Land Cruising - Prospecting:
Introduction To Land Cruising
Land Cruising And Prospecting
Examining And Locating
Points For Homesteaders
Prospecting For Gold, Etc.
How To Locate A Claim
Read More Articles About: Land Cruising - Prospecting
Prospecting For Gold, Etc.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
What to look for, if you are prospecting for leads and are in a granite country, look for tin and quartz. If in a limestone country, look for iron and zinc. Hornblende is the name of a stone that will be referred to quite frequently in these remarks and looks like mica, but is harder and does not split like mica. Sometimes it is found in the form of crystals. It is of a dark greyish color, it can be scratched with the point of a knife while quartz cannot.
A word here in regard to where to prospect. Always choose ground that is accessible, for the reason, if you strike a vein and it is low grade ore it will pay to work it because it is accessible and handy to get at and perhaps near water and wood. There are lots of claims discovered of good high grade ore that will not pay for the working because it is hard to get to and will cost more to get it out than it is worth. Therefore, locate your vein in an accessible place if possible and uncover as much of your vein as possible for examination if you wish to sell, and I will say here, that it is best for a poor man to sell for fair price any quartz claim you may find, retaining say one fifth interest, and if your strike turns out bad you have lost nothing and the other fellow has taken the chances. If it turns out well your one-fifth share might make you a whole lot of money, and I will say right here that I have never known a prospector to have any regard for money, only to spend it.
I can call to mind an old prospector friend of mine who made a fortune on the gold coast of Africa and spent it in six months. Then coming to California he struck it rich again, sold out for $11,000 and enjoyed himself in 'Frisco for eight months or so. The last time I saw him he was cleaning up tailings from a stamp mill in Montana for a grub stake. His good luck had left him.
Old man Comstock who claims to have discovered the Comstock mine in Nevada, sold out for $40,000, spent the money and blew out his brains in Montana. He was an old Canadian trapper and incidentally all our great ore producers were discovered by hunters and trappers and not by the college graduates. After the discovery is made these people can tell you all about it, but never before.
The Anaconda copper mine, one of the greatest copper producers in the world, was discovered by two boys who were from the East, or tenderfeet, as they are called in the West. They were on a hunting and pleasure trip and had an old time hunter for a guide. On his way to camp one night one of the boys stubbed his toe against something heavy. Picking it up, he brought it to camp and showed it to the hunter who threw it in the camp fire, where it melted, showing nearly pure copper. This specimen was a piece of float and that was the beginning of the greatest copper mine in the world.
In the year 1890 I met a couple of grizzled old prospectors in Montana who wanted me to go in with them on a grub stake and prospect in the Crazy Mountains, a range of mountains lying east of the Rockies and forming a part of them. They went in on this range and worked between the Great Northern and Northern Pacific rail-roads and I wished afterwards that I had, for on getting back to St. Paul three months after I picked up the Pioneer Press one day and read where they struck it and sold out for $80,000. My share would have been one-third of this or about $26,666-not a bad three months' work.
But to return to our prospecting. I assume the reader knows what a vein is in a rock. It is defined by Webster "as a seam of any sub-stance more or less wide intersecting a rock and not like the rock itself, and where this vein shows in the surface it is called an outcrop." Look sharp for these veins. They are sometimes very small, not thicker than this sheet of paper or they might be as the Comstock, which was in some places over eight-five feet and the first as-says showed over $3,000 per ton, so large that the discoverers themselves could not believe it. They thought that the assay office had made a mistake. Sometimes these veins run most any old way, up and down, flat and twisted, side-ways and widthways, zigzag and fiat. Here are some actual samples.
This step shows a step fault, so called. It seems that through some eruption of the earth the ore veins have slipped by each other. The end at A gave out but the end where it stopped was so large that it excited suspicion and a shaft was sunk at B, picking up the vein again. But the day of sinking shafts are gone. Nowadays if there is any testing to be done a diamond drill is used which will cut medium hard rock at the rate of three feet per hour.
This is known to miners as a folding vein of ore and rock. These will sometimes dip opposite with the round end up.
This cut shows what is known to miners as a "pinchout vein," pinching out at a-b-c and being picked up again with a diamond drill e-f and g.
These veins fooled a good many miners at one time until their nature was understood, and the diamond drill got into the field of mining. In locating an outcrop one never can tell whether he has hold of the head or the tail of the vein and the diamond drill is about all that can tell the story.
This represents a mountain top vein although mountain tops are considered poor places to prospect. This seems to be the nature of veins around Goldfield, Nevada, and Death Valley, California, and for this reason I believe the big Nevada mine went so long undiscovered.
When you find an ore vein it may not look like gold, not a little bit, it may look like hornblende and be dark, grey or green, depending on the iron pyrites in it and may excite your suspicion by being heavy. Always sample anything heavy for gold, copper or tin. It may lead up to discoveries of importance. Then, again, it might be light and excite your suspicion by its color. Dark veins or seams and especially if nearly black are apt to carry copper. In river prospecting, look for a vein filling where two different kinds of rock come together called diorite. It is a mixed rock. Also look for a rock called diabase. It is a volcanic rock. Also look for a rock called porphyry. This is also a mixed rock but unlike the others it contains crystals. These kinds of rock were all used by nature for vein fillings. A vein of pebbles mixed with iron pyrites called mundic is a good sign and will bear looking into.
