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Monday, May 4, 2015

Activist?


Anyone who has met me knows I’m not an outspoken activist. Unless a child is in jeopardy, I usually mind my own business. Bob is more vocal, but in general we do what we can to get along with people, organizations and agencies.

So it is out of character that we are progressively becoming “miner advocates.” We’ve blogged recently on budget proposals by BLM which I will continue expanding on the subject as promised, but want to add to the “excitement” with our weekend expedition.

We went to an area we love and met up with some fellow prospectors. The weather was fine and we got a little digging and panning done. We also had the unfortunate experience of running into a new gate proclaiming “No Motorized Vehicles Allowed.”

I have spent the morning today sending an email to the US Forest Service about possible alternative access into this closed area. Then I did some research to see when this all came about… aren’t road closures by the US Forest Service supposed to be posted?

What I am finding is this. There are multiple Plan of Operations for various projects which seem to be piled on a desk somewhere, lost in the paperwork shuffle. I tracked not only our Plan of Operations but a variety of others. I can see about a two-year trail of “Decision Expected” and “Implementation Expected” being put off until the next quarter, then the next quarter. An example would be our mechanized mining Plan of Operations, submitted fall of 2013. It is there on the list. We had written communication that it would be ready after the first of the year 2015. The first quarter it stated a decision expected in March… we’re still waiting!

But back to the sign we encountered. I could not find, in the last fiscal year, a proposal to close that road to motorized traffic. So no comment period was allowed, no public meetings held, they just stuck a sign up there! We know it is very recent because there was still spray paint (ugh) on the ground around the gate.

So Bob and I are not pleased with the “system” and well aware there is something very fishy going on.

We are becoming pro-active and will start a Plan of Operations to access any of our claims that are not on main roads. We are getting paranoid that we will encounter a “No Motorized Vehicle Allowed” sign unless we do so.

It really bothers us that a “fun” day at the claims is becoming a “gearing up for battle” with claimjumpers and the US Forest Service. At least we understand claimjumpers; we don’t even try to understand what goes on behind the scenes with government!

 
THE GOOD NEWS IS:

We just ran across several really good claims in the Central Black Hills. Email at hillshistory1876@gmail.com if you are interested. It also appears there might be some available in the Northern Hills, so shoot us an email.

 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Clay... friend or foe!


 
Red clay, brown clay, gray clay and the dreaded slimy yellow clay… reminds me of an historic Deadwood newspaper article.

Historically, Rapid City and Deadwood were bitter rivals. Rapid City billed itself as the gateway to the Black Hills and therefore mining.

Deadwood eventually took offense and retorted that Rapid City was “miles” from the heart of mining and their only claim to mineral fame was gypsum: powdered gypsum, granular gypsum, crushed gypsum, lump gypsum… the list of varieties continued for an entire column in the newspaper!

This runs true for varieties of clay throughout the Black Hills. It’s a tough foe, potentially robbing your sluice of every fleck of gold!

So why this love/hate relationship? Why would you want to even run material if it might rob you?

Superficially you would think all clay is a gold robber.

So let’s take a closer look. Wikipedia defines clay as, Clay minerals typically form over long periods of time from the gradual chemical weathering of rocks, usually silicate-bearing, by low concentrations of carbonic acid and other diluted solvents… In addition to the weathering process, some clay minerals are formed through hydrothermal activity. There are two types of clay deposits: primary and secondary. Primary clays form as residual deposits in soil and remain at the site of formation. Secondary clays are clays that have been transported from their original location by water erosion and deposited in a new sedimentary deposit.[2] Clay deposits are typically associated with very low energy depositional environments such as large lakes and marine basins.”

So what we see, digging placer material, would be classified as Secondary clays. They eroded during major flood events and deposit a layer in the creek/stream. Large fires can play a role also, depositing inches thick layers of ash.

Now back to prospecting! We’re digging, exposing layers of eroded out rock. If the material you are digging is wet, clay is pretty obvious! It’s that stuff that sticks to your shovel and doesn’t go through the concentrator screen. If your material is dry, it would prbably be a very fine, talcum powder consistency.

We usually call a halt to digging any deeper. Your best bet, and I know all you guys hate this, is clean your sluice and recover existing gold. If you’re not ready to do that, keep running material from above the clay zone! If you introduce clay lumps into your sluice, you can just kiss your gold goodbye as the lumps roll over it, collect and dump out the end of your sluice!

