Mining Equipment for the Small Scale MinerThe key to any successful operation is having the right tools. This guide will walk you through basic mining equipment that a small scale miner will need. Fortunately most of the tools used today are cheaper and more effective than the tools used during the the late 1800s and early 1900s. Take for example the 5 stamp mill. Gone are the days when you needed to haul in and set up a 5 stamp mill. Today you can roll in with a portable crusher and start crushing your ore.
Basic Tool for Sampling and High-grading Your Mine
At the very minimum you will need the following supplies:
- Rock hammer
- 5 lb sledge hammer
- Small chisel
- Static rope and descending and ascending gear (if the mine has shafts)
- 5 gallon buckets to carry rock
- Head lamps
- Safety Glasses
- Mining Helmet
- A few five gallon buckets
You will need a good quality rock hammer to high-grade the ore out from the mine. A small chisel and a 5 pound sledge hammer will also come in handy as you chip out the highest quality ore. A static rope is better than a dynamic rope for ascending and descending. A dynamic rope is used for rock climbing and a static rope is for rappelling. Five gallon buckets are useful for carrying out the gold.
Tools for Expanding Existing Tunnels
As mentioned before you will need at least a Notice Level permit from the BLM to do any blasting. We recommend high-grading existing tunnels and not blasting to expand tunnels at least at first. Start by working out a chunk of rock and then chisel right next to the area to pry out the adjacent pieces.
If you plan on cutting tunnel set realistic expectations. Expanding existing tunnels takes time. 5 to 10 feet of new tunnel per week is a pretty good rate for a team of miners. Before Dexpan® or explosives can be placed, holes need to be drilled strategically. This can be accomplished with any number of tools including: a 24 volt, battery powered, Bosch drill, a backpack drill (which can cost between 3-5K), a hammer drill/rock drill, a stoper or even a hammer and chisel.
Using large drills that require a water line into the mine falls outside of casual use mining and requires a bit of permitting to run the waterline.
Drill strategic holes and place a muck plate (steel plate) on the ground below to catch the muck (blasted rock). After you blast the rock carry it out and discard the junk rock and keep the high grade ore. The depth of the holes, the chemicals used and the location and number of holes will vary depending upon the hardness of the rock and the size of the rock face. If you use explosives, a licence should be obtained from the ATF before any blasting is done. Getting a permit involves, among other steps, taking a course on properly handling explosives.
A side note – products such as Dexpan® and Sylentmite are good alternatives to blasting. Dexpan® and Sylentmite are powders that expands when mixed with water. Dexpan® has an amazing 18,000 PSI expansive strength, so when it is poured into the same holes where explosive are traditionally placed it breaks the rock, providing silent cracking. Tunnel can be cut this way.
Tools to Crush the rock
Once you have extracted the ore from the mine you can either haul the ore off for processing or you can process the ore yourself. You will likely want to have someone else process the ore if the gold is not free-milling. You also need to be pulling out several tons of ore to be processed at a time. It takes some effort to analyze the ore and then set up the chemicals specifically to treat that ore. So it’s ideal to have several tons of ore that you can process at a time and to have a mine that produces ore that is consistent in it’s character. Needless to say free-milling gold is a lot easier to process yourself.
If you plan to process the ore yourself you will need tools to crush the ore and separate the gold. You will want to break the ore into small enough pieces for the crusher. The size of rock the crusher will accept will partly depend on the physical features of the rock. Small scale rock crushers can typically handle 6 by 4 inch rocks to 2 by 2 inch rocks; again that depends on the crusher.
Global Mining Equipment sells equipment that has been designed and built by miners for miners. Rigorous field testing in various Countries has allowed them to tailor designs and specifications for the small (1 ton per hour) to medium scale operations (10+ tons per hour). Global Mining Equipment’s array of rock crushers, concentration equipment, and other mining equipment products are simple to operate and even simpler to maintain. They offer jaw rock crushers, hammer mills, pulverizers, portable gold processing mills.
