Beach Mining - Nome Alaska

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Beach Mining - Nome Alaska

Post  Guest on Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:59 pm

For those who have never mined Gold from beach deposits this may well be of interest. This was taken from a long email to a gentleman who had won a trip to Nome to mine for beach Gold. He needed some guidance - and I tried to help.

THE NOME BEACH GOLD IS ..... Hard to Find!

I bet if you carefully panned the dirt just outside the Nome Airport Exit Door you would find Gold. The same with any dirt in town, and any dirt on the beach and ...........

Yes, there's Gold there - extremely small. Almost all of it is as small as you ever have found in the past. Gold so small that most of the time it doesn't act like the Gold you know. The primary problem for recovery is the small particle size complicated with flat flakes.

The Gold in Nome comes from under the tundra (I'm told). Old Beach Lines which concentrated multiple, glacial, 'ages old' Gold activity. The Gold was originally gathered from Canada (as I have also been told) and hooked down from the North through glacier action and movements. In more modern times, the Gold is, and started out, under what now is the tundra - as far as I can tell - in a six inch to 3 or 4 foot thick layer of previously highly concentrated Hematite, Magnetite, Garnet and even some Silver and Platinum. Beach action from very long ago, as well as more modern times, has polished and sometimes flattened the tiny Gold.

As pretty much the case with other sites, there is some nuggety Gold in Nome. You won't find it in the sands of the beach though - but rather out in the ocean and in the red layer under the tundra. Sometimes you'll even find the odd nugget, at the contact area of tundra and sand.

So, where is the Gold? I can only specifically explain in reference to the West Beach where I was - but then - it's a start and it was consistent!

The Gold on the beaches is at the mercy of the storms. Almost all the beach area is composed of light quartz sand and certain heavier materials. Jump in a hot air balloon and hover over the shore in your mind. The following is what no beach miner has ever told me - it came purely from hard learned experience. Sketch this out on paper now - please don't trust to just visualizing it.

For simplicity, let’s make a North/South Beach with a micro lagoon, caused by a melt stream flowing from the East (on your right) to West (left) and into the ocean on this beach.

Now, there is something that radically changes the beach - a driftwood pile, a log and a big rock that sits on the beach 50 yards North of the lagoon.

50 Yards South of the lagoon is a rock field of dinner plate sized flat rocks on a clay base, which just touches the tundra.

One last thing is a dense weed or brushy area, just at the tundra line 100 yards South of the Lagoon.

OK, Ocean to left of the North / South beach. Starting from the South (on the bottom) upward is the Brush Pile, the rock field, the lagoon and stream, and finally the driftwood pile, big rock and the log.

Well, let’s add one more last overall factor. From the Ocean on the lower left (from South West to North East) a storm hits the beach. (for simplicity just think of the wind blowing in one direction and not changing as the storm systems do when moving through). You choose the specific angle - but do mark it on your map.

Now, each of the various obstructions will affect the depositing of fine Gold, black sands, Garnet, Lead, Mercury as well as the light sand - almost all coming from the existing beach. The waves hit the beach violently, the swirling breakers move sands North East up a bit into the tundra and then the increased friction of various obstructions concentrate the heavies, while allowing the lights to return to the ocean.

Starting from the South end of the map - The breakers leave the ocean and travel up the beach along natural Concentration lines. The breakers go uphill to the weedy and brushy area at the edge of, and then onto, the tundra. The brush, weeds and roots act like Miners' Moss and riffles! If the beach is low and sloping, check that contact area for the first 10 feet into the tundra.

Next, the waves hit the rock field. The individual rocks act like riffles, creating dead zones around and between the rocks. Wash each rock and run all material on just the top of the clay base through your equipment. If you find just the exposed clay layer with black/red sands on it, be sure to run the top layer of that too. That's prime stuff!
A scraping tool to scrape the top ½ inch of clay layers is a good thing. I used a broken garden hoe with a 14 inch long handle. Awesome!

The lagoon and stream. Visualize the waves as they angle up the shore. Look for swirls, depleted surf action, black / red sands places where the waves are suddenly stopped - like banks, mounds and such. The stream itself will concentrate the storm wash and will wash lighter sands back to the ocean. Test the stream bed to see if trapped gold is sitting there having had the lighter material wash away.

