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Gold mining definitions
This definition glossary is an exerpt from the "Modern Gold Dredging©" series of books and is provided for our web site's visitors & customers personal enjoyment. Copyright© 1992 by HMMC™. All rights reserved worldwide.


QUARTZ: A component of granite and sandstone, SiO2. In its pure or common state, it is a six sided crystal clear in color like glass. Usually found as all-white or marbled white with brown or red. It is often found as veins or pockets layered in bedrock. Geologists believe gold was originally crystallized from hydrothermal solutions in the seams, crevices, veins, and cleavage planes within quartz formations.

QUARTZ GOLD: Gold within a quartz rock, or running through an exposed vein, wire gold exposed in a pocket of quartz rock, or gold with a piece or pieces of quartz still attached. Natural placer gold in California, is formed in quartz.

QUATERNARY GRAVEL: Gravel deposited from the end of the Tertiary geologic time period to and including the present.


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RAW GOLD: High-grade ore in free form; gold that is not in chemical combination with other minerals withing the ore; in which gold is visible from the outside of the ore. The best example of this is pocket-gold.

RECOVERY SYSTEM: This is the equipment used to process materials for its gold; or other values. In dredging, the bulk of the materials would be processed through a hydraulic separator in the hedder box, then recovered in the sluice box concentrator. During this process it may also be classified into size groups. The complete process would be considered a recovery system. Final clean-up may also employ another recovery system designed to process these heavy concentrates into clean concentrates.

RED GOLD: Placer gold found under or in "hardpan," or cemented gravels, in rivers and streams with red rust-like spots. Usually considered very old or has been cemented in place for a long time. This "old" gold has been called "blood gold," because the color at times is either dull or bright red when freshly dug or dredged up.

RESIDUAL PLACER: Essentially an enrichment of gold or other heavy minerals/metals, caused by weathering and subsequent removal of the lode or other parent material, leaving the heavier, valuable minerals/metals in a somewhat concentrated state. This type of placer occurs at the surface of the ground, where a vein of gold crops out and is exposed to the elements; generally anything found within a few feet of the parent lode outcropping.

RETENTION: In placer mining, this refers to the tendency of gold, to stay in place after it is deposited. The ability for gold to stay in place, greatly depends on where it is deposited in the streambed and is classified into three groups; permanent, transitory, and temporary.

RICE GOLD: A description of small grains of placer gold resembling rice in shape and size. Found mainly in the Alaskan and Yukon gold country.

RIM ROCK: The bedrock rising to form the boundary of a placer or gravel deposit. Called "rim" for short.

RIVER BAR: This is a "bar placer" found alongside or in a river; also called "river bar placer." The term "river" refers to the size of the waterway, thus, "stream bar" or "stream bar placer," would be found on a larger size waterway; creek bar, etc.

RIVER PLACER: This type of placer occurs very near, at, or under the surface of a river; also called "riverbed placer." The term "river" or "riverbed" refers to the size of waterway, thus, a "stream placer" or "streambed placer," would be of a smaller size waterway; creek placer, etc.

ROSE GOLD: Native gold that is found with a high concentration of copper; usually 15 to 25%; to give a gold pink appearance. This can also, be found man-made in the jewelry trade for its attractive "rose" color.

ROUGH GOLD: Gold that has not been appreciably worn or smoothed by movement and abrasion. It may be more angular than rounded, and may have included or attached quartz particles. As a rule, rough gold is found near its place of origin.

RUSTY GOLD: Free gold that does not readily amalgamate, as the particles are covered with a siliceous film, a thin coating of oxide of iron; usually hematite or magnetite which cause iron stains. When used as a loose term, it may include other outside impurities such as sulfides, oxides, and limonite rust.


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SALTING: 1. Intentional salting. The surreptitious placing of gold or other valuable materials in a working place or sample, to make it appear rich in valuable material. It is done with the intent to defraud. 2. Unintentional or innocent salting. The unintentional or accidental enrichment of a sample through erroneous procedures or carelessness, without intent to defraud.

SALTATION: Large rocks and boulders which bounce along the bedrock floor during floods and travel distances by a series of jumps, is classified as being moved by "saltation."

SAMPLE: A portion of an ore, dirt, or gravel systematically taken from a deposit, in order to judge its quality.

SAMPLING ACTIVITIES: The process of sampling, by means of dredging holes in the streambed material to determine its pay value.

SAND BAR: See "bar placer."

SCALY GOLD: Small, rounded, flattened gold particles, usually quite thin in proportion to their diameter.

SCHIST: A crystalline rock that can be easily split or cleaved because it has a foliated or parallel structure. Schist bedrocks, because of their rough, platy structure, generally make excellent gold-catchers.

SEAM PLACER: These are simply a type of "residual placer," formed out of seams; cracks & crevices in exposed bedrock.

SEASONAL FLOODING: The amount of water force derived from annual winter storms and spring runoffs. Its peak or highest level would be found during spring snow runoffs. Also called "annual flooding."

SET-UP: This constitutes the assembly, testing, and placement of equipment in preparation before mining. Basically refers to the proper setting up of equipment, at the site one intends to mine.

