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The Evolution of Gold Mining Techniques

October 18, 2016

Alaska is one of the top producers of gold, second only to Nevada. Mining started in the late 1800s, and a good portion of the large, and some small, scale mines are located there. When you think of mining for gold, you probably think of old, stooped over bearded men wearing flannel holding pans in the river. While pans were used early on, they were later replaced by more effective mining techniques. Here's a look at some of the ways miners used to search for Alaska gold.

Panning

Pans are the most ineffective gold mining tool, but at the time, it was one of the most inexpensive. It is the most hands on method as well. Large pans are filled with gravel that could potentially contain gold. The pan is then dunked into water, which washes away the lighter sediment. Gold, being a heavier mineral, sinks to the bottom of the pan and settles there.

Panning is quick and easy, but far from a profitable way to mine for gold. These days, panning is more of a tourist attraction or hobby. It is also used as a way to find viable sources of gold in new places.

Rocker

Also known as a cradle, for it's resemblance to a baby cradle, the rocker is pushed back and forth by means of a handle. Gravel is dumped into the top, and the motion, along with water, helps to separate the gold from lighter sediment, which is caught by slats on the bottom of the device.

Sluicing

A sluice box is often used in small scale operations. It is a handmade channel with riffles in it to catch any gold that might be in the gravel. The box is placed in a stream of flowing water and gravel shoveled into its entrance. Material flows through the box, lighter sand flowing out and gold settling at the bottom. Original sluice boxes were mostly made from wood or metal. Current boxes are made from these same materials, but may even be made from plastic as well.

Dredging

Dredging can be done in both large and small scale mining. Suction dredges, used by small scale miners, consist of a sluice box which is supported by pontoons and attached to a suction hose. Small scale dredging is typically done by one or two people.

Large scale dredging, on the other hand, uses an excavator to dump gravel into a sluice box that is placed in a man-made pond. As gravel is fed into the sluice box and gold separated, the sediment that falls out of the box fills the pond back in.

While the methods for mining gold have evolved over time, panning is still a popular tourist attraction and a hobby. If you want to be like the early miners, buy some Alaska gold from Eureka Joe's. We can make your dreams of striking gold a reality.

 

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