Alaska Gold Prospecting and Mining



This gold came from a larger mining operation than I am used to. This miner uses heavy equipment and is not into dredging at all. Most serious miners in Alaska need to move large amounts of gravel to be profitable. The recreational dredging that I do cannot compare to what a large operation, using heavy equipment, can do. But I'll bet I have more fun! Big time mining is a lot of hard work.


The picture above was just to get you interested in the rest of the page. If my dredge nozzle ever uncovered anything like that, I would probably inhale half of the river and drown in my excitement. I would welcome the opportunity to test this theory though. Below are some photos and information about what I am presently doing as far as prospecting is concerned.


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You might think that this little guy was afraid of the water by the way he is acting.

Because of the extremely cold water, a dry suit is needed. I am also wearing a full face mask, and 70 lbs. of lead weight. The breathing apparatus is called "Hookah", and operates off of a compressor on the dredge, supplying unlimited air to the diver. The water in this spot is moderately fast, but the overburden is shallow, averaging two feet or less. In the middle of the river, there is swept bedrock. I am taking about 2dwt of gold per day in my test holes and looking for a good paying stringer. There have been some small nuggets also, even though this river is not noted for anything except fine gold.  
Below is a photo of the section of river I am working, note the small creek coming in from the left. This would create a diversion in high water that could cause gold to drop. My test holes so far have been upstream of this creek, and interestingly enough, the best gold is coming from the outside bend on the left of this photo. This summer I plan to concentrate on the section just downstream from this creek. So far, I have been working on the right bank of this stream.



Chena River at Ottertail Creek

Typical fine gold cleanup


Even with Alaska's 24 hour long days, it is hard to make much progress with just one day trips. If I just figure travel time and setup and takedown time for the dredge, along with cleanup, total time can be as much as six hours. Then you have to factor in dredging time and any maintenance that is required. This is the reason that sampling goes so slowly in this river. Once I get set up, I can move a lot of gravel in a short time, but I need to locate the paying stringers first.

Below is my operation at cleanup time. This is after the triple sluice has been cleaned and the mats removed. A small "hand sluice" is set up on the end of one of the side boxes on the dredge. The riffles are removed. The dredge is run at "idle" speed, and the concentrate that has been previously screened, is fed with a small scoop into the side sluice. Any nuggets will stay in the upper sluice and the finer gold gets trapped in the "hand sluice".


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