Back to the same old mantra… test pan! My advice is run a test pan of material directly above and resting on the clay layer. Here’s where your power of observation comes into play. When you get the material thoroughly saturated, does the clay break down or do you have lumps of slimy clay in your pan? Is the clay saturated with tiny pebbles or does it smear across your fingers?  Break it up as you pan and see what you’ve got. If there’s gold there’s no way you want to sacrifice it, right?

If the clay breaks down you can run it, carefully, in your CLEANED sluice.

If it doesn’t break down, you’d better either resolve yourself to really working it over while panning or throwing it out!

If the clay band is relatively thick, the gold would probably only penetrate into the top layer and a whisk broom might release it. I’ve found, as hard as I find being patient, to let the clay dry then whisk it clean. Otherwise, you need to whisk it AGAIN when it dries. If you have a fairly wide area exposed and the weather is cooperating, you can whisk from one end of your diggings to the other. Then go back and start removing material again, starting from the same end you started whisking. By the time you have run that material, it’s ready to whisk clean again! I’ve done this time and time again and didn’t miss a beat feeding the sluice… well except when I take a self-imposed break!

A stellar example would be our claim where we get to bedrock and hit a clay layer right on top of bedrock. We had avoided running that material until I test panned it and found nice, bigger gold! I took a bucket of it home and panned it out gradually, finding good gold. We now try to sluice all but the really nasty stuff, which I continue to bring home in a bucket as a “bonus”.

Historically, here are a few examples:

Yellow clay, in the Tinton area is well renowned for 60-ounce per ton from clay seams.

The Hayward/Rockerville area also reports deposits of high-yield yellow clay.

We run into a grayish-blue clay in the Northern Hills that has a yellow clay layer below it. We get some great little pickers out of it.

We also find red clays covering whitish clays in some local creek channels. That’s where I test panned and we started running the material except the really nasty stuff that I pan.

An example of how this all breaks out would be…

Teresa: “Think I hit a layer of clay!” About the same time:

Bob: “Be careful, looks like clay in the sluice!”

Teresa: “I’ll run a test pan.”

Bob: “What have you got?”

Teresa: “ It’s breaking up pretty easy,” or “it’s baby-(poo) clay,” or “we gotta run this!”

Be cautious, test pan for solubility. A good soaking sometimes breaks down clay. Sometimes it’s better to run the dry powdered material!

 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring fever/gold fever



I’m having a difficult time distinguishing between spring fever and gold fever. I’m thinking gold fever is just the prospector’s version of spring fever, but then I remember that gold fever starts in about January! So maybe all the weather associated fevers can just be lumped into one for the prospector.

It’s still March at this writing, and we have already been out sluicing! That’s virtually unheard of here in the Black Hills. We often get nice enough weather to be out in the forest looking for new prospects, but rarely are we able to throw a sluice into an ice-free stream and tolerate March water temps. In fact, March water temps usually compute into below freezing, better known as ice!

So here I and Bob are, it’s 80 degrees at 5 p.m. when I get off work. We spend about 1/2 hour setting up, an hour digging and sluicing, then another ½ hour clean up and toting everything back to the truck. It is still warm, but there are clouds building and we are lucky enough to get out of the woods before a few sprinkles hit the ground. We didn’t pan down the concentrates until we got home and were pleasantly surprised with what we had produced.

It will be another one of those memorable prospecting events, March 28, 2015, the year we went sluicing in March!

Here’s hoping we do get more moisture though, whatever form it must take! The smaller creeks will not have water if we continue at this rate.
 
Just a note... spring is breaking and we know of a few placer and lode claims still available here in the Black Hills. Contact us at hillshistory1876@gmail.com if you are interested. Grab a claim now... while you still have the right to do so!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rightfully ours!


 

I started a blog a few weeks ago about the Bureau of Land Management Legislative Proposals. It included Hardrock Mining Reform (re-stated at end of blog for reference) and I promised to expand on five items of concern. Since then, we have seen similar bills waiting for legislation, both pro- and anti-mining. It appears that government is working hard to revoke the rights we all take for granted in the General Mining Law of 1872.

Item #1 is “currently covered by the General Mining Law of 1872.”