Find where slate, shale or granite, also lime-stone are pierced by different kinds of rock or any kind of vein filling for that matter. Don't depend too much on the color. Where these fillings occur, butt into them and take a sample. Perhaps some one has blundered over them forty times and left a fortune .by not testing them. Most of our rich mines had this experience. Don't depend too much on the color or weight if the rock is a stranger to you. Keep into the hills when looking for veins but not into the mountain tops, although they have a fascination to you. In looking for placer mines keep to the valleys where you would naturally look for float.
Now a word about this float. It is pieces of ore that have become detached or broken off from vein or outcrop above in the higher mountains and through the action of frost, sun or rain and wind. It may be a chunk or it may be fine particles and may look (and is very apt to) like hornblende, or, it may be a blue pasty sort of stuff or black sand. Through the action of rain it may be spread out like a fan if the side of the hill is convex or rounding. If the hill is concave it will be found more bunched and in streaks. You can do this prospecting and at-tend to a line of traps, or while holding down a claim of land. Anyhow, whatever you do, follow up this vein of float until the vein or outcrop is found. The less the float is worn and the larger the pieces the nearer the vein you are.
When the float ceases, run a ditch at right angles to your supposed vein for it may have to be dug for. Then, again, it may stick out of the ground a few inches or many inches, or it may be soft and spongy ore and there may be a depression in the ground. But when you find it you will find it don't look like pure gold not a little bit. It will look yellowish-red or brownish black and it may be softer or harder. This coloring is done by iron pyrites and miners call it iron hat, and as you get into the vein it will be harder so hard in fact you will have to blast it.
Sample often, not only for gold but silver and copper, and if you sink a shaft, keep it plumb.
If you drift, use timbers for staying the roof and sides. Asbestos veins show white, sulphur shows dirty yellow, silver dirty white and limey. It will sometimes form a bluish paste when mixed with quicksilver. Gold is very malleable and will sink in quicksilver and nitric acid will not touch it. Small quantities of gold are called calores. Small pieces of float or ledges can be examined by pounding them fine and washing in a gold pan.
Look for signs of gold on gravelly river bars and where two rivers come together. Black sand in such a place is a good sign, also quartz pebbles. You cannot scratch these pebbles with a knife point. Also small pebbles of garnet and of chrone iron. They are black in color and about the size of strat. These are all good signs. If you find calores, sink a shaft to bed rock for there is the place where you will find it the richest. Now sample some of this stuff you find on top of the bed rock.
In the southwest plants sometimes will help to locate an outcrop or vein. A plant called Spanish bayonet likes quartz and granite soil. A plant called O-ko-te-yŠ grows on clay and slate veins. Cactus likes limestone soil where granite and different rock come together, is likely to be a vein, and if so it is big odds that it is a tin or gold quartz ore, which, as before stated, will be yellow, red or brown, depending on the amount of iron in it, and take a sample of it. Bear in mind some of the best mines were traveled over hundreds of years by hunters, trappers and traders before they were discovered to be precious metal. The Cobalt Mines in northern Minnesota and southern Canada are a late case of this kind.
A list of tools will be handy to the young prospector and some of the old ones too for that matter, and they are not expensive. A gold pan or horn spoon you must have, also a light pick and shovel. I have found an ordinary pick with one pick cut off about three or four inches from the hub to be used for a hammer for pulverizing ore, to be all right, and have the hammer end slightly hardened when the blacksmith cuts the pick off. You will also want an old case knife to dig gravel out of crevices with, a bottle of quicksilver in a tin or wood case and some prussic acid packed the same way. Bear in mind this prussic acid is deadly poison. You must also have a good magnifying glass to carry in your vest pocket, also a small bottle of borax and a couple of chamois skins. A good gold pan is about thirteen inches in width at the top and ten at the bottom, two or two and a half inches deep and is best made of aluminum. Also take along a small horseshoe magnet for taking black sand out of your amalgam (gold and quicksilver mixed with black sand).
A very handy tool is the horn spoon. It can be carried in the pocket and the gold pan left at home, when prospecting for samples. It is made by cutting the belly out of a large dark ox horn, the darker the better. It will show up colors and it is very handy to take small samples With. Some carry a blowpipe outfit and the chemicals that go with it would make a small drug store, and the first upset you have, and I always have two or three, your chemicals will go glimmering and perhaps spoil a lot of good grub or blankets. But if you wish to take one along they can be bought from, most any jewelry supply house for fifty or seventy-five cents, and with the flame of a common candle you can practice, taking a few grains of ore, put them on a piece of charcoal, blow the candle flame on it and perhaps melt a small button of gold or copper and tin and mixed metal. Your tests with a blowpipe cannot be carried far without a lot of dope and it belongs more to the laboratory than the field, and personally I don't like to bother with them.