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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Arrested for Gold Panning in South Africa

A lot of people complain about the mining regs over here, but take a look at the number of people arrested in South Africa for gold prospecting without a permit. All of my permits have been pretty easy to get.

My biggest complaint over here is really the lack of clarity and/or consistency, even in a given state. Federal regs differ from BLM to Forest Service and State regulations differ from stream to stream, and county property (under bridges on county roads) seams to have its own rules.

Then, when you finally get the regs figured out and are ready to go find some gold, figuring out what is already claimed is damn near impossible. LR2000 is helpful, but not up to date, so the BLM says to check with county records first. County records are like sifting through split pea soup. There's software out there, but I've not seen anything, anywhere that essentially marked what was claimed and what was not, and was actually current, with ALL the claims.

If we're so heavily regulated, you'd think somebody in that overbearing beurocracy would know what was claimed and what was not - today, when I'm looking for the information. Then again, if I did stumble upon somebody else's claim, from everything I've read, nobody will do anything about it (unless of course, the claim holder fires a few shots at me).

The truth is, the filing fees on a claim don't even cover the cost of processing the claim, let alone administration, law enforcement, etc, so we get a bunch of other entities with their own agendas and regs. Personally, I'd pay more in fees if it meant more clarity and protections for claim holders.

Anyway, here's the article. Found at news24.com:

Zim magistrate caught panning 28/02/2007 12:09 -

Johannesburg - A Harare magistrate and seven other people will appear in court before the end of this week for allegedly prospecting for gold without a permit, Zimbabwe's Herald Online reported.

The magistrate, who borrowed a friend's car to go on an illegal gold panning mission in Mhangura, was arrested at the weekend.

He is reported to have run away from the police who pursued him for about eight kilometres before finally catching him. He was arrested together with seven other suspects.

The arrests were made when a team of plainclothes police officers visited the area to assess the situation prior to a raid.

It is alleged that four officers approached the magistrate and started chatting with him, pretending to be gold dealers.

While discussing strategies to evade police - who are currently conducting Operation Chikorokoza Chapera/Isitsheketsha Sesiphelile to clamp down on illegal mining activities - a group of uniformed officers suddenly appeared.

"The magistrate, who was holding a panning rod, a pick and had folded his trousers knee-high, dropped the equipment at the sight of the police officers and took to his heels," police spokesman chief superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said.

"The magistrate and seven others are all being charged under Section 392 (A) as read with Section 392 of the Mines and Minerals Act Chapter 21:05. This means they were prospecting for gold without a permit," he said.

Mandipaka said the suspects were expected to appear in court this week.

He said since the commencement of Operation Chikorokoza Chapera last November, police had arrested 31 509 people who were found panning for gold without permits.

Did that really say 31,509 people arrested for panning for gold without a permit since November?!?! The missing comma is a little confusing, but proper grammar is different from country to country, and the article is from South Africa.

That says to me, either (or any combination of the following):
  1. There's a lot of gold in South Africa
  2. The Magistrate gig doesn't pay much
  3. Permits are freaking tough to get
  4. The people are poor, poor, poor
  5. The mining companies run the government and don't like competition from the little guys

I don't know the political situation over there, nor have I been prospecting in South Africa, but that's an aweful lot of arrests. All I had to contend with yesterday was sleet, rain, wind, high water and a lack of a good spot to set up my sluice. Hate to have to keep an eye over my shoulder for the cops the whole time too...

BTW, anyone know what a panning rod might refer to?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Doubly Terminated Quartz Crystals in Victoria, BC

Interesting article from the Times Colonist in Victoria, BC:

Sure, it looks like a diamond, but don't be fooled
80-million-year-old quartz crystals found on Duncan hilltop appear fancier than they are Sandra McCulloch, Times Colonist
Published: Monday, February 12, 2007

They're as old as dirt, and not worth much more, yet quartz crystals found high on Mount Tzouhalem near Duncan are attracting significant attention from rockhounds.

Development on the 500-metre hill on the north side of Cowichan Bay has unearthed quartz crystals that are about 80 million years old and that look as though they've been hand cut in the same fashion as diamonds.

"They look very similar (to diamonds) if you're not into mineralogy. It can be very difficult to tell the difference," said Brian Grant, a geologist with the provincial government.

The crystals are six-sided and "doubly terminated," meaning they have a sharp pyramid at each end. "It looks like a diamond ... there are several different crystal shapes for diamonds but one of the forms is a double octahedron, which is two little four-sided pyramids."