This, if taken literally should make your skin crawl, at least it does mine! “Currently covered,” to me insinuates that option is being replaced by the leasing process further defined under the proposal.

This opinion is further supported by wording later on in the proposal…  “After enactment, mining for these metals on Federal lands will be governed by the new leasing process.” A little further on it states,Existing mining claims will be exempt from the change to a leasing system.”

So first of all I am going to state that under any scenario of my experience with government officials, they interpret things literally and leave no room for confusion. If it doesn’t say it in black and white, it just isn’t so.

Is this the beginning of the end? If approved, it could be.

Would we even be able to stake claims? It doesn’t say that we can, so I’m going to assume we can’t. I’m going to say bluntly, my opinion is they are eliminating the claim staking process and therefore the 1872 Mining Law.  That law protects a claimholder, giving him rights that do not exist under a leasing process. Just one instance of what it covers would be access, which brings up a related subject on another government level and how they can circumvent a miner’s rights.

A fellow prospector called a few weeks ago and asked if we knew anything about a Black Hills Forest Service plan for withdrawal of public lands from mineral entry? We had and promised to get the word out there.

A phone call to the US Forest Service resulted in little except being added to a mailing list to keep us informed of progress. They did not, at that time, have anything but a general map of the Black Hills with areas proposed for withdrawal outlined. I was told that legal descriptions are not yet available and not much would happen until fall of this year.
 
I broached an opinion to a friend the other day. We never know "the real story" behind these government efforts, but looking at the big picture it appears that our failing economy needs to be bolstered... what better way than to take mineral rights away from our citizens and award them to the government which can then claim mineral reserves to back our dollar!

So our rights sit on a platter, which is being picked over by federal government on two levels… that we know about!



Under the heading Legislative Proposals -- page BH11, skip to Hardrock Mining Reform:

Page BH12: “The second legislative proposal institutes a leasing pro­cess under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 for certain minerals, gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, uranium, and molybdenum, currently covered by the General Mining Law of 1872. After enactment, mining for these metals on Federal lands will be governed by the new leasing process and subject to annual rental payments and a royalty of not less than five percent of gross proceeds. Half of the receipts will be distributed to the States in which the leases are located and the remaining half will be deposited in the Treasury. Existing mining claims will be exempt from the change to a leasing system. The proposal also increases the annual maintenance fees under the General Mining Law of 1872 and eliminates the fee exemption for miners holding ten or fewer min­ing claims. These changes will discourage speculators from holding claims that they do not intend to develop. Holders of existing mining claims for these minerals could voluntarily convert their claims to leases. The Office of Natural Resources Revenue will collect, account for, and disburse the hardrock royalty receipts. “

 
 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

1872 Mining Law in jeopardy!

 
 

We have had our attention called to certain proposals regarding federal lands and their management.
 
We have preached, lectured and scolded that prospectors, miners and mining companies need to guard their rights as protected by the 1872 Mining Law. It is our handbook, you might say the miner’s bible.

 Now we’re going to refer you to a website on the proposed Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management 2015 budget: http://www.doi.gov/budget/appropriations/2015/highlights/upload/BH007.pdf

 It is entitled “Bureau of Land Management” – Bureau Overview.” Dry reading, huh? So we’ll skip to the good stuff…

 Under the heading Legislative Proposals -- page BH11, skip to Hardrock Mining Reform: Depending on your interest in hardrock mining, this first page can be read or be skipped. We’ll come back to this subject in a bit.

 Page BH12: “The second legislative proposal institutes a leasing pro­cess under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 for certain minerals, gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, uranium, and molybdenum, currently covered by the General Mining Law of 1872. After enactment, mining for these metals on Federal lands will be governed by the new leasing process and subject to annual rental payments and a royalty of not less than five percent of gross proceeds. Half of the receipts will be distributed to the States in which the leases are located and the remaining half will be deposited in the Treasury. Existing mining claims will be exempt from the change to a leasing system. The proposal also increases the annual maintenance fees under the General Mining Law of 1872 and eliminates the fee exemption for miners holding ten or fewer min­ing claims. These changes will discourage speculators from holding claims that they do not intend to develop. Holders of existing mining claims for these minerals could voluntarily convert their claims to leases. The Office of Natural Resources Revenue will collect, account for, and disburse the hardrock royalty receipts. “

 Okay, whether you read it all or not, I want to call attention to a few key phrases:

1 – currently covered by the General Mining Law of 1872;
2 – mining for these metals on Federal lands will be governed by the new leasing process;
3 – existing mining claims will be exempt from the change to a leasing system;
4 – increases annual maintenance fees and eliminates the fee exemption for miners        holding ten or fewer mining claims;
5 – Holders of existing mining claims… could voluntarily convert their claims to lease.

