Gold, Gold Prospecting & Gold Identification
Little was known about gold in Wyoming in 1977. So, I was hired as the economic geologist at the Wyoming Geological Survey at the University of Wyoming by Dr. Daniel N. Miller - and over the next 3 decades, I discovered and identified hundreds of gold anomalies.
I set out to map, evaluate & find more gold in the Cowboy State - and along with researching mineral deposits, I was charged with mapping mining districts and ended up mapping more than 1,000 square kilometers of complex geological terrain along with all of those mineral discoveries. At first I stumbled, then I got stuck - I mean I really got stuck! On one excursion to the Lewiston gold district (that had been unmapped until I walked every inch of the ground), the 1975 Bronco I was driving sunk in a bog all the way to the windows. I couldn't even open a door to get out, so I had to wind down the passenger window and climb out. Next, I had to walk several miles to Atlantic City to get help. This became a common occurrence for me for my first decade in Wyoming until I realized I was trying to get out in the field too early in the spring. Another time, I made the mistake of driving across some moist bentonite beds and my tires grew in size with each foot I drove, finally enlarging the tire diameters until they could no longer turn. I walked 8 miles to get help. By the time I found help, I was several inches taller due to all of the bentonite stuck on my boots. Don't laugh - I know some of you did the same thing!
I discovered gold nearly everywhere I looked and was amazed at how much had been overlooked. So, how did I find so much gold? Easy! I went to known gold districts, found the strike (trend) of the gold-bearing structures whether they were veins or shear zones, and then I walked along the trend of these structures and found many gold anomalies and some visible gold specimens that everyone up to that point had overlooked. Now I'm doing the same thing in Arizona. Arizona is filled with gold deposits. My recommendation would be to visit one of these districts - such as the Oatman (San Francisco) because there are veins and old mines everywhere! And there is still considerable gold to be found. Take a look at the Moss and Gold Road mines north of Oatman - these are relatively recent start-ups because someone did exactly what I would do - search along trend. BUT, it the Oatman district, you have the added attraction of finding large, rich, hidden (known to prospectors as 'blind') ore shoots at depth. So, how do you find those? Good question. When I have an answer, you will be the first to know. But, watch for my upcoming book on GOLD IN ARIZONA, that will hopefully be out (along with Obama) in 2017. It will be available on Amazon with some of my other books. You won't believe how many gold deposits are just sitting out there - and I guarantee many are commercial deposits.
From 1977 to 2006, I published compendiums, consulting on gold deposits outside of Wyoming & mapped mining districts in Wyoming that were previously unmapped or partially mapped and found a previously unrecognized ultramafic massif (mass of rocks with dark-colored ultramafic [high-magnesian] rocks) with significant palladium, nickel gold & copper anomalies. Then I found a whole new gold district (Rattlesnake Hills). And while I was consulting in Alaska in 1988 and 1989, we found (7 of us) one of the 10 largest gold deposits in all of human history! Last I heard, they had about 42 million ounces drilled out, another 140 million ounces inferred, and they still had another 60% of the gold-bearing intrusive that we found at Donlin Creek to drill. No, I didn't get any of the gold, but I did get a slab of rock with my name on it - come to think of it, I'll take the gold - please, please, please?
For my first 28 years, the Geological Survey gave me the keys to a 4-wheel drive vehicle and all the freedom I needed, and I was off and running. I can't even begin to tell you how many deposits were overlooked by previous geologists - it was as if most went to the field with blinders - and then, who knows how many I missed?
I have many great tales, stories & memories about these discoveries & some prospectors I met. In 2011, I wrote a book with my son, Eric Hausel (also a geologist), entitled "Gold". This book includes locations of nearly every gold deposit and occurrence I discovered and evaluated over 30 years. Many of the anomalies are worth further examination as they could lead to additional discoveries.
As an example, there were gold deposits I sampled in the Lewiston district at South Pass that had little to no available information. When I mapped the district, I assayed a handful of rocks and found a few quartz vein samples that assayed more than 1 ounce per ton in gold! I looked at other samples I collected from these veins a little closer and found visible gold. Later, I was showing one vein to a gold hunter from West Virginia. I kid you not, his name was James Bond. Mr. Bond wanted to get a good sample of visible gold, so I told him dig out some quartz from the exposed shear zone (lode) where I had detected 1.29 opt Au in an assay. He knocked off some quartz and found the best gold-bearing quartz sample I had seen from Wyoming - yes I was jealous! But think about this, there were (and probably still is) eluvium and alluvial gravels downstream from this lode. One has to wonder about the nuggets that are sitting in that drainage. This is the kind of information Eric and I packed into our Gold Book.
Then there was a prospector I met while I was mapping the Atlantic City quadrangle. His name was Shorty and he owned the St. Louis gold mine that I wanted to get access to so I could map it. Shorty had hundreds of nuggets in ball jars in his trailer at Atlantic City, yet he was living in a single wide trailer in the middle of downtown Atlantic City with all 50 other people in town. He had cut a hole in his trailer for a 'honey bucket'. For those of you who do not know what a honey bucket is - its what we receive from our members of Congress. Yes the gold was there - he showed me and I only wish I had a camera at the time - this was before cell phones so I did not have access to a digital camera.
