Placer Mining in BC

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Gold Panning in BC

How and Where to Pan for Gold

You can pan for gold in any stream in BC if you use only a shovel and a gold pan, and you are not on/in a claim, park, private property, or First Nations land. See Recreational Hand Panning for more information.

You may want to see the Placer Areas page and the Opportunities page. They are in the Placer Mining in BC part of this website. See the green link near the top of this page.

Gold Panning - How To

Gold panning is based on the fact that gold is a very dense - very heavy for its size - about 70% denser than lead. Given the chance, it will settle down through lighter sand and pebbles.

The Last Little Bit - Black Sand and Gold

When you are down to the last bit of sand in a gold pan, it can be challenging to separate out the gold.

Some of the remaining sand in the pan will likely be black. Black sand is made of minerals that are high in iron. It is much heavier than regular sand, but much lighter than gold.

By using a small amount of water and the right swirling motion, you can swirl the lighter sand furthest around the pan, the black sand a little way around, exposing any gold, which moves the least. Nuggets and large enough flakes can be picked up with tweezers.

When all the gold is along part of the bottom edge with no water, you can tip the pan steeply with the gold highest. If you dip the pan into water, anything the water touches will fall out.

Using a Magnet

Some black sand (magnetite) will stick to a magnet. If you use a bare magnet to pick it up, you will never get it all off. However, you can wrap the magnet in plastic - when you remove the magnet, all the black sand can be easily rinsed off.

There are devices that do the same sort of thing. They can be used with one hand and don't cost much.

Snuffer Bottles

Fine gold under a little water in the pan can be picked up with a snuffer bottle (aka sniffer bottle) - a small plastic bottle that you use like an eye-dropper. Squeeze the bottle and then slowly release the pressure to suck up some water and gold.

Devices to Process Concentrates

If you are recovering a fair bit of black sand and gold (known as "concentrates"), you may want to look into some of the devices that make it easier to separate the gold from the black sand. You can make a "sluice half-pipe" for about $20. There are also bowls and gold spirals. See Separating Gold from Concentrates on the Processing page. for more information.

Where to Pan for Gold

Which creek or river?

Of course, you want to pan for gold on a gold-bearing creek or river. You might already know that a stream is gold-bearing. If you don't know, you can use a gold pan to find out - checking likely spots where gold might be found. If you find even one color - a tiny flake of gold - it means you might find much more.

Where Gold is Found in a Creek or River

The key to finding placer gold is that it is very dense - heavy for its size. It tends to settle out in places where the water slows down:

Fine gold (flour gold, gold dust) may be found and recovered from almost any sort of stream deposits other than solid clay, but it is most likely to be found with mixtures of silt and sand. It is very easy to lose fine gold as water is swirled out of the gold pan.

Coarser gold will usually be found with pebbles and gravel - they all tend to settle out where the water slows down.

Stream beds act like a sluice box - gold settles between the larger gravel and stones. Care must be taken while lifting material through water - you don't want gold to be carried away before you get it into your pan. Gold may be replenished from upstream - either more-or-less continuously, or during high water.

Bars in the channel of a gold bearing stream may capture new gold when the water is high. The Fraser River is famous for this. People have been gold panning in the Fraser River since the 1850s.

Gold above stream-level - where the stream flowed long ago - can be very good. Look for deposits of sand, pebbles and gravel - material laid down by moving water.


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