SHINER: See "color."

SHINGLE: The flatter pebbles and cobbles overlying a gravel bar will often come to rest with their uppermost edge leaning slightly downstream. This formation is also found in beach gravel.

SHOTTY GOLD: Small, granular pieces of gold resembling shot; similar to pellets used in shotgun shells. Any small, more or less rounded gold particles, that are somewhat equidimensional rather than platy.

SINGLE DEPOSIT: A "single deposit" is formed, where it has been trapped or caught in a "catch" of some type, during its movement downstream by water action. See "catch."

SKIM BAR: An area near the upstream end of an accretion bar from which superficial concentrations of flood gold are mined by "skimming" off thin layers of gravel. They are sometimes known as "point bars," because of their proximity to the upper point of the accretion bar.

SLATE: A fine-grained rock formed by the compression of clay, shale, etc., which tends to split along parallel cleavage planes to form a rough, platy bedrock, well-suited for the retention of placer gold. Placer miners hail this to be the best bedrock to work for gold.

SLICKENS: A word sometimes used to designate the finer-sized tailings or mud discharged from a placer mine.

SLUG GOLD: A loose term for a large nugget without specimen or jewelry quality.

SMALL HIGH PRESSURE AREA: A "high pressure area" of small size. See "high pressure area."

SMALL LOW PRESSURE AREA: A "low pressure area" of small size. See "low pressure area."

SNIPER: See "prospector."

SNIPING: Sampling materials for its pay value.

SPECIFIC GRAVITY: The specific gravity of a substance, is its weight, as compared to the weight, of an equal bulk of pure water. For example, placer gold with an approximate specific gravity of about 18.5 (19 is pure gold) is 18 times heavier than water. The specific gravity of a mineral or metal greatly determines its susceptibility to recovery in simple gravity concentrators such as sluice boxes.

SPECIMEN GOLD: Nugget gold or any other form suitable for the manufacture of natural-gold jewelry or for display purposes. Pocket-gold and quartz-gold are the most common. When these pieces of gold are cleaned they are called "specimens."

SPONGE GOLD: The somewhat porous mass of gold which remains after to much heat is used to separate a mercury-gold amalgam; such as with a retort or similar vessel.

SPOTTED GRAVEL: When gold is erratically distributed throughout a deposit, the term "spotted" or "spotty" gravel is sometimes applied to it.

SQUATTER: A person using a claim site for a place of habitation, using the excuse of mining the claim site as a cover. The actual living conditions that constitute a violation of BLM and/or Forestry laws, varies in each county. It is best to inquire about legal living conditions at the forestry service in the county where the claim is located. This violation is considered an "Occupancy Trespass."

STORM LAYER: These are deposits of streambed materials by water action from flood waters, that are not found reverted or reformed into a natural bed formation. A streambed may be found to contain many overlapping storms layers, which may or may not contain a natural bed formation within them.

STRATA FORMATION: 1. A bed, layer, or other mass of materials overlying another; such as storm layers, hardpans, and the streambed itself which overlays the bedrock floor. 2. One kind of rock overlying another kind of rock, such as found in bedrock; slate to granite, to shist, etc.

STREAM BAR: This is a "bar placer" found alongside or in a stream; also called "stream bar placer." The term "stream" refers to the size of the waterway, thus, "river bar" or "river bar placer," would be found on a larger size waterway; creek bar, etc.

STREAM LOAD: The streambed gravels held in suspension and carried downstream during a flood. This would include the bed load, suspended load, and dissolved load as a whole.

STREAM PLACER: This type of placer occurs very near, at, or under the surface of a stream; also called "streambed placer." The term "stream" or "streambed" refers to the size of waterway, thus, a "river placer" or "riverbed placer," would be of a larger size waterway etc.

STREAMBED: A streambed is the "material," which nforms on top of the bedrock channels. See "alluvial materials."

STREAMBED DEPOSITION: Anytime a waterway carrying suspended materials, slows down for any reason, the load it carries in suspension will deposit slowly along the bottom of the streambed. This is the last process in the forming of placers.

STREAMBED GEOLOGY: The study of alluvial placers; materials moved and deposited by water action; how they were formed and how they interact or work together; also called "the science of stream deposition."

STREAMBED MATERIALS: See "alluvial materials."

STRINGER: See "paystreak."

STRINGER DEPOSIT: See "pay-streak."

SUCTION EDDY: An eddy with a circular motion, formed when the streams current passes around a natural or artificial obstruction, faster than the water can fill up the space.

SUSPENDED LOAD: A "suspended load" would include materials, much like that of silt or sediment; fine size soil, mud, clay, etc. When conditions are right for it, materials carried in suspension by the water flow, will deposit by means of "sedimentation."

SUSPENDED MATERIALS: All materials caught up and moved during water action; bed load, suspended load, and dissolved load. The amount of materials in play, depends on the amount of water force at any given time.

SWELL: The expansion or increase in volume of earth or gravel upon loosening or removal from the ground or streambed.


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TAIL END: The down stream end of a paystreak deposit, where it begins to drop below one's minimum acceptable allowance.