Tools to Separate the Crushed Rock
Once you have sent your rock through the crusher the next step is to separate the gold. Start separating the crushed rock with a gold pan. This will help you get the feel for how much water and how much shaking it takes to separate the gold from the other minerals without loosing the gold. Once you have mastered the gold pan, it’s time to speed up the process with a more efficient tool. The options include a sluice boxes, shaker tables and centrifugal concentrators. All of these tools use gravity to separate the heavier gold. In most cases you will need water to help the ore flow and separate.
Sluice boxes use flowing water and ripples to separate the lighter crushed rock from the denser gold. The heavier gold gets caught in the riffles and the lighter material washes away. A sluice box requires fine tuning so that the gold doesn’t wash away with the lighter material. The crushed ore must be fed at a pace that will not overload the riffles. You don’t want to be washing your gold out. The riffles are spaced a couple of inches apart to stop the creep of the heavy material down the sluice. Normally most of the trapped gold will be behind the first couple of riffles. Small flour gold may extend several riffles further, and hopefully the last few riffles won’t show any gold. If you find gold in the end of your sluice box you have probably lost some gold out the end of the sluice box.
While sluice boxes are mostly associated with placer mining, shaker tables are most commonly used to recover gold from lode mines. A shaker table is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a table with ridges on it, that is shaken back and forth using a slow forward stroke and a rapid return strike. This causes the lighter materials to move up and over the riffles and down to exit on the tailings side of the table. The gold gets separated. Wash water is fed at the top of the table at right angles to the direction of table movement. More details can be found in this book – Shaker Tables).
Global Mining Equipment has the RP-4 Shaker Table, which is a very good proven table that has been around for over 20 years. It is an excellent small lab table or final cleanup table. It is pretty inexpensive coming in at $2,500.
Concentrators have a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal force to its contents to separate different densities. Global mining equipment has several concentrators. Here is an overview of the pros and cons of each.
The pros of the GME Centrifuge is that it is a plug in and run rough concentrator. All it needs is water, material, and low voltage power. It will run 2-3 tons per hour and will recover 200 mesh gold with not problem. The Cons to this model is that it is a “batch” unit and needs to be shut down and cleaned out every 2-3 hours.
The ORO-RHT’s are very good and excellent ways to concentrate and recover fine gold. They are continuous feed units and not a batch system. They will run 1-2 tons per hour. The cons are that they require special attention during setup and operation. They also have spray bars that will tend to clog up if you don’t filter your water or use clean water in them. Global Mining Equipment has 2 different models, a rougher and finisher. They highly recommend the finisher to clean your cons from the GME-Centrifuge. The other con to the ORO is cost, selling for $15,000 vs. the GME-Centrifuge $7,900.
At the end of the day, the GME-Centrifuge is the easiest, most effective and less maintenance than anything else.
Using flux before smelting your cons
You will almost always use the flux after the cons have been adequately cleaned and ready to smelt. If you have a lot of sulfides or other impurities then you might need to roast the sulfides in order to oxidize them and then process it again through the mill system. When the cons are roasted it “cooks or burns” the sulfides and oxidizes them and makes them soft, at that they can be milled again to liberate the gold further. Also, when you see a lot of sulfides, you have a lot of iron sulfide (FeS) which is highly magnetic and so you will need to buy a magnetic separator before smelting. Global Mining Equipment sells flux along with magnetic separators as well.
Their website states the following:
Move an amazing amount of material through the Gold Cube. Up to 1,000 lbs. an hour, even black sand and end up with a coffee cup (or less) of super concentrates. Now that’s time well spent!
It Self Cleans!
Active Vortex Zones gravitate the heavy gold downward thus forcing out lighter materials, even black sand! Each modular tray contains thousands of these “tornado zones” that continually purge. You will always keep the gold while removing almost everything else automatically! Go ahead and feed the Gold Cube, it’s a very hungry machine.
Stack-able and durable trays are made of “low density Poly” similar to your cutting board at home and fill about the same footprint. This makes the Gold Cube very compact yet tough and ready for any situation you can throw at it (literally) ha!
It’s a No-Brainer!
Everything on the Gold Cube is ready for action. Simply set it up, hook up the 12 volt pump and you’re ready to go! You can pump from a creek or recycle from a tub. Why bring home the creek when all you want is the gold?
This video reveals the secrets of the Gold Cube …