How to Pan for Gold in Your Backyard!
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How to Pan for Gold in Your Backyard!

Panning or prospecting for gold in your backyard is entirely feasible. Most placer or alluvial gold is found in sand and gravel deposits in streams where runing water concentrates the gold into the black sand concentrate.

Panning for gold is not complicated, and has been practiced all over the world using just about anything that will hold sand and gravel. It works on the premise that gold being just about denser then anything else you are apt to find in the soil it will settle to the bottom of the pan.

The gold pan itself is just an American invention coming from the California Gold Rush where some unnamed tin smith invented the thing. There are several other contraptions performing the same task a common one is a conical round vessel coming to a point at the bottom others are box shaped. They all serve a common purpose however to get the gold worked down through the gravel so it winds up at the bottom of the pan. It’s getting it there is the real trick.

For the purpose of this paper we are going to limit our discussion to the American gold pan whether it is made of steel or various colored plastic.

Yes Virginia, you can literally pan for gold in your backyard although it is handier to go to a local river or stream because the running water has worked its wonders by concentrating the gold in the bed of the stream. This makes things a bit simpler!

Dig down through the top layers of gravel until you reach the bedrock under the stream because this is where any gold to be found is where it likely gathers. Once you have reached bedrock or a layer of clay in the gravel works just as well as a place to search for gold.

Gold will collect in cracks and fissures in the bedrock so you should have something that will allow you to root it out. The author finds that an old teaspoon works and for some cracks a local supermarket “turkey baster” works even better.

Fill the pan heaping full of gravel until the pan is heaping full. The object is to keep sloshing the pan around in the water, and giving it an occasional up and down motion to let the gravel sink down through the gravel. You keep washing off or throwing the lighter components in the gravel that eventually leaves a layer of black sand in the bottom of the pan. This is concentrate that may or may not contain any gold.

You can continue working this concentrate until you get a crescent shaped deposit of black sand left in the bottom of the pan. At the point of the crescent that is on the upstream side you will be able see any gold specks that were contained in the original pan full of gravel. The alternative to this is to collect the concentrate by dumping it into a bucket to be worked out for gold at your leisure when you get back home.

Most of the black sand is composed of two minerals magnetite and hematite that are both oxides of iron. The magnetite can be removed from the concentrate with the use of an ordinary magnet because it is magnetic. The hematite is not attracted to an ordinary magnet, however it is attracted to a so-called “rare earth magnet.” Both of these magnets should be used in sequence with the ordinary magnet being used first to remove as much of the iron minerals as possible. This removes most of the black sand making the final separation of the contained gold easier.

The gold is finally removed from the last of the concentrate that has assumed the crescent shape in a small gold pan that is caused with water. The gold will be concentrated in the tip of the crescent on the upside. You can remove the larger specks of gold with tweezers, but the really fine flour gold presents a problem to remove. The author has found that this can be efficiently done with an eyedropper. The gold is finally deposited into a glass or plastic vial about half full of water by either washing it off the end of the tweezers or squirted out of the eyedropper by holding its tip near the bottom of the vial.

A problem often encountered in gold panning is sometimes the particles of gold can be so small they float on the surface tension of the water in the pan and become lost. These tiny particles of gold are known as “Floaters.” This problem can be solved by breaking the surface tension of the water with a drop of dish washing liquid allowing the gold particles to sink to the bottom of the pan.

This paper has been prepared using the author’s knowledge gained in the past fifty years as a geologist and prospector searching for metal deposits.

For more information about gold mining go here!

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