The last obstruction on the beach is the Driftwood Pile, the Big Rock and the Log. Visualize how the angled waves hit these three obstructions. The driftwood pile is Miners' Moss. Terrible digging but good gold. The rock is just like back home where you mine - in front a little but more so in back will be the black/red heavy mineral zones. The log also stops the waves and creates concentration zones under it and on the uphill side. The more of a riffle it is the better it is.

WHEW! Fast run there so far - hold on tight though, there's more! Just think, I have worked every type of these situations and many more as well. Depressions in the beach affect the wave action, just like mounds also do. Then there are big rocks sometimes, areas where the tundra edge is a cliff of a few feet to hundreds of feet high. When the wave stops and begins to return it drops the heavy material. The beach has higher concentrations of gold the further you work up toward the tundra because the waves are dying while slowly going up hill.

If you find pea gravel - test that area carefully and VERY thoroughly.

If you find washes where melt water is washing away the beach remember that that washing mostly happened AFTER the storm. The end of the storms are not so violent so they cover up the concentrated black/red sands with blond sands. Some times you just have to dig to find the stringer, pay dirt concentrations embedded in the lighter, later sands. Given a little time you will easily be able to visualize the angle of that the last storm that hit the beach. The 'lenses' of concentrated 'heavies' get easier and easier to visualize as you start finding them.

One last thing - there will be some occasional nuggets in your concentrates (tundra edge is best spot to find nuggets) but there will be almost all flour gold to contend with. You will not be able to pan out some of the fine and ultra fine gold. You will pan what you can and, at some point, probably discard the rest of the concentrates. If you choose to discard your concentrates let me know - I can use it.


Joe[/b]

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Re: Beach Mining - Nome Alaska

Post  Whiskers on Fri Feb 15, 2013 8:21 am

Joe mate thank you for sharing what a top post. When I now watch Gold Bearing Sea, I will have a much better understanding of the show. I have been told that lead is a big problem with the beach gold at Nome? What type of regulations do they have in place in regards to beach mining? Can you shed a bit of light on Gold Rush Alaska I understand the show is for TV but are the mines controlled by regulation and is the regulations enforced. Cheers mate and thanks again.
James

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Re: Beach Mining - Nome Alaska

Post  Guest on Fri Feb 15, 2013 11:45 am

Let me address the Lead question first - time is at a bit of a premium for me just now.

Shoveling black sand beach concentrates all day means that you don't actually see what you are saving as concentrates until the end of the day. Hourly clean-ups are saved and brought to camp at the end of the day to pan out.

In classifying my concentrates I found a curious thing. I found lead, of a certain shape every day. Triangular in cross section and curved at a standard shape the lead was curious beyond belief. Some were short and some long, all having those two similarities.

Questioning other experienced miners produced a variety of answers - each discounted and still leaving the origin unknown.

Eventually I was able to unravel the mystery.

In the first few years of 1900 Nome was a bustling Gold Rush "town". Miners camped everywhere, including near the beach where they worked every day. As an expediency, miners slept and lived on or close to their diggings - and over time the tins that much of their food came in were discarded and buried next to their camps. The hand soldered tins slowly corroded away over 100 years until all that remained was the curved, triangular solder, which had soldered the bottoms of the tins - and - had resisted the corrosive effects of salt water.

And hence, the mystery of the Nome Beach Lead was solved.

Time to run for now - more to follow.

Joe

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Re: Beach Mining - Nome Alaska

Post  Ark on Fri Feb 15, 2013 11:55 am

Ahh a perfect case of an inquiring mind ! Well done Joe ! This observation method should be a lesson to all who prospect ! What,Where, Why! A run of gold in a creek ? A run of nuggets in a gully/gutter ? Advise to new comers to prospecting " don't go off like a scattergun" after the first find either by detector or pan calm down ! Sit down ! Have a look at the lay of the land and see if there has been much change from where the wash is today to how it was laid many yrs ago !

