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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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