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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!


Friday, March 1, 2013

Spring fever...

We should be armchair prospecting but we’ve got a lot going on and weather has turned nice! That usually means, at least for us, getting out in the forest and doing some tromping around.

We’re still not at liberty to discuss our current mission, but it does include prospecting of a slightly different nature.

We’ve had a recent rush of emails. Spring fever in prospecting also means people planning their vacations, looking to secure their little piece of the Black Hills. In some instances they want a claim of their own; others are looking to rent or lease for a few days at a time. They all have a story and our common interest in prospecting binds us into a nice little community.

Other emails regard those who have, or almost have, invested in claims sold over the internet.

I’ve discussed this multiple times and won’t get into all the detail, but warn you to check with us at or the Montana-Dakota Bureau of Land Management to make sure they are valid claims before you buy. We have three recent examples of those being dupped:  1) claim was staked in an area with a Public Land Order withdrawing minerals, 2) claim was staked in an area unlikely to produce gold, and 3) paperwork at BLM was not maintained and selling parties cannot quit claim an expired claim.


We are still watching the lode claims being staked in the Rochford area and have noticed that although they put stakes on the ground across both private property and placer claims (mineral trespass), those conflicting claims are not being filed at BLM.  We’ll give them to benefit of doubt and say they are diligently researching infringement on other’s rights.

This brings up another subject! Do not, and we repeat… do not remove location certificates, corner posts, or any claim marker on the ground. Even those markers on private property should be left alone. If it makes you feel better, maintaining those markers is evidence of mineral trespass! We don’t remove another parties paperwork or monument even when we KNOW they have fraudulently overstaked us.

So with temps in the 50s today, we’re off to look for outcrops!



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back in the routine


 A little guilt trip here... I've been neglecting the blog and am trying to get back in the routine for those readers who keep clicking in to find nothing new!

We’ve been doing a lot of research and that is how I've been spending my time. A part of that research includes getting copies of location certificates and claim maps. That introduces the subject of what is required for a location certificate by federal and state law.

 What we learned from this research is that a location certificate can “look” anyway the preparer wants it to, but must contain a few items of critical importance.

The State of South Dakota more or less avoids the discussion of placer claims, but federal law stipulates that:

43 CFR §3833.1-2(b):

(1) The name or number of the claim or site, or both, if the claim or site has both;
An example would be: Robey No. 1.

(2) The name and current mailing address, if known, of the owner or owners of the claim or site; Example: your name, your address and we recommend your phone number.  We’ve received phone calls multiple times when persons got the information off the location certificate and wanted to talk to us. Same info required for each claimant, but maybe only the phone number of contact person.

(3) The type of claim or site; Example: lode (20 acres) or placer (up to 160 acres with 20 acres per claimant)

(4) The date of location; Example: Dec. 1 you have 60 days to file at the county; 90 days to file at BLM

(5) For all claims or sites a description shall be furnished.

(i) This description shall recite, to the extent possible, the section(s), the approximate location of all or any part of the claim to within a 160 acre quadrant of the section (quarter section), or sections, if more than one is involved, and the township, range, meridian and State obtained from an official survey plat or other U.S. Government map showing either the surveyed or protracted U.S. Government grid, whichever is applicable. Example: NW1/4 of the NW1/4 Section 1 extending into the NE1/4 of the NE1/4, Section 2, T5N, R1E, Black Hills Meridian, Lawrence County, SD.  Now there’s a couple of options here because it is only required to the ¼ section, but either you want parties to know where your claim is… or not! 

(ii) The location of the claims or sites shall be depicted on either a topographic map published by the U.S. Geological Survey or by a narrative or a sketch describing the claim or site with reference by appropriate tie to some topographic, hydrographic, or man-made feature.  Such map, narrative description, or sketch shall set forth the boundaries and position of the individual claim or site with such accuracy as will permit the authorized officer of the agency administering the lands or mineral interests in such lands to identify and locate the claims or sites on the ground. Example: We recommend a tie point to a Benchmark or a Section corner on a topo. One claim we researched used a building which had been demolished years ago, so we were hunting in the weeds for some sign of a foundation. Roads and bridges change, creeks move, anything man-made is subject to change!

(iii) More than one claim or site may be shown on a single map or described in a single narrative or sketch if they are located in the same general area, so long as the individual claims or sites are clearly identified;

(6) In place of the requirements of paragraph (b)(5) of this section, an approved mineral survey may be supplied. A mining claim described by legal subdivisions, section, township, range, meridian and State fulfills the requirements of paragraph (b)(5) of this section.

(7) Nothing in the requirements for a map and description found in this section shall require the owner of a claim or site to employ a professional surveyor or engineer.

So what we have observed is that about 10 out of 10 location certificates we look at superficially meet federal requirements and that is why they are recorded. The trouble starts with either a discrepancy between the location certificate and map (most commonly the description on the location certificate doesn’t match the map); markers on the ground do not reflect map and/or description); or in a lot of cases there is no sign of location certificate or markers on the ground!

One recent example had us completely confused. We’re old-times and still use footage to describe our claims. Example would be: Tie point begins at NW corner of Section 1, proceed 25 feet west and 250 feet north to Stake #1 (NW corner). Now we love using a GPS and acknowledge they are “the new prospecting tool”… but, when we looked at this description we couldn’t figure out what the numbers meant! We forwarded the information to a friend Brian, who makes a living mapping coordinates.  I didn’t feel so bad (or old) when he called to ask what the numbers meant, since they didn’t look like any coordinates he was familiar with! So if you use GPS, make sure those figures are accurate.

Another map we looked at was for a lode claim. The location certificate was misleading at best, sending us the opposite direction on corners as marked. Then we look at the map, which depicts about 5 acres of the 20-acre claim!

Remember we said the location certificates superficially meet federal requirements? I am reasonably confident that about two of those would allow an official or fellow prospector to accurately locate the claim on the ground.

Once they got on the ground, the State of South Dakota requires 8 monuments to be erected and a copy of the location certificate on display. Monuments are required by law to be “substantial” and blazed or marked with the name of the claim, post number as noted on your location map, and depict coordinates of post (example: west side center).

I hate to try and guess, but I know we have looked at hundreds if not thousands of location certificates throughout the years. We can readily, off the top of our heads, cite only a few that we felt even an experienced prospector could find on the ground.

The great thing about this is that a quick and simple, not to mention economical solution, exists.  It is called an amendment which costs $30 to file at the county and $10 at BLM (costs may change depending on when you read this). Need some help or just wondering how accurate your information is?  Email us a copy of your location certificate and map at… we’ll look it over and give you our opinion! An amendment maintains your original location date, so why not firm up your location certificate and make sure your claim is clearly marked on the ground!