TAILINGS: The material that washes out from the end of the sluice or other recovery device, in a placer operation. The tailings from hydraulic mines are generally referred to as "debris" and are designated as such in legislative documents.

TAIL RACE: The channel which nforms from the washing of tailings exiting a recovery system in a surface mining operation.

TEMPORARY: In placer mining, this refers to gold deposits, found mainly on the outside of curves or on accretion bars. Though, these can be found at times to contain substantial deposits of fine gold, they are easily washed away during the slightest water action. See "retention."

TERTIARY: The earliest of the two geologic periods comprising the Cenozoic era, in the classification generally used; up to a little over a million years ago. Also, the system of strata deposited during that period; see "geologic time scale" end of this section.

TERTIARY CHANNELS: Buried ancient waterway systems, often auriferous, composed of Tertiary stream alluvium. Tertiary gravel is abundant in the Sierra Nevada gold belt of California, where many of the ancient waterway systems, have been covered by extensive volcanic eruptions and subsequently elevated by mountain uplifts, and are now found as deeply buried channels high above the present stream beds.

TERTIARY BED: See "Tertiary streambed."

TERTIARY STREAMBED: The materials which formed over the bedrock channels and benches of ancient waterway systems. Also called "Tertiary bed" for short. See "Tertiary" for geologic time period.

TRACE GOLD: A very small quantity of gold; usually a speck too small to weigh by common scales. In reporting samples it is abbreviated "Tr."

TRANSITORY: In placer mining, this refers to gold deposited within the materials; overburden; between the bedrock floor and the surface of the "stream load." All storm layers as a whole, are considered temporary; being extremely susceptible to release by future flooding. See "retention."

TRANSPORTATION: In placer mining, this is a term referring to the movement of gold by water action.

TRIBUTARY: This is a small waterway adjoining a larger waterway. Also called "affluent."

TRIBUTARY DEPOSIT: A "tributary deposit" is concentrations of gold formed at and shortly downstream from where a tributary enters into a larger waterway. It may form a secondary gold route for a short ways downstream until conditions allow it to join the main line of gold's travel.

TOP WASH: A deposit of gravel, not in a channel on bedrock, but resting on cement; hardpan; overlaying the bottom deposit.


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ULTRA-FINE GOLD: See "flood gold."

UPCROPPING: Bedrock protruding through overburdon in a waterway.


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VALUES: The valuable ingredients obtainable, by treatment, from any mass or compound; specifically, the precious metals contained in rock, gravel, etc.

VIRGIN: The term "Virgin" is defined as that which has never been mined before by anyone," such as "virgin bed or bedrock," "virgin placer," "virgin ground," "virgin materials," etc.

VIRGIN BED: See "virgin streambed."

VIRGIN STREAMBED: This is a "natural streambed formation," whether it is an ancient, Tertiary, or present streambed which has never been mined, or a section of streambed which was formed more recently, into a naturally formed streambed during a major flood, even if it has been redeposited into a location, which has been previously mined and worked out. Also called "virgin bed" for short.


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WASH: 1. A western miner's term for any loose surface deposits of sand, gravel, boulders, etc. 2. The dry bed of an intermittent stream, which sometimes is at the bottom of a canyon. Also called a "dry wash." 3. To subject gravel, etc. to the action of water to separate valuable material from worthless or less valuable material simply, to wash gold. 4. In drift mining, the term "wash" is used indifferently in describing channel gravel, volcanic mud flows, or masses of lava boulders.

WASTE: Low-grade material not profitable to mine, such as barren gravel or overburden.

WASTE DEBRIS: Discarded low-grade ore or waist materials, that are found scattered around near mine tunnel or shaft openings etc.; mine tailings. Also called "mine dumps."

WATER FORCE: See "water pressure."

WATER PRESSURE: The force, momentum, velocity of flow, or current in a waterway or the absence (lack of) of such.

WATER TABLE: The upper limit of the portion of ground wholly saturated with water. This may be very near the surface or many feet below it.

WATERWAY SYSTEM: This would encompass all waterways, regardless of size; tributaries, feeder creeks, streams, etc.; that directly flow into and contribute to a larger waterway, thus all are related as one system.

WET PLACER: Any placer, which is within an active waterways highest water mark.

WHITE GOLD: 1. Strictly man made for use in jewelry, etc. An alloy of gold, nickel and silver or other metals used with gold to harden it. White gold has a platinum-like color tint. 2. A nickname for platinum used by miners.

WIRE GOLD: It looks like its description: fine, short pieces of wire, or a tangled wire-like mass. Usually in bunches of tangled wire-like form, mostly found in pockets of veins; see "pocket gold."


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YELLOW GOLD: Any placer gold is usually yellow in color. Even with impurities it still remains yellow. There are variations in lightness & darkness, depending on the impurities; silver, nickel, copper, etc. The grade of gold has much to do with its color, and its quality depends mostly on the darkness and brightness of its color.

Copyright 1992© Modern Gold Dredging / Published by Heavy Metal Mining Company™, Springfield, Missouri, USA.

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