These types of crystals look so much like diamonds, the most famous ones are called "Herkimer diamonds," after a New York town close to where they were found.

"The thing about the Herkimer diamonds in New York is the quartz tends to be especially clear and sparkly," while the ones found on Mount Tzouhalem are darker in colour, said Michele Heath, former president of the Cowichan Valley Rockhound Club.

Quartz crystals have been found all over the world, and usually form in cavities in rock. "You have silica-rich water that leaches into these cavities and gradually deposits the silicon. If it deposits it slow enough, you get these crystals," Heath explained.

"They're not attached to the wall of the cavity so both ends can form crystal faces. They're laying loose in the cavity rather than being attached to the wall of the hole."

While the mineral basis of these quartz crystals have nothing in common with diamonds, which are carbon-based, Heath says they are often mounted into jewelry because "they look as though they've been hand-cut and the quality of the quartz is really good."

Still, discussion of the naturally formed crystals draws a yawn from most geologists, said Grant.
"For people who have a hobby of collecting rocks and minerals and things like that, yeah, there would be a definite interest in them. Value-wise, they're not particularly rare or expensive to buy."

The crystals are much easier to find than diamonds, added Heath.

"They're often in places accessible to amateur rock-collectors and I think that sort of adds to the hype about it."

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Gold in Tajikistan

I may start trying to capture news like this here. Hopefully I'll have some input, etc, but it's interesting reading regardless. Have fun!

Two Gold Deposits in Tajik South to Be Developed Soon
2007-02-16 BBC Monitoring Central Asia
The development of two gold deposits in southern Tajikistan will begin soon, the Tajik news agency Asia-Plus reported on 14 February.

A gold-prospecting company, Tacom Gold, will soon begin extracting gold in the gold deposits of Sariob in Danghara District and of Bandisariob in Tavildara District in southern Khatlon Region, the agency quoted a source at the Tajik Ministry of Energy and Industry as saying.
The gold reserves of the Sariob and Bandisariob deposits are estimated at one and a half and five tonnes respectively and the Tacom Gold is planning to invest 5m dollars in the deposits this year, the report said.

According to data from the Ministry of Energy and Industry, last year 1,730 kg of gold was produced in Tajikistan, which is up by 530 kg year on year, the agency added.
"Reports from of the Main Geology Directorate under the Tajik government say that currently about 30 gold and silver deposits are known and the total volume of their reserves amounts to 400 t of gold and over 60,000 t of silver," it said.

(c) 2007 BBC Monitoring Central Asia. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gold Demand Up, Supplies Down

According to an article in the business section of theglobeandmail.com:

Demand for gold hit a record $65-billion (U.S.) last year, propelled by both investors and the jewellery industry, according to statistics compiled for the World Gold Council by GFMS Ltd.

But the supply of gold and tonnage sold declined.

I'm curious what this will mean for gold prices in coming years. They hit $721.50 an ounce in May and averaged $607 for the year. Will we be seeing that fabled $1000 an ounce mark in 2007? They've been talking about it for years.

If so, who will be getting rich in the resultant rush back to gold fields? Will it be the prospectors, the multinationals, the bankers, the traders, the guys selling shovels & mules, or will it be the folks selling mining claims on eBay?

Personally, I hope it's me, but I think I'd need to up the amount I'm finding each time out to have a hope at that. You never know though. A nugget the size of my head might be waiting around the next corner.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Pack Out Your Trash

I was reading in a recent Gold Prospectors Magazine and there was a brief little commentary about canteens that filter water as you drink. The auther was talking about how, even way out on remote streams, it's a good idea to filter your water before drinking "...because you never know what's upstream."

Good advice.

To make his point he described hiking into an isolated spot and finding a used diaper sitting by the stream. Then he said something along the lines of "...if you can carry a baby into a remote spot like that, you can certainly carry a shovel", as if burrying the diaper would've been okay!

Just what I want to find in my classifier, a dirty diaper!

I'd like to correct the auther and say, if you can pack it in, you can pack it out. This includes diapers, beer cans, candybar wrappers and anything else you carry in. I hate finding diapers, wads of tangled fishing line, broken glass, used batteries, bottlecaps, old tires and other junk while I'm out, and digging it up would be no better than finding it laying out in the open. More than the gold, I'm out there for the environment - the natural beauty, peace and quiet, etc. I don't think I'm alone in that, but it seems like a lot of prospectors are so angry with environmentalists that they ignore common sense about the environment. I mean if you need to filter your water because of idiots leaving trash, don't suggest bringing a shovel to bury your trash.

