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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.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Living a dream...

One of our new prospecting friends, Brian B, commented the other day that we are “living his dream”.

It made me step back and take a good look!

Here it is, July 1, the date we are permitted to start mechanized mining and we’re so bogged down in detail that it’s hard to get the proper perspective on realizing our dream!

For what has been 2-1/2 years we have struggled through the permitting process, the subsequent MSHA certification and various setbacks with partners and equipment. Our latest problem has been running off a contractor who moved on to the claim to help us mine (plus a bevy of family and friends unknown to us).

We got a surprise email in May from the US Forest Service that road damage, traffic through the creek and in the permitted pit were way out of line. We checked into it, walking up a muddy and rutted trail past several vehicles stranded at various points.

Needless to say, the contractor is gone! The real irony of this situation is that after the confrontation, threats and a shoving match, we were asked for fuel money to leave the site!

On a subsequent visit we discover they have not only removed themselves and their equipment, but also several pumps, sluice boxes and miscellaneous fittings not belonging to them are also gone!

So in some ways were are back to Square 1, putting together this part and that fitting to re-create operating equipment.

The good news is that a fellow prospector is pitching in, loaning out his equipment and getting us back on track!

So we’re back to living our dream J and as I told Brian… sometimes dreams have a nightmarish quality, but then nothing is worth much unless you have to work for it!

A quick update… short test run on equipment resulted in expected gold!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nature at work...

        We helped some friends get situated on Boulder Creek 1-1/2 weeks ago for dry digging… no run-off this spring but they were chasing bedrock so they didn’t really mind.

        We got a call from them the following Saturday, said they had found some gold, really enjoyed the week and were headed for home after an evening with rain showers and hail.

        Sunday we wandered over that way since the rain continued and we hoped there might be some sign of run-off.  Keep in mind that Black Hills experience tells us we need in the range of three inches of rain to saturate the ground and begin any kind of flow in the creeks. We also know that our Boulder claim, 40 acres, can have running water toward the top and none near the bottom!

        We had to email this photo, 24 hours after our friends departed, all of the last two years’ workings being flooded. Ironically, we could still cross a dry creek at Camp Five for access in and out.

        A friend, Brian, decided to really experience his first flood event in the Northern Hills, and traveled the area photographing various creeks. We credit this later stage flood photo to him! It features the same stretch of creek with the old pit filling rapidly.

        Now if you are curious, this flood event was pretty specific to the Northern Hills. Spearfish registered around four inches total, with rains tapering to about one inch at Hill City and the Southern Hills having isolated showers and not much accumulation.

        We sit in awe of Mother Nature’s ability to scour any evidence of man and re-create her natural beauty!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring in the Black Hills...

        Everyone is getting antsy to get out and prospect!

        Chris emailed, “I finally got some dirt! It's muddy muddy muddy! I think I have about 2 inches of mud caked on to the running boards. The dam's filling up though with plenty of run off coming in.”

          We’ve been out and about also, driving mostly on gravel roads since the frost is just coming out of the US Forest Service trails.

          We’ve gotta say, though, that Chris’ comments are pretty unique. We’re not seeing much spring run-off elsewhere.

          Some friends were digging at the Tallent near Rochford… the ground pretty much clear of snow, the creek more like mid-summer than spring run-off!
          Further into the Central Hills the weather made a dramatic change to snow, sleet and a few raindrops. We collected some (hopefully) ore specimens, and returned to Rapid Creek. Our friends said they had found some gold, so all were happy.

          About this time every year, we spend a day or two checking winter damage to claim posts, location certificates, signage. We were disappointed on a couple of levels. First we found very little evidence of our lode claim boundaries. We put up new posts, new location certificates and flagging to help make them visible.

          We thought it a little unusual… our spring check usually means putting a post back upright, replacing faded signage, etc.

          One placer claim, location certificate in place, sported a new lode claim post right next to the monument!

          Although the water situation in the Black Hills is pretty grim, there appears to be a fresh “flood” of lode claims staked in the Rochford area. This time they don’t seem to care if there are already claims, placer or lode.

          So again, we are researching new claims. If you have an existing claim in the Rochford area, please be sure your monuments are in place, your location certificate posted.

