Want to start a small placer mining operation?
This is what it's like. The best way to get started is to get a claim that can produce paying quantities of gold. Without that, the rest is futile. Sample, sample...SAMPLE! I can't emphasize that enough.
What is your budget?
How many people will be involved?
How much time can I devote to mining?
A small operation like the one you see here can still be a hobby that supports itself.
Take a step back. What is a paying quantity of gold? Some are satisfied with a quarter gram per yard, others a gram per yard. This operation can run 2-3 gross yards of material an hour.
What will it take to cover the cost of equipment, your time, maintenance, and bond? This operation cost about $10,000 to get going, including the backhoe, vibratory screener, highbanker, long tom, water tub, water tanks, reclamation bond, and other support items. Some of this stuff was accumulated over time, some of it home built, other things purchased just for the operation. To get started, buy second hand equipment. To go with a new backhoe and screener would cost $100,000. Let's get some gold first!
Whether new or used equipment, someone has got to be the mechanic. Remember, you are digging the hardest packed, heaviest material all the way down to bedrock. It takes its toll on the equipment. Welding, and a mechanical background are very helpful. Daily maintenance is a must! Look things over to be sure something simple doesn't shut you down early.
Time for Review.....sample your claim, find out what your governing agency requires for small mining the claim (Notices or Plan of Operation, etc.), gather the equipment, and post a reclamation bond.
Take several days to fine tune your equipment and modify it to work best in the material you are processing. Material management is the key, whether you're a small operation, or moving hundreds of yards a day. Try to automate as much of the material handling process as you can. Plan your equipment and material handling routes. If you're working a creek bed, they quickly reclaim themselves with a good rain. The material you process from the creek generally goes toward road improvement or other necessary uses because once it is put back in the creek it becomes "dredge/fill" material that is regulated. We prospect the deserts of Arizona and they are mainly dry creek beds. Things like clay and vegetation will be a determining factor on how many yards your mining operation can run per hour without refreshing the water. Water wells are another great commodity to have close by. First, make sure the gold is in the ground, then common sense and attention to detail will go a long way toward having a successful operation.
This operation can process 7-10 yards an hour.
Small gold mining operation being dug with an Caterpillar 245 excavator and processed with a John Deere 310 backhoe, screened with a vibratory screener to 3/4" minus and processed through a sluice. GOLD!!!