About Placer Mining
About Placer Mining
For Placer Mining in BC -
how it works - the rules and laws -
see the green link, above.
Placer Mining and Placer Minerals
Placer mining is mining placer minerals - minerals that have been
moved and deposited by running water. In BC, this generally means
gold, sometimes with platinum. This differs from hard rock
mining in solid granite or related rock.
Where Gold is Found
Gold is much denser than everything else in the stream. It settles
out in places where the water slows down - behind boulders and
outcrops of bedrock, in and behind gravel bars, and just around
the inside of bends in the stream.
Gold may be found in existing channels of a stream, and where the
channel has been in the past - in abandoned/ancient channels, and
in flat areas above stream level called "benches". Gold deposits
usually include sand, pebbles, and maybe some gravel, that settle
out with the gold.
Gold High Above the Stream
Valleys are cut and/or shaped by the erosion of "bedrock". Up to
a point, any ground that you see in a valley was once the
stream bed, usually covered by material from up-stream and/or from
up the sides of the valley.
Gold bearing benches and parts of ancient channels can be found
well above the current level of the stream - sometimes hundreds of
Deep Gold and Bedrock
Over time, gold can settle through the material in the stream bed.
More importantly, when glaciers melt as an ice age ends, vast
amounts of water move huge amounts of material downstream.
Often, much of the gold in a channel is on or close to the
bedrock. Sometimes gold is found on "false bedrock" also known
as "hardpan" - very hard layers of clay. In the famous
Cariboo area of BC, it was not uncommon to find gold
under 60 or 100 feet of sand, gravel, clay, boulders, etc.
Gold deep under streams is generally not accessible today.
Underground placer mining was popular in the 1800s. Due to
modern regulations, it is almost always too expensive and uncertain
to be practical today.
Benches for Hand Mining
Perhaps the best opportunity for hand mining is small benches
on the side of the valley, ideally, just behind a bend or an outcrop of
bedrock. Such benches can be partially or totally covered or buried
by material from higher up the side of the valley.
A bench covered by a ton or two of worthless material that has to
be moved by hand may not sound good, but it can be the reason that
the deposit is still there for you to find.
Placer Mining Activities
Note: Other than prospecting with a hand shovel and a
gold pan, a person requires a
Free Miner Certificate (FMC),
and generally works on a
How it Works in BC
part of this website for more information. See the
green link near the top of
is generally about finding a place to get a new claim. It
tends to focus on finding a stream that is gold-bearing -
shows colors (tiny flakes) in the pan - and then finding
deposits that seem to be worth mining. The primary mining
tools are a shovel and a
Exploring is pretty much like prospecting except the
goal is to find deposits worth mining on an existing claim
(perhaps a new claim you acquired the day before). The goal
can also be to find out if it is worth doing more expensive
exploring, like trenching with a backhoe or drilling. The
gold pan is still a key tool, but you may do some
sample mining of a deposit using a
and a portable
water pump - preferably
one that is small enough that a water license is not required.
Mining is, or course, the attempt to recover enough
gold to make money (or at least scratch the itch - placer mining
is highly addictive). It involves
processing (aka washing)
to separate concentrates from the excavated material and
processing the concentrates to remove the black sand and other
worthless material from the gold.
Reclamation is - as far as
practical - returning any ground that you disturbed to its original
state. It can be done as work progresses, at the end of a mining
season and when a mining operation ends. This generally isn't a
big deal for hand mining, but it is important for machine digging
operations. At a minimum, steep slopes must be stabilized and made
At Any Scale of Mining...
There are always
There are a variety of aspects that affect the chances of
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by Brian Marshall
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