Placer Mining in BC

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Gold Prospecting in BC

Finding and Evaluating Placer Gold Deposits

I am not an expert on mining law - I am just trying to help. Use the information in this website at your own risk. See the Notice at the bottom of this page.
Prospecting is searching for gold deposits that can be profitably mined. If a good deposit is found, the prospector will get a claim covering the area and either mine it or sell it.

Prospecting is done in Placer Areas so that the prospector can get a claim.

Exploration means pretty much the same thing as prospecting. Either one can mean exploring a large area or focusing on a smaller area or claim.

Testing a Creek

If a prospector is interested in a creek, the first step is usually testing for placer gold with a shovel and gold pan.

See Where Gold is Found in a Creek or River, which is on the Gold Panning page.

When working in a stream channel in BC, the prospector must follow the rules of Recreational Hand Panning.

"Colors" (tiny flakes of gold) in the pan mean that there is (or was) more gold above and/or upstream.

If a creek looks promising, it might be followed upstream (or the prospector might drive to a location upstream) to see if the creek gets richer, to see if there is a point beyond which the creek is not gold-bearing, and perhaps to see which tributaries (streams that join the original stream) are gold-bearing.

Exploring Above and Away from the Creek

Other than hand panning using only a shovel and pan, placer operations must be at least ten metres horizontally away from the water (although the Fraser River is a special case). So...

Once a creek is discovered (or already known) to be gold bearing, the focus of prospecting is generally on where it flowed long ago. This means...

Getting a Feel for the Past

The first step in prospecting a gold-bearing stream is often walking around and looking around, getting a feel for how the stream has eroded the valley (making it deeper) and/or partially filled it with material from upstream.

The effect of ice ages may be considered. Vast amounts of glacial melt-water is usually responsible for moving most of the material that partially fills a valley, giving it a flat bottom (not a U-shaped bottom). See A Little Geology - Valley Shape for more information.

Exploring by Machine Digging

Breaking the ground by powered machine is machine digging, which must be done on a claim and it requires a permit and reclamation bond.

Drilling is often done prior to more expensive machine digging. This kind of drilling is like water-well drilling - material is recovered, but except at the bottom, you usually don't know the exact depth of any particular material.

Digging test pits and trenches with a hoe/excavator to get samples is common.

Samples can be tested by:


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