Pack out your trash. Gold prospecting is a right, but if you can't leave the stream with the same stuff you brought to the stream, including your own trash, you don't belong out there, so maybe it's not a right you ought to keep. I'm not asking anyone to hug a tree, just be responsible. Pack out your trash, make sure your campfire is completely out before you break camp, fill in your holes and so on. It's not that hard...

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Sluicing for Gold

Went out sluicing this last Sunday. Some folks watched the Super Bowl, but blah! Who wants to be cooped up in front of a tv? My Mother felt the same way, and had a new sluice of her own to try out, so weather permitting planned to join me. The sun was shining, so...

Holy crap! A semi-truck just blew a tire in front of my house! Sounded like a cannon going off!!!

...heart attack aside and back on topic... Phoned up Mom in the morning and she was ready to hit the stream, so headed up I-5 towards my place. I had most of my gear packed already - my little shovel, mattock, buckets, boots, pans, classifiers, new Lectra Socks (battery powered heated socks - happy birthday to me) and of course my sluice box - but wanted to make sure I had a few extra buckets just in case she didn't bring any, so had some dirt and sand to shuffle about and make some empties.

Anyway, ahe arrived and we packed my stuff in and hit the road. Not saying what stream we hit, but it was a new one for both of us. I spent a lot of time this last summer on river downstream from this one, and had done pretty well. This one was supposed to be richer and there are some old mines further up in the National Forest, so we figured it was worth a shot.

Driving out we passed a lot of private property, owned by what must be the most paranoid and/or anti-social people on the planet. Every tree, fence post, mailbox and rock had a "No Trespassing" sign of one variety or another. I wouldn't be surprised to see a house out there using "No Trespassing" signs as siding!

On the other hand, it might just be that the people who visit the area are a bunch of fence jumping, bike thieving, goat shooting (there was a reward sign posted for info about some goat killers at the local market) miscreants this side of the Pecos. Either way, it didn't feel all that friendly, so it was a relief to hit forest land.

We found a spot to pull off, and though it didn't look too promising, I wanted to try a couple test pans. The first area I tried was under the spread out roots of an old fir stump that had been undercut. I figured the fir had been growing for a long time and may have kept the ground underneath from getting worked back in the days when the area was likely worked pretty good. My first scoop panned out a few small colors.

Next I tried an area a bit further downstream. There was a contact zone with old river gravels laying right on some decomposed bedrock. This was right in the bank with the bedrock extending in a shelf out into the stream. The water level had recently dropped and I was hoping the receding water had left some paying material along the edge of that contact zone. If so, I might be able to dig into the bank along the zone and find more. My first scoop panned out 6 or 8 little colors. It wasn't much, but it was gold.

Mom had tried a little further upstream and didn't do so well, so we set up where I was (yeah, I know, coulda' done a lot more testing). She was running a 30" Proline sluice box from BlackCatMining.com and I was running a 50" Gold Gem I got off eBay from Tee-Dee (I think they sell as teedeecacti or something). It was the first time for the Proline, so we were both really curious to see how it ran.

The weather was gorgeous. I think sun lead to our choice of spots as much as the test panning. It was freezing in the shade and t-shirt weather in the sun. Even in the sun though, the water gets cold on the feet when you're in it for a while, so I broke out my heated socks. They worked fine. My Mother wasn't so likely. She had picked up some cheap-ass rubber boots from Wal-Mart last season and after only a few uses, one had sprung a leak!

Is this a weather report? Anyway, I used my pick to break up the hard-pack along the contact zone and and scooped and classified to 1/2" then again to 1/4" before running the material. Mom used a garden trowel in a different part of the bank.

Both boxes worked well, and she seemed to have a pretty easy time doing the clean up on the smaller Proline without any assistance needed. I mean she's not that old, but still a gran. My 50" might be awkward for her to lift out of the stream when loaded with black sands. We also liked how the riffles are hinged at the top and just fold out of the way. Anyway, they're both good boxes...

All in all, we didn't get rich, but came away with a fair amount of fine flour gold and a bunch of concentrates. Gold aside, just had a nice time out on the stream in the sun (in February no less).