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Gold Mining Terminology Explained

Ingot Mold, used when smelting the fine gold during clean-upBUCKET LINE DREDGE: Huge piece of early day mining equipment, had from 25 to 100 dredge buckets that rotated, lifting the dirt from out of the stream bed and bringing it into the interior of dredge, where there was  sluice box type machinery. Used extensively in Alaskan and Canadian mining. 

CLEAN UP:  process of gold recovery that separates the gold from the dirt, sand and gravel left in the sluice box.  This is the final stage in gold recovery, and is  usually done by hand.

COLOR: any specks, flakes or nuggets of gold seen in gold pan or creek bottoms.

FLOUR GOLD:  smaller that gold dust,  like corn starch.

GOLD DUST:  small, fine particles of gold, usually sent to smelter. 

GOLD NUGGETS:  chunk of natural gold.  According to the old timers, any piece of gold you dropped into a gold pan and you could hear it hit, it was a nugget.  Silver, gold, platinum, copper and tin are all found in nugget form in Alaska.

HARD ROCK CLAIM: gold deposit that is found in rock, usually quartz.  Spider-web like veins, or microscopic specks of gold,  encased in the rock.  Different type of mining that placer mining, as the ore must be taken to a  mill and crushed, then heated to high temperature to smelt out the gold, or chemicals are used to dissolve the rock, leaving the gold .  Gold recovered with these methods is used to make 10,14 & 18kt. Jewelry, in the space industry and for photo film finishing.

AnvilHYDRAULIC MINING : early day mining method whereby the frozen ground, dirt and gravel paydirt was washed out of the creeks and hillsides using a device known as a giant, monitor, or nozzle to shoot a stream of water at the area to be washed.  One ma would spend the day tending the giants, and swiveling them a few degrees when needed.  Usually used to thaw the ground a bucket line dredge would later process.

LONG TOM:  long, skinny scaled-down version of sluice box, used in clean ups.

MINING CLAIM: mineral bearing  ground that is registered with either the State or Federal government, following strict specifications as to size.  To remain valid, forms must be filed annually attesting to work done on said claim.  There are no limits to how many claims a person may have title to, but annual labor must be done on ALL claims.

NOTE:  basically this claim is a lease for state or federally owned land, you have the mineral rights, but you do not own the ground, unless they are patented claims, very hard to receive patents on claims any longer. Can take up to 10-15 years.

OVER BURDEN:  the top soil and dirt that overlays the gold bearing gravels on hillsides, old river and stream bed channels.  Usually removed before mining is started.

PANNING:  method of gold recovery using a gold pan, similar to a large metal pie pan,  where water and dirt are swished around  and the dirt and sand are gone, leaving only the gold.  When you got much color in your pan, you went to using the rocker box, or a sluice box.

PAY STREAK:  the way the gold is concentrated in the stream bed, bigger operations used a process of drilling holes to bedrock and then panning the core samples to find out how much gold there was.  Then they mapped the pay streak on the creek survey map.

Blasting CapsPERMAFROST :  ground that remains frozen for two or more years & underlies a huge portion of Alaska’s land mass,  recorded depths of up to 2000 feet, with the top soil being thawed to a depth of one foot to twenty feet before hitting frozen ground.

PLACER CLAIM:  claim staked in river or creek bed where gold dust and/or nuggets have been discovered,  an alluvial deposit meaning gold is loose in stream bed.  All the same regulations are in effect as in definition of mining claim.

RIFFLES:  a device made of angle iron/steel, 2’ to 3’ long and as wide as the box, that fit snugly.  Seperates and holds the gold in the box. 

SPOT PRICE:  price of gold on any given day in New York or London. This is price for bullion, which is the product after hardrock gold and gold dust have been smelted down into pure, 24 karat gold bars.    No pure gold  exists naturally.  Natural gold nuggets go for a much higher price, 3 or 4 times higher, than the daily spot price is.

SLUICE BOX:  long, narrow box-like structure, old ones made of wood, now made of metal, at least 20’ long, that paydirt was fed into. The floor of the box was covered with blankets, coco matting or astro turf, extruded wire placed on top of matting and the riffles covered the extruded metal.  All of the above items helped hold the gold in the box as the water washed the dirt and gravel.

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