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First thing to remember about Gold is that it is Heavy, really Heavy. It is 19.3 times heavier then water and about 3 times heavier then iron ( Black Sand ). Knowing this makes finding it that much easier.Because of it's weight, Gold will always sink to the lowest level possible. As rain, wind, freezing and thawing and Geologic disruptions move the Earth around, Gold is freed up and is relocated to another low point where it will rest until moved again.
Look for streaks of Black Sand ( Magnetite, Hematite ) as this is a good indicator of minerals in the area which may contain Gold.
Learn how to use your Gold pan with Classifier and sample ares that look promising. Keep a log of your samples and keep track of there locations ( i.e GPS, Topo Maps, Photos ect. ).
Remember that Gold will drop out in low pressure zones, so learn how to read these areas ( i.e. inside bends if rivers, Behind large rocks or fallen trees, Cracks in the Bedrock, Gravel bars ).
If you are looking for Gold in Desert areas then know that movement and placement of placer Gold will be very erratic as a result of intermittent water flows that provide scant opportunity for effective sorting of the gravels or concentration of the Gold.
Desert placer can be located in arroyos, hillsides and on top of mesas and mountains. The best means for recovery is with either a metal detector or Drywasher. If you find a " Patch " with a metal detector then go back later with a dry washer to the same area. Chances are that small Gold that could not be detected was traveling with the larger nuggets.
If you are Drywashing be sure to check your Header pile ( Large rocks that are classified out of the hopper ) with a VLF Metal Detector for nuggets.
Sample old mine Dumps for Free Mill placer Gold. Check for any piles of Hand stacked rocks near the shaft or Portal to the mine. These will most likely be High Grade ore that never made it to the mill.
Check on line first what the area you are searching was producing and what the ore looks like that contains the free Mill gold so when you get there you will know what to look for. Make sure it is Free Mill Gold and not Sulfides or Tellurides.
If you find good ore and want to sample it , then bring a Mortar and Pestle with you and crush the rock down and then screen it through a # 20 classifier. Pan that material and check for small specs of Gold with a Jewelers loop. You will know right away if you have Gold in your rock.
Always be on the look out for very red to almost black looking quartz rock. Take samples and keep track of them.
When checking Hard Pack ( Hard Pan ) layers always look for the contact zones of large round river rocks sitting on Bedrock or a false Bedrock like clay or the contact zones between the different layers. This is where the Gold will be if any. Red to orange dirt is a good sign of iron being present in the dirt.
When checking Hill sides or valleys look for Red Gossans ( Iron Caps ) or Different color changes in the dirt. This is where the minerals will be and possibly Gold. Sample the contact zones.
Look for Laterites ( i.e. Skarn, Limonite, Jarosite, Plumbojarosite ) for they can contain zone of secondary enrichment ( Polymetallic replacement deposits, Super Gene deposits , ect.) and can be very rich with 98% pure Gold. The are usually very red to almost Black and are in Epithermal and Hydrothermal zones.
They are mostly shallow zones and can sometimes be found at the contact zones of Sedimentary and Igneous intrusions ( Granite Porphyry ) .
Remember Gold is found mostly in Igneous and metamorphic rock. Shale, Slate , Schist, Gneiss in the foliations of the rock. Gold can be found either with or with out quartz as a Host rock .
Iron Pyrite ( Iron Sulfide ) oxidizes out to form Limonite and leaves the Free Mill Gold behind. Sample Red rusty looking rocks that have Iron Pyrite in them. The Pyrite can be crushed and roasted with Table Salt to release the sulfur ( Sulfur Dioxide , Hydrogen Sulfide ) and leave the iron and Gold behind that can be panned out. Jeff and Slim
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