 So, in general, what we have feared has become reality. A way has been found to circumvent the 1872 Mining Law! 

 Does this apply to placer miners? It is under the heading Hardrock Mining Reform. Look at #5 – Holders of existing mining claims. It doesn’t differentiate and if you look at the General Mining Law of 1872, neither does it!  So go back and read it all!

 I’m soliciting comments on the five issues above. Email me at hillshistory1876@gmail.com and please break it out into the issues as listed. Be forewarned that I will not read or publish political finger-pointing. It isn't a matter of who, it's a matter of protecting our rights!

 I will expand on each item in future blogs, one at a time. You have no idea how much I have to say on each and hope to incorporate your comments!
 

 

Monday, October 13, 2014

What I learned...


Every fall as a student, I was assigned an essay, “What I learned on my summer vacation.”

Summer vacations for us consists of prospecting, often with friends made through email and phone contacts. It’s always fun, entertaining and educational!

Now you’d think after 20-odd years, there wouldn’t be much new happening, right? Well that is a grossly misleading statement. We learn new things about new areas, and oftentimes new things about the same area!

We teach and we learn. A couple of really pleasant surprises were phone calls saying, “You’ve got to see this!” One of those meetings produced a 3.8 gram nugget!


We had several guests on one of our easily accessible claims and as we opened up some historic creek diggings we were pleased to reach bedrock. Several subsequent adventures there opened up an old creek channel. Every day that we can get there, we do some digging with great results!

Education is not always positive. We learned there are still a lot of claimjumpers with far fetched stories of why they are mineral trespassing. Really, guys, how many of you really had a uncle, or a grandpa, or a cousin that previously owned our claim and "left" it to you in their will? 

We learned that the government is working in mysterious ways… an environmental study ordered on our permitted claim. No mechanized mining for us this season!

We’ve also had a friend shut down prospecting in California… an executive order called a halt to that. Another acquaintance who’s more into hunting and fishing advises us that he is feeling less and less welcome on public lands.

Be aware of what is happening to public lands in your area!  Check for public notices, public hearings. Your rights might be on the agenda!



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

By popular demand!


I’ve received a lot of feedback that I sure should start blogging again, and so it is!

The past year has been a busy one, but most interest seems to be about our small scale permit and associated mining.

To make a very long story short, I will say we did get a little mining done last season but were rudely interrupted by an early blizzard which dumped feet of snow in the area. We had moved to town a few days previous, but power outages associated with the storm forced us to spend those first few days with accommodating family members. We spent the next weeks, like everyone else in the area, cleaning up broken trees. We were lucky there was no significant damage to structures in our neighborhood.

That storm called a halt to mining, but we were pleased that our expectations in recovery were met. Even with the down-sized temporary equipment we had employed, we proved the gold is there!

The winter brought more snow and spring run-off was healthy. A wet spring kept flows going in the creeks.

July 8 was the date when a letter from the US Forest Service was received stating they were unable to renew the Plan of Operations because they need to perform an environmental analysis for longer term mining.

That means we’re back to pick and shovel mining while a permit sits on our desk.

We’ve had some good friends helping us out with digging… Ryan from California, Kris from Iowa, Brian and Greg from eastern South Dakota.  We thank them. We’ve also met some great new prospecting friends through emails we receive.

So it appears to us, based on the information received so far, that we have a choice of reducing our operation or paying more bond. We’re not sure how that conclusion was reached considering we did not come even close to meeting our projected annual disturbance due to the storm and the fact that an environmental analysis had not yet been performed?

It also strikes us that we are paying legal fees to mitigate with the US Forest Service while paying taxes to support the agency shutting us down!

We now have information that this is not a unique situation… nothing personal! Our feeling is that “multi-use” of the National Forest is being targeted and none of us are really welcome.

Drop us an email if you wish to support the Fox “save mining” fund; we need both financial and mental support of this issue.