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Gold Panning

Mined ore placed in large metal pan with water and agitated until only gold is left

The simplest technique to extract gold from placer ore (materials removed from a mine or streambed) is panning. In panning, some mined ore is placed in a large metal pan, combined with a generous amount of water, and agitated so that the gold particles, being of higher density than the other material, settle to the bottom of the pan. The lighter ore material such as sand, mud and gravel are then washed over the side of the pan, leaving the gold behind. The same principle may be employed on a larger scale by constructing a short sluice box, with barriers along the bottom to trap the heavier gold particles as water washes them and the other material along the box. This method better suits excavation with shovels or similar implements to feed sediment into the device.

When searching for promising streams to "mine", pay special attention to bends in the streambed. The shore against which pebbles, sand, debris, etc. would most likely settle is the likeliest place to look. For example, if a stream bends to the left, search on the right bank just downstream from the bend. The presence of very fine black sand in the sand along the water's edge is a very promising clue, as this sand is comprised of minerals usually deposited along with gold in a given geologic area.

If you don't want to risk the wilds of stream panning, many gold panning establishments can be found in areas known for their gold deposits, such as Sutter's Mill in California and in Dahlonega, Georgia. Many of these sites will even sell you a "sack" of crushed ore that you can take home and pan in your own backyard. All you need is a wheelbarrow or washtub (or bathtub, if you are extremely good at fixing plumbing problems) to catch the discarded gravel and sand, a lot of water, and some patience. Oh, and don't be fooled by the fool's gold -- if you only "think" it "might" be gold, it isn't! Once you see your first fleck or nugget of gold, you will never mistake anything else for gold again.

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