Digging For Gold


 Digging For Gold

"Digging For Gold" is a blog all about our experience as a family of four in the gold mining industry. We have been mining for over five years and have learned so many things about this exciting industry. Our goal is to share those stories with you and to provide a little history on the various types of machinery and equipment we use each day.

You've seen them in movies, you may even know someone who has done it - gold mining! But what does it actually entail? From avalanches to tunnel collapses, this article will give you a great overview of what life is like for us as miners today.



The first thing you will have to understand about gold mining is the heavy, dusty atmosphere. The air smells of sulfur, fire and brimstone, so if you don't like those kinds of things, you probably shouldn't do this job. The sulfur doesn't bother me; the fire and brimstone generally frighten me so I stay away from that part of the mine. What does bother me is being buried alive in a rock fall - which did happen to me once! Since then I've learned how to spot signs of ground movement by listening for it beneath my metal detector.

The air is so full of dust that it feels like you've been swimming in a giant mud puddle. It's all over your body, in your hair and drying on your eyelashes. You constantly have to be cleaning the mud off of you or else it will cake onto you like cement and feel heavy when you are finally able to change out of your work clothes into something more comfortable at the end of a long day.


Tools for digging gold begin with little picks that we use to chip away at rocks in the areas we are planning on sampling for gold. They are very low tech and very short-lived. Sometimes you can find a piece of gold in the rubble before you even have to use one, or it will break while you're trying to get an edge chipped off of it.

Once we've decided to sample an area, we break out the big guns - pneumatic hammers that look almost like a gun itself. With them, we are able to chip away at large rocks much more easily than with picks. If a chunk is too big for us to blow off (and you'd be surprised how often this happens), then we must move on and sample somewhere else.

Once we've collected enough rocks to compare to the surrounding area, we move on to heavier equipment. Our pneumatic hammers are replaced by overhead cranes that hold a bucket full of gravel, dirt and clay that we use for our gold panning technique. I like to call this method 'gold fishing'. Gold is much easier to collect with a large, heavy pan filled with water than it is with a small, delicate metal detector. The water keeps the gold from sticking to the pan and gives us time to sift through the rocks before having to wash them off at the end of each day.

To make a full day of digging with this method, we need to empty our pan twice. Once at the end of your first hour of digging, it will be fairly full and easy to empty by hand. The second time is at the end of your second hour - when you are getting tired and hungry. By then it is full enough that not only will it be a pain in your arm but it won't hold any substantial amount of gold. We need to go straight to the mining machinery.

Miners don't have a lot of time to spend panning for gold. There are regulations about how long you can work underground and how many days a week you can do so, especially if it's your main job and not just a hobby. Each day we must record our findings in our daily log book so that when our shift is complete we have proof of what we've seen. This will be reviewed and may result in us getting paid less or being asked to finish later on our shift than we already have planned.

We even use the shift clock's digital display as an aid to keep track of time underground. This can be a very bad habit in the gold mining industry. Before I was married and we had a child, the time didn't run out on the shift clock because it was only me and one other man working. Now my wife works underground with me and we have to leave at the end of our shift, not when our clock says to leave.

The most important tool for us underground is our metal detector. It's what keeps us alive since we're often digging in areas that aren't stable enough or that see too much movement from traffic above ground. We don't want to fall down the mine shaft and we can't risk digging too close to the edge without first scanning the area with a metal detector. In some ways our metal detector is like a bat signal against evil that warns us when danger lies ahead.

Also essential to our work underground is our shovel. It's not just a tool; it's also used as another way to find gold while we are panning. Since gold tends to get buried inside of larger rocks, it can take quite an effort with your pneumatic hammer to break them into bite-sized pieces if you're going for pure gold and not just keeping the gravel and dirt in your pan. The shovel is the best way to get at those rocks which are already half way there anyway.

Once we have the gold, we must take the pan and wash it out in several pans of water. During this stage, a great deal of dust will be flying around everywhere so you must wear a mask just in case. The last thing you want to do is accidentally inhale some of it and put it into your lungs. Then, once washed, we pour the dirt into a collection pan which is discarded. When our shift is over, we go down to put our gold into bags, weigh them and convert their contents into cash!

Mine Safety:

Every day we go underground means risking life and limb while working. The most dangerous of these risks is the last one - namely, making it out of the mine alive at the end of your shift.

The more companies you work for, the more opportunities you have to get killed. It's hard to avoid this when it happens but with careful planning and plenty of safety equipment everything should go fine. This is not to say that I've never had serious injury while in a mine and I've certainly met people who have as well. You can learn from other people's mistakes and take precautions and never let yourself be caught by surprise - because there will always be someone willing to do what it takes to make money underground.


My advice for anyone who wants to start gold mining is to find one of the best gold mines in the area and buy shares. This way you will be connected to a reputable mine and be able to watch it grow. As I said earlier, I've been involved in this industry for many years now and have seen a lot of changes. The roads that used to connect mines are no longer here, but they were all underground at one point. If there's gold nearby, it's the most logical thing in the world that someone will dig it up again.

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