Gold! Its allure is ageless and sparks that urge to search as easily today as in the days of the Forty-niners.
Members of the Gold Prospectors Association, Western Colorado chapter, manned a booth at the Delta Rock and Gem show held at Bill Heddles Recreation Center this past Saturday. Prospecting equipment was sold. Gold panning demonstrations and "how-to" instructions were given by Lonnie Taylor.
Tools needed are a gold pan, five-gallon bucket, classifying screen or a sieve of some kind, and a shovel. Classifying screens come with a variety of mesh sizes. They can be used separately or in combination to sort out large rocks and unwanted material. A special type of magnet and a snuffer bottle are helpful in retrieving flecks of gold from black sand at the end of the panning process.
"To start panning," Marlin Littlefield said, "find a likely spot along a riverbank, perhaps removing a large rock. Shovel the material found under the rock into the screen that has been placed over the bucket. Shakethe screen to allow the sand and smaller pieces to pass into the bucket and place this concentrate into the gold pan. Add water and slosh it around with a circular motion, tipping the pan to force the lighter sand off the lower edge.
"Black sand will start to build up. Add a bit more water to make slurry and allow the heavy stuff (gold) and black sand to settle to the bottom. Wash the light blond sand off the top. Repeat until only black sand and gold remain. About half of what appears to be black sand will be metallic substances (iron particles). A magnet made for that purpose, with care, can remove those particles. With the right motion, the gold in the pan can be separated from most of the black sand. Hopefully you will be able to pick out nuggets by hand. Fine flakes of gold can be removed with a snuffer bottle (works as a vacuum cleaner) and released into aspecial container."
Littlefield says that he works with a four-inch dredge with the capability of pumping air. He dons a wet-suit (Colorado river water is cold), a weight belt, a regulator and face mask like a skin diver would use, goes out to a deep hole in slow-moving water, and removes the big rocks. He then vacuums up the sand and small material at the bottom of the hole and empties it into a sluice box. Water action forces the heavy material to settle in the ridges of the box. The remaining concentrates are worked out in a pan in the same way as the concentrates that began with the shovel, sieve and bucket method. He gets enough gold to keep it interesting.
"A lot of people ask if we are getting rich ... No!" Littlefield said. The cost of working our claim is about $150 a weekend for coming and going plus meals. You have to work your butt off to find $50 worth of gold." Adding, "Where else can a family be together all weekend and have a good time for that kind of money?"
A lot of the prospectors sell the gold they find. Some keep their findings. Someday it may be worth more. Itwas as high as $1,800 a Troy ounce, down now to $1,400 a Troy ounce. (12 Troy ounces of gold or silver are equal to one pound.)
Littlefield's comment, "When the stock market goes up, the price of gold goes down. When the market is down, the price of gold goes up. It doesn't hurt to have some silver, too!"
Some club members have sluice boxes set out in the river. Water runs through the box as material is shoveled in. Ridges in the box filter out the bigger stuff to get down to the black sand and gold. There are other types of machinery available. It's been said that the old timers only got about 20 percent of the gold and silver that is available in Colorado. Newer methods with better recovery systems can find gold that was left behind.
The association's mother club is located in Temecula, Calif., with chapters all over the United States. There are regulations and a Miner's Code of Ethics that members agree to follow. A Claims Guide Book, published by the association, lists club claims that may be used by other clubs that are also a member of the mother club. The Western Colorado chapter is not listed in the guide because all mineral claims in the local club are not club owned, but are claimed by individuals.
One person can own up to 10 mineral claims (20 acres to a claim). Claim markers, an 8"x10" piece of paper with all required information, placed on public lands, indicates that no one else may prospect for gold or other minerals at that location. The public land area can, however, be used by anyone for fishing, hunting, picnicking, rafting, kayaking, or camping.
MIGS tags are given to Members in Good Standing. Members must attend three consecutive meetings and help with one fund raising event for club eligibility every year. There are a few exceptions. Membership is family oriented where one membership includes an entire family: mother, father and children who are younger than 18. MIGS tags identify members and are worn when prospecting a claim. Claim jumpers can be prosecuted.
Gail Dicamillo is president of the Western Colorado chapter of Gold Prospectors Association of America. Marlin Littlefield is contact person for the local club. He also serves as the purchasing agent and has served along with R.D. Round as one of two claims directors for the organization. Bill Pease and Don Rodarte currently hold that position. A claims director helps members locate placer claims that are still open for claiming along the rivers in Colorado.
The local chapter has more than 50 families in its membership. Meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday, at 115 W. Main Street in Olathe. For more information call 970-399-7557.blog comments powered by Disqus