Step 3 - Working your Gold Mine

The Final Step, you have done your homework, put your ducks in a row and you are ready to start working your mine!

Let’s double check that you have the following –

  1. Quit Claim Deed in hand and approved Notice of Intent or Plan of Operations
  2. Ores tested and you’ve narrowed down the prime spots of your mine to work
  3. All supplies needed to work your mine

You will need to decide how you are going to mine the site. There are a variety of ways to do this, but we will cover the most common.

Casual Use – High Grading.

This is the most common way to start. It doesn’t require bonds, and it doesn’t require any other money, just some work. We highly recommend that you file a Notice of Intent or Plan of Operation with the governing land authority (BLM or Forest Service). Just let them know who you are, and what you are doing. Got that? Great, now grab a rock hammer and a bucket and let’s head into the mine.
High Grade that ore!
This is the way it use to be done. It was hugely successful and made many miners a lot of money. No sense in fixing what isn’t broken. At this point, you have identified your richest deposits and veins inside the mine. Now lets get that gold!

Put that information to work now, head back to those deposit and start working that vein. Working that vein means you are using a hammer and chisel and breaking out only the vein, the section with the rich ore. That’s high grading. You don’t want to pack out any more rock than necessary, and why would you process rock that you know has no gold in it? Working just the vein you can see values that are 10x or 20x the reported bulk values. Unlike larger mining operations, where the ounces per ton is determined from mining both the high grade ores and the waste rock that comes from cutting tunnel, with high grading you are going straight for the goods.

As you work, you will start to notice what defines the richest areas of the ore. This is different in every mine, but once you know what you are looking for, target those sections of the veins.

Production Level Extraction

Adit tunnelThis usually comes after you have done some high-grading with good results. You have defined the ore body and you want to take more of it in larger chunks! First, make sure your Plan of Operation is in place. For this level of work you MUST have an APPROVED Plan of Operation. Keep this with you at all times while on your claim.

Now you are going to ramp up your production. A larger crusher and a larger volume processor will be needed. These will be large, and you will want to leave them on the claim. Your crusher will likely be gas powered, and will have the capacity to crush large amounts of ore – 1-5 tons per hour is common. So you will need something to feed it. Blasting is the most efficient way to extract large amounts of ore for crushing. The process is this:

  • Define your ore body.
  • Using proven blasting methods, drill and load your charges.
  • Once you have detonated your charges, you need to remove the rock. This can be done with track and ore cars, or with a “Muck plate” (a large steel plate that can be dragged out with the muck on top of it).
  • Once you have a muck pile outside, separate the good ore from the less desirable rock.
  • Process the good stuff, Leave the rest for someone else.

This is what the average prospector used to do. It’s simple, it’s easy and you only process what has gold in it. When you see those large tailings piles stretching down the mountain…well, that’s mostly your waste rock that has been extracted from underground.

So let’s get started – Here is a short list of minimum requirements:

1. Explosives – This will require a license. If you don’t want to handle explosives, products such as Dexpan® and Sylentmite can be used as alternatives to blasting. You will still have to drill holes, but instead of placing explosives you will mix Dexpan® or Sylentmite with some water and pour it into the holes. Then you just need to wait until the product expands and causes the rock to break apart.
2. Knowledge of blasting methods – You don’t want to collapse your workings or injure someone. You need to know what you are doing and how to detonate just the ore body. GRE can assist you with experts and books, defining these processes.
3. Muckers and Transport methods.
Rail in mine tunnelThe simplest method to extract your ores is with a mucker and ore cars. This will require track in your mine. You can lay your own, or verify usability of existing track. Alternatively you can grab a shovel and a wheelbarrow and pack the ore out a little bit at a time, but after a day of this you will be searching for cars and muckers.

4. Crushing the Ore
In most cases you will need to crush the ore down to around 50-100 mesh to liberate the free gold. However, that can vary. All ores are different and the size the ore needs to be milled down to also varies. There are some ores that will require milling down to 300-400 mesh. In these cases, you will have a hard time recovering with a gravity circuit and will be better offer either floating your gold with float cells or implementing a heap leach system which is very difficult to permit here in the U.S.A. We have seen a lot of different types of ore and 50-100 mesh is a good start for fine gold recovery. When we talk about 50 mesh we mean that the ore has been crushed fine enough that 90% or more of the material will pass through a 50-mesh sieve. Mesh is determined by the number of openings in one inch of screen. An 100-mesh screen means there are 100 openings across one linear inch of screen. A 150-mesh screen has 150 openings, and so on. As the mesh number increases, the size of the openings decreases. Beyond 400 mesh, particle size is normally defined only in microns. This is because the finer the weave, the closer the wires get and eventually there is no space between the wires.

5. Separating the Ore
Once you have crushed the ore you are ready to separate it. If you have free milling gold you can use gravity to separate the gold. You have quite a few options here including: sluice boxes, centrifuges, shaker tables, etc. Check out our page on mining tools for the small scale miner for more information.

6. Purifying the Ores
After you have crushed and separated the gold out of the ore you are close to having your final product, but it’s not pure gold just yet. Here is where you will want the help of a professional assayer. Find someone you trust, it doesn’t matter if they are 5 states away. If you can’t trust them, you shouldn’t use them. A good assayer will take your concentrates (your finished product from the sluice or pan) and purify those into gold or silver bars. These will have a fineness rating and be guaranteed by the assayer.

Poof, you suddenly have a tangible product, gold or silver in a bar form. Turn it into cash by selling it, or just start making a cache! You are a miner, and you are now making a fortune in the way of the mining magnates of days gone by.

Wrapping it up…

Obviously this is a quick overview of how the entire process works, but it should get you started. If you have questions, comments or need further information, GRE, Inc. is here to assist you.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it useful. Don’t forget that GRE, Inc. is available to help you through all of the steps of mining, from location of valuable sites and deposits, to the final processing steps.

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