Placer vs. Lode Claims

Are you interested in hard rock lode mining or surface placer mining? Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages.

Placer Claims

A stream used for placer gold miningA placer claim gives you rights to loose minerals, such as gold that has eroded from the host rock and has washed downstream over thousands of years. Stream beds and benches typically hold the gold. Back in the day placer gold discoveries were usually the first discoveries made by prospectors. This was the easy gold that could be recovered with just a gold pan and some water. Historically placer gold discoveries have been short lived. Once the gold was worked out, typically in a couple of years, the prospectors would move on.

Advantage #1 – Great Opportunity to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Placer claims are perfect for those who want to get out in the great outdoors and search for gold as a hobby. With plenty of locations to choose throughout the West, there are plenty of opportunities to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. There are also those who can make a good living placer mining, these individuals are experts who have put in the time and effort to not only find the best areas to work, but also the best tools and techniques. The vast majority of those who placer mine enjoy it as a hobby.

Advantage #2 – Minimal Investment Required

Minimal investment is needed. In fact all you really need is a gold pan to get started. If you want to up your investment you can get a metal detector, sluice box, dredger, etc. All gold deposits started as lode formations and over time rainstorms, rivers, glaciers and waves eroded the lode deposits and carried the gold downstream. The work of breaking the gold loose from the host rock has already been done for you. This gold ranges in size from large nuggets, to flour size, and just needs to be separated from the other loose rocks.

Advantage #3 – You Get to Stay Above Ground

Enough said, some people just don’t like going underground. Sadly in some cases the BLM “Stay Out Stay Alive” propaganda has done it’s work and some are afraid of underground mines. We wish this wasn’t the case. We enter thousands of mines each year without incident. It helps that we practice basic safety skills and use common sense, but for those who don’t want to go underground, but still want to recover gold, a placer claim is a good fit.

Making Money with a Placer Claim Requires Capital

If you want to make some money placer mining, you will have to put in the time and effort. It’s just like any other business venture. The first step is to do your homework. Study different locations to find one that would be ideal. Study the past mining history of these areas. If there were a lot of large gold mines upstream, it’s often a good sign. Learn about the geology of the area. There is a plethora of info online. Then when you head out into the field take samples from many different areas. Don’t just stake a placer claim and start mining the first place you find a gold flake. Too many people get gold fever at the first sight of gold and miss out on nearby areas with higher concentrations of gold.

Cut down on costs. You might be finding gold, but if you are finding $2 of gold per yard, and your cost to process a yard is $5, then your sinking your business. Knowledge and practice with good placer mining technique, and using the right tools for the job will also help you cut down on costs. A small dredge can be carried by a single person to a remote location where they can profitably process gravel banks on streams that previously were inaccessible to the giant dredges of the 1930’s. However making some serious dough with placer mining often requires some serious capital. Larger machinery, including giant dredges can cut down the cost of processing per yard, but the dredge is going to cost you and the reclamation bonds can also cost a pretty penny.

If you are looking for a fun hobby with minimal investment and you don’t like going underground, a placer claim would be a good fit for you.

Lode Claims

Unpatented Lode Claim

Unpatented Lode Claim

Lode claims cover veins or lodes having well defined boundaries, and also broad zones of mineralized rock. Examples include quartz or other veins bearing gold or other metals. Lodes are the source of placer gold.

Advantage #1 – More Potential to Make Real Money

Historically lode claims are known to be the big producers. While placer claims are quickly worked out lode claims continue producing year after year. When you consider that placer gold is just what has eroded from the lode, and that lodes can continue for miles underground, and contain gold and other precious metals in heavy concentrations, then it is easy to see why lodes are the money-makers. Prospectors of the past knew that and would follow the placer gold in the stream beds to find the source of the gold. The down side is that while the gold is found in higher concentrations, it has to be crushed and separated.

Advantage #2 – Lode Claims are Historic

Typically you can search online and find past history on older mines, this is especially true of larger mines. This can give you a good idea as to the amounts and types of minerals the miners were pulling out of the mine and what you could expect to find. And if you are like us, the old mining history left inside and outside the mines is a treasure in and of itself. Old cabins and ore bins, old track and wheelbarrows, even old cans and shovels left by the miners paints a picture of lives of miners 50 to 100+ years ago. If you love mining history a lode claim can be a lot of fun.

Advantage #3 – Like Placer Claims Lode Claims Can Also be Good Hobbies

For those who just want to work a lode claim as a hobby, quite a few mines still have high grade tailings piles that have been pulled out of the mine and are just waiting to be crushed. You can also venture into the mine and highgrade ore that is already exposed in the tunnels. Just chip it out with a rock hammer and crush it on site or bring it home to crush. A lot of the mines we find are remote. This gives you the opportunity to camp out underneath the stars and enjoy the solitude that is so hard to find in the rush of everyday life.

Making Money with a Lode Claim Requires Capital

If you are serious about making a living off of your claim it is going to require some capital. Please don’t quit your full-time job and throw your last few thousand dollars into buying a lode claim in a last ditch effort to strike it rich. Before you make the jump to mining full time make sure you have some money saved up, and please consider the following.

There is still plenty of opportunity to make some real money gold mining, but don’t expect to walk right into your mine and start pulling gold bars straight out of the mine walls. Mining is hard work, and plans often don’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped for.

Lode mines have always require some investment, but once you are up and running a good mine can provide a great return. If you are pulling out 4 ounces of gold a week, that’s $4,000, or 200k per year. Obviously you got to figure in the costs of extraction and processing the ore, but there are still great opportunities to earn some good money from a small scale mine. The goal is to get both the cost of extraction and processing down so that you can enjoy more of your profits. Also, some lode claims will work out better for you than others. You might discover that some aren’t worth your time, but others are well worth every minute.

Technology has Changed the Game

Thanks to technology improvements gold recovery rates have increased quite a bit over the past 100 years. At the same time the cost of mining tools has gone down significantly. Transportation cost are down too. Back in the day transportation costs could make or break a mining operation. Hauling ore in wagons from the middle of nowhere wasn’t cheap. The ore had to be rich enough to merit the ore wagons or the building of railroads. Now dirt roads lead to most mines with highways that are often close by, which makes it cheaper to haul the high grade ore off for processing.

Mining Regulations Have Worsened

The bad news is that at the same time as mining tools have become cheaper and more effective, regulation for mining have become stricter. Gone are the days when anyone could buy dynamite and head up to the mountains to build a cabin to work their claim. Now both using explosives and building cabins requires permits. However these can be worked around. You can still cut tunnel effectively without dynamite and we have a few tips on our mining tools page.

To sum it up, if you are get serious about making some money mining and if getting out in the great outdoors and precious metals and mining history excites you, then a lode claim would be a good fit for you.

We specialize in selling lode claims

If you have decided that a lode claim if a good fit for you, then we would be happy to help you in your search. We find them you mine them. That pretty much sums it up. Our goal is to provide high quality lode claims to the public at affordable prices. We spend hours pouring over maps looking for available claims and then travel all over the West claiming the best mines. We also take care of the paperwork with the BLM. Our goal is to make the process of finding a good claim as easy as possible.

Lode Claims for Sale

The best place to see our full inventory of  lode mining claims for sale is in our store. You can also click on these links to learn where to find gold in the western United States and how to mine the gold once you’ve found it. We wish you the best as you follow your dreams of owning your own mining claim, and occasionally you will see a placer claim pass through our website, but these will mostly be located just downstream of large gold mines, and sold with lode claims.

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