          You can also feel free to contact us at and we will research if you have been overstaked.

          Also, we have one lode claim that we may endeavor to open up the addit into the workings.  If you’d like to donate a little pick and shovel time to expose an historic mine entrance, drop us an email! We haven’t made the call yet as to whether we will do it manually or file a Plan of Operation to allow mechanized equipment. A few days of manual labor would expose enough to further investigate the integrity of the old workings.

          A winter storm has us in its embrace… snowed in but breathing easy with temporary relief from fire danger!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Sand dollars"

        We are reassured of our followers daily, with emails and phone calls regarding prospecting, claims, historic information and where to spend this summer’s vacation!

        Just a few of the states represented are Missouri, North Carolina, Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota and multiple followers in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We get a lot of local inquiries and have developed some great friendships with fellow prospectors.

        Internationally, we see blog visitors from nearby Canda, European countries, Australia… just about every country in the world.

        Who would have thought that a little piece of real estate called The Black Hills would generate so much interest? But then, how many little pieces of real estate contain so much of interest!

        We made the local headlines this week, so we thought we’d talk about our most recent item of interest.

        Last summer we became aware that the Black Hills was a good prospect for a different commodity.

        It’s been called Wisconsin gold, sand dollars and a lot of other catchy names. We spent days which turned into weeks, then months and now about one year prospecting, sampling, staking claims.

        Test results came back exceeding our expectations… the silica sand we sampled met preliminary specs for fracking sand.

        The news broke in our local newspaper, where you can read more about it:

        Simply put, frac sand is crush-resistant sand of a specific particle size that is used by the petroleum industry in the hydraulic fracturing process. The general opinion was that it does not exist in our area.

        We’ve put a lot of time into this by traveling throughout the Black Hills and surrounding regions, sampling, analyzing, choosing locations. We’re here to say it does exist and we have secured, through the process of elimination, the areas with the best potential!

        I do have to say that proving discovery of silica sand isn’t anything like prospecting for gold. Where there’s sandstone, there’s discovery!  Proving frac sand, however, is a more complicated issue. The majority of sand grains are angular, diluted with natural impurities and break up under compaction.

        I never thought looking at a piece of sand under a high-powered microscope could be quite so interesting!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Chasing the lode...

        Sometimes it feels like we’re there, in the heart of the 1876 Gold Rush.

        We’ve talked about how the true gold rushers who knew anything about mining weren’t here to placer mine. They panned with a purpose, and that was to find indications of gold that would lead them to a lode (hard rock) discovery.

        We ran across such a prospect this weekend, or so we think.

        I say we think because we left home in pleasant though cloudy weather. As we progressed into the Central Hills, rain developed into snow. The main roads remained pretty clear, a bit slushy in places.

        We neared out destination, but there was an inch of new snow on the roads and two inches covered the ground.

        We were persistent though. What we had researched were some claims staked in the 1950s and held until around 1990. It was obvious that someone had worked and held those claims for 40 years.

        We pulled off on a side trail that showed on the map as leading to private property. We found the gate to private property, but off to our right was another trail where some logging activity had occurred in the last few years.

        It was still pretty pleasant, just snowing a bit. We could see even with the snow cover that placer mining had taken place. Mother Nature doesn’t leave things that untidy!

        As we walked up the trail further, obvious diggings were blanketed with snow. The digging got more intense as we went, some deep trenches and tailings piles underfoot.

        Now you’ve got to be careful in these situations, especially with snow cover. At least we could still see slightly clear areas on banks and weeds sticking up through the snow in the depressions.

        Bob ventured further than I and found that the placer diggings lead to what appeared to be some small quartz veining that the prospectors had developed!

        They call it “chasing the lode” and it was pretty priceless seeing how the old-timers had followed the placer to that quartz veining. We felt at one with those miners, following their historic footsteps from discovery in the spring run-off, working up the gulch toward the source. Our expectations would be that we might be able to chip away at some quartz and find gold also!

        We’ll return another day and report what we discover.  Meanwhile, we’re expecting about a week of cooler weather with chances of rain and snow.

        I firmly believe that some of our best prospects are found “just in time” to justify another trip!