Another character I met found more than a hundred nuggets using a metal detector in old mine tailings where no one else found much gold. Then there was a prospector who spent an entire winter jumping someone else's claim & panned out barrels of mica thinking he had found the Mother Lode. If nothing else, he had barrels full of potting soil - so not all was lost. My research along the Union Pacific Railroad corridor also led to gold anomalies nearly everywhere we looked. We even found gold anomalies in the Laramie City dump.
Many great stories came from the Carissa mine at South Pass. There was a caretaker of the Carissa mine named Tony. Tony was a recluse. When a couple of people showed up at the old mine to steal weathered wood from the old historic mill, Tony did not confront them, instead he decided to remove their car door. When they finished, he offered to trade doors.
I was lucky enough to be able to map the South Pass greenstone belt at the southern tip of the Wind River Mountains (greenstone belts almost always contain gold, iron, nickel and other valuable deposits). This area included several historic gold districts: Lewiston, South Pass, Atlantic City, Miners Delight & others. I identified several hundred gold anomalies in the area & found that the gold was structurally controlled in folded reefs that likely have rich ore shoots down plunge for thousands of feet. At the Carissa mine, gold occurs in a major deposit 1000 ft wide, 950 ft long & probably continuous to a few thousand feet (or more) downdip. In other words, it appears to be a major gold deposit that potentially has more than a $billion in unmined gold.
This deposit was withdrawn by the legislature without any scientific review! Shame on you guys! While mapping in the South Pass area, I was able to gain access to about 3 dozen historical mines and was the first person in several since the late 1800s. At one mine (Tabor Grand) I came across a place where some old miner scribed the date in the mud on the rib (side) of the mine tunnel.
I searched the Rattlesnake Hills near Casper because it was an obvious gold target, so in 1982, armed with the concept that the Rattlesnake Hills were part of a fractured greenstone belt intruded by Tertiary alkalic volcanic rocks, I found gold! I found gold in veins, shears, Tertiary breccias, stock works and pyrite. I also left part of the underside of my field vehicle at a prospect I appropriately named the Lost Muffler gold deposit.
I started a gold rush in the Seminoe Mountains in 1982. Historically, this area received some exploration in the 1800s but always ended up with the prospectors losing their scalps. When I visited this greenstone belt in 1982, I found visible gold in quartz vein samples on the old mine dumps. I recovered samples that had anomalous gold in quartz, altered greenstones, and altered banded iron formation.
One sample of altered banded iron formation from the Seminoe Mountains contained >1.0 opt. A sample of quartz vein material from mine waste assayed 2.87 opt. The better samples were not assayed. Surrounding the anomalous area was a broad zone of propylically-altered (pistaccio to dark green) rock mapped by Terry Klein of the USGS that is nearly 0.5 mile in diameter that could contain a large-tonnage gold deposit of value.
Nearby Deeweese Creek, an immature drainage, likely contains gold. Then there is the gravel & boulder conglomerates covering many square miles along the north flank of the Seminoe Mountains is unexplored! Yet, Hausel, Charlie (RIP) & Donna Kortes sampled this alluvial deposit, and we recovered gold from every sample we took from this dry paleoplacer. In addition, several pyrope garnets found in these samples were tested and all yielded diamond-stability geochemical signatures.
Other areas in Wyoming have gold potential such as Mineral Hill, Purgatory Gulch, Bear Lodge, Silver Crown and Copper Creek. I found samples with visible gold at Mineral Hill, Purgatory Gulch and at the Copper King mine in the Silver Crown district.
As far as silver is concerned - nothing in Wyoming compares to Kirwin in the Absaroka Mountains. Here, AMAX collected channel samples across veins in mines that yielded >100 opt silver. Why the old miners gave up on these veins is anyone's guess.
Platinum-group metals are found at a number of localities in southeastern Wyoming. I located a vein and shear zone at Puzzler Hill north of Encampment with highly anomalous palladium, platinum, silver, gold and copper. To the east of Puzzler Hill, highly anomalous platinum-group metals were identified in Lake Owen and Mullen Creek complexes. At one location, the New Rambler Mine actually operated on a copper-enriched palladium deposit in the early 1900s.
Lode deposits include veins and disseminated deposits where the rocks are found in place. Placers are detrital deposits that have valuable minerals concentrated in rivers & streams. Gold placers typically have abundant heavy minerals including black sand (magnetite, ilmenite, hematite, zircon, spinel, garnet). Such black sands may also contain other valuable material including cassiterite (tin), scheelite (tungsten) ruby, sapphire, diamond & more. So look for all of the valuable minerals in your gold pan or sluice.
Placers also typically form after flash flood events, so when looking for gold in creeks, dig down! One placer mined at Smith Gulch at South Pass contained gold throughout the sediment, but there was notable concentration at a contact with abundant organic material associated with coarse grain pebbles & cobbles that provided evidence of a past flash flood. A second pay streak was found on bedrock.
So, how do you identify gold? Easy, look for a high price tag. Just kidding. Gold is malleable (remember watching those cowboy movies and that old prospector bitting a nugget to check if it was gold) and it is very heavy (usually about 19 times heavier than an equivalent volume of water).
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