Monday, August 03, 2015

Streams lowered by California drought become renewed sites for gold prospecting and mining

Miners collect dirt from a mud pit next to the Bear River.
(Photo by Randy Pentch, The Sacramento Bee)
"As California’s prolonged drought dries up irrigation supplies for agriculture and forces cutbacks in urban water deliveries, it also creates opportunities for prospectors and miners panning, sluicing, chiseling and diving for gold," reports Peter Hecht of The Sacramento Bee. "Gold seekers are wading into formerly deep waterways to harvest flecks from the pea gravel and sediment in long inaccessible crevices. Diminishing flows also have been leaving gold residues, like gilded bathtub rings, amid the cobbled banks of many rivers and streams."

The increased prospecting has driven up sales of supplies and equipment. Heather Willis, manager of Pioneer Mining Supplies in Auburn, turned miner, too, at "an untapped spot on the upper Bear River. . . . In a few hours of digging and panning, she got nine grams of gold, worth about $340."

Hecht writes, "As the drought continues, some miners say diminished waterways are getting picked clean of gold. They count on another extreme weather event – namely, reports of a coming El Niño storm system – to provide help for the hunt. The system would replenish gold supplies by washing down mountainsides, dumping new glistening deposits into creeks and streams and invigorating the search for gold anew."

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