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Re: Beach Mining - Nome Alaska

Post  Whiskers on Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:17 pm

Joe the lead must drive you nut's at clean up time. Very interesting in how it got mixed up with the gold i would never of thought of that. cheers mate

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Re: Beach Mining - Nome Alaska

Post  Guest on Sat Feb 16, 2013 9:36 pm

Broken photo link - reposted


Last edited by KAEOJ on Sun Feb 17, 2013 8:06 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Removed double post with broken photo link.)

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Re: Beach Mining - Nome Alaska

Post  Whiskers on Sat Feb 16, 2013 9:47 pm

Thanks Joe for taking the time to put your post tougher. It gives me a much better understanding of how the system works in Alaska. Watching the TV shows one dose wonder just what you can do and what you cant do. One day I would love to go to Nome a very interesting place indeed.
Cheers James
cheers

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Re: Beach Mining - Nome Alaska

Post  Guest on Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:18 am

Actually, Whiskers, the question of having problems with panning the Lead (actually solder) from concentrates never came up – because almost all of the Gold found was -30 and almost all was also -50. The solder was almost always +8 . Classifying (and panning) down to those sizes effectively removed almost all of the much larger solder pieces.

Against all odds I actually did save some of the very largest pieces of solder one day – and here they are – clustered around a 1976 US Quarter Dollar (24 cm diameter). For some reason only 2/3 of the picture comes through.



Now, as to Rules and Regulations in Nome – Wow, is this ever a tough one to explain!

In 2005, when I traveled to Nome, the regulations were less restrictive than in the last year – by a lot!

To start with, the “””Reality TV Bull Dust””” had not brought the national spotlight on the mining operations on the beach and dredging in the Bearing Sea at Nome. Many miners, in the past, traveled there because of the mystique of the area – and most returned with stories to tell, but little Gold.

Mining then was separated into Ocean Dredging (where only the strong survived and the weak just sold or abandoned their equipment) and Beach Mining (same thing, too).

Ocean Mining in Nome is VERY difficult. As shown in the TV show, storms lasting for days or weeks, impossible under water visibility after storms, difficult strong winds winds and currents from the sea, low temperature water and the continual effects of under water exertion all contribute to harsh, harsh, harsh working conditions.

The dredging work areas divide down into two categories, public and leased (and sub-leased) areas from the State of Alaska.

While I never dredged there (nor will I) I will say that those “Real” (and not “Reality”) dredgers are head shaking incredible. They work hard for their rewards each season and they approach the entire operation as a business, and not as a lark. I have spent quite a few hours with them, and they are truly professionals to the very best of their capabilities.

Back then the regulations were fairly easy to understand and there was little strife. Off Shore you either worked your lease (or sub lease) or you worked the ‘public areas’. Back then there was very little need for ‘enforcement’ of the dredgers. Now, there is substantial state enforcement of all those pesky “do nothing” rules (not to be confused with laws..

As to the Beach Miners – well, I can really relate here, because I was one.

On the designated area West of Nome, for about 15 km of shoreline, and from the low tide mark to the high water line, was a public mining area, open to anyone without reservation. The area that you chose to work was “Loosie-Goosie”, and all yours to work with shovel, pump and highbanker. As you finished in one spot you just pulled your equipment and relocated. You lived on the beach, worked on the beach and either succeeded or failed on the beach. Only a few succeeded in consistently “making wages” or better for the summer, and they often came back season after season.

The amount of recovered Gold was solely dependent on personal experience and luck (derived from experience and intelligence?). The most modern, low tech recovery equipment, in use there at that time, was the classifier, gold pan and sucker bottle. Add in endless hours of work in the extended sunlight during the summer and you finally produced Gold. Recovery was mysterious and not consistent, relating to all the unknown factors associated with extremely fine Gold recovery. The frustration level was very, very, very high and recovery, usually, pretty low.

Now, as I have heard, things have really changed. Dredging has been severely controlled, to stop renegades and less-than- responsible “visitors”, while beach mining has also become quite controlled. Camping for the summer on the public mining areas is (if I understand it correctly no longer permitted within the jurisdiction of the city of Nome. Just as back in 1900 public health and safety are taking precedence over personal freedom. It had to happen, given the TV shows and the no-holds-barred Gold chasers who follow that ‘stuff’.
So, to answer your question – yes, things are well controlled now – possibly more than required, due to “circumstances”.

Joe

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