when there are no seats up front, they must take the next available one. If all the seats get full, a passenger (your paydirt) never even gets to sit down and exits the bus (sluice) without ever sitting (collecting in the riffles). As the working zones in your sluice fill up, slurry material will move down to the next zone before it settles there. During times of heavy loading, the first percentage of your sluice will load up heavy and take some time to exchange out. That means gold will keep traveling until it finds an “empty seat.”
If you load too heavy or have too short of a sluice, you’ll have gold flowing over holding zones that are busy working and exchanging. It may take an exchange center (vortex) 3 or 5 seconds to fully process down material and exchange out non-gold and heavies.
Fine Tuning: Because of the principles of Hydraulic Equivalence and Incremental Processing, you may have realized that slowing down a sluice can really cause problems and loss of gold. How do you know if your sluice is running too fast or too slow? Experiment! Of course doing so is a little scary because the #1 fear of most gold miners is losing gold, and quite honestly, until your sluice is fine tuned, that just might happen. To avoid losing gold, most miners start running their sluice at the “normal” or widely accepted pitch of 1 inch per foot. But this is just a starting point. If you see gold in your tailings, your first thought is probably to slow it down so you aren’t blowing gold out of the sluice. But perhaps that’s not the cause at all. Perhaps it’s because gold doesn’t have a place to sink down into and hide in your sluice. Experiment by running way too fast, say at a 15-degree pitch. Then take it to 13 degrees, then go down to 12.5. Keep adjusting until you find an acceptable capture rate for the size of gold you want to hold.
Lose your fear of losing gold through testing and experimentation. Not only will you fine tune your sluice, but you’ll also get a great education. Good luck!
Tuesday, December 01 2015
With the weather turning colder, you might think you're done prospecting 'til next summer, but you don't have to be! Even if you're not a regular snowbird heading to a warmer climate for the next few months, you can take a short desert vacation some time this coming winter, and turn it into a lucrative gold prospecting trip, too.
Gold mining in the desert is especially enjoyable if you're not into crowds— the desert can be delightfully smog free and people free in the winter. Experts say there is just as much gold waiting to be taken out of the desert as there is commonly found in streams and rivers. Why? Well, throughout history the desert mines just never got the publicity that wet places like California's Mother Lode did, so fewer prospectors went there. Plus, back in the day, mining used to be harder in dry conditions. Luckily that's no longer true if you have the right equipment.
• Metal detecting is another great way to hunt for gold in the desert. Gold detectors are not necessarily higher in cost, but they are built with a higher sensitivity to detecting gold nuggets, and have better ground balancing and
• A bonus of prospecting in the desert is the abundance of interesting rocks. You can find many unusual rocks and semi-precious gems such as tourmaline, turquoise, agate, jasper, and more. Lapidary shops can cut and polish the rocks for you, or buy your own rock tumbler and lapidary tools and learn a new hobby.
This winter, consider extending your gold-getting season with a prospecting trip to a sunnier, warmer state. Good luck and have fun!
Sunday, August 30 2015
When you consider the advantages of beach mining with a highbanker— easy access in all seasons, no classifying material down to size, no digging in heavy cobbles and moving boulders, no worries about rattlesnakes or poison oak— you might want to give it a try.
• Good luck and have fun!
Monday, November 05 2012
Drywashers are like highbankers, but they do not use water, making them excellent tools for recovering gold from dry material in desert areas. A dry washer is basically designed to be a waterless sluice. It separates gold from sand and other waste material with pulsations of air, vibrations, and static electricity instead of running water.
The top portion of a drywasher is called a hopper and consists of a box covered with wire screen. The screen is called a "grizzly." Dry gold-bearing material is fed onto the grizzly, which is mounted at a fairly steep angle. Thinner material, such as dirt and small gravel, falls through the grizzly screen and into the hopper. Larger material, such as rocks and sticks, roll off the grizzly and back onto the ground. Material from the hopper is then fed by gravity into the riffle tray below (looks like a sluice box), through an opening in the bottom of the hopper.
Friday, June 01 2012
A highbanker is basically a sluice box with mobility and added height. It is mounted on a 4-legged stand that gives the sluice box the correct slope. Instead of being put right in the creek like a sluice, an engine with a water pump and some hoses transports the water up from the stream into the highbanker. Highbankers are also called power sluices. It is a self-contained unit with many uses— prospecting, sampling, and concentrate clean up.
In general, a highbanker or power sluice is extremely efficient at trapping gold, including very fine or "flour" gold. The biggest benefit of having this piece of gold prospecting equipment is the ability to process gold-bearing gravels located a distance away from a water source— in other words, you get to bring the water to the gravel, not the gravel to the water! You can purchase a highbanker with a pump/motor and all hoses and fittings included, or you can buy those items separately.
To run a highbanker, you need a system to pump water to it. Highbanker pumps can be either electric (12 volt battery) or gas driven. Some highbankers are also designed and constructed to re-circulate water so they can be employed in situations where little water is available. Keep in mind that the pumps deliver less water as your equipment location is moved uphill. Pumping uphill increases the resistance on the pump, and as you move uphill, eventually there is a point where the pump will not provide sufficient water to run the high banker. The slope on the highbanker usually ranges from about three to four inches per foot. Article continued here...
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