A Visit to a Commercial GOLD
Click on the pictures for a full sized view
Have you ever wondered how the BIG TIMERS do it? If so, read on. I was lucky enough to be able to visit a Colorado Commercial Gold Placer operation. There aren't to many of them in operation. Of course I had my camera along. My camera is always along.
This is late May near Leadville, Colorado at about 10,000 feet elevation. The snow has finally melted and the ice is gone from the re-circulation ponds. It's almost time to wake this operation up from it's winter hibernation. Shown here is a commercial, 100 yard per hour gold processing plant. On the right is 3 of the 4 water re-circulation ponds. These will need to be topped off before serious work can begin. This is a completely closed circuit operation. The water is re-used over and over again. Some makeup water will have to be added as water is lost through evaporation, soaking into the ground, and wetting of the material processed.
Here is where it all begins. 50 people with working madly with #2 shovels fill the hopper to the rear. Well, maybe it might be a little faster if a front loader is used. After all, this will run 100 cubic yards of material an hour. From the hopper a controlled feed of material is placed onto the conveyer and travels to the grizzly. The smaller material drops through and into the first sluice box. A nugget sluice. That's where I want to high-grade. The larger rocks slide down the grizzly and onto a conveyer belt to a stacker conveyer. It's not like high banking where you have to keep shoveling the big rocks away.
The person on top of the box is sitting on the nugget sluice. Below him and towards you is 2 of the 4 sluice boxes. There are 2 more on the back side of the conveyer. These have many sets of riffles and have miners moss and carpet on the bottom. This is just like yours and mine except a lot bigger. The conveyor in front of the person on the left carries the larger rocks that wouldn't pass through the grizzly. it is heading over to the stacker. Underneath it and to the left of the person is the outlets from the sluice boxes.
Commercial Operation Page 2