Gold Mining

Gold Claims For Sale in BC

Glossary of Placer Mining in BC

Abandoned Channel A channel in which the stream does not flow even at times of high-water.

Adit A (more or less) horizontal tunnel into an underground mine.

Alluvial Deposited by flowing water.

Alluvial Fan Fan or cone shaped deposit from a stream where the grade (slope) becomes much flatter as it opens into lowlands or into a broader, flatter valley - the water slows down and drops the load of material it is carrying. The effect can be much like a braided stream - deposition constantly affects where the water can flow, resulting in multiple shifting channels going wherever the water can go, making the smooth(ish) fan or cone shape.

Amalgam An alloy of mercury and gold. In the past, mercury was widely used to capture fine gold.

Ancient Channel See Abandoned Channel

Assay A (trusted) test, or its results, to determine the amount of gold or other metals in a sample.

Assessment Work The work that is done to renew a claim - move out the Good-To Date.

Bar An area of sediment above the level of the water in a stream channel, deposited when the water was at a higher level - seasonal high-water or extraordinary flood levels.

Bed Load See Stream Load

Bedrock Solid rock under any (gold-bearing) stream deposits.

Gold in a stream bed has a tendency to work its way lower when possible, until it sits on bedrock or sometimes false bedrock.

Bench More or less level area above the the stream - it is all that remains of old valley bottom - steam channels and/or floodplains used when the stream flowed at a higher level in the past.

Benches (and terraces) above gold bearing streams are placer exploration targets. Many machine digging operations are on benches. Small buried benches can host small but rich placer deposits for hand-mining.

Black Sand Sand or silt that is black and denser than lighter colored sand, generally found with placer gold. Black sand is made up of minerals that are high in iron and magnesium - the result of the erosion/weathering of the black minerals in granite. Some black sand (magnetite) will stick to a magnet.

Boulder A piece of rock larger than a cobble.

Boulder Clay Material that consists primarily of clay, silt, and boulders - glacial till - created as glacier ice grinds up bedrock and plucks boulders as it moves.

Braided Stream A stream with multiple channels that divide and come together again - generally the result of rapidly accumulating sediment which constantly affects the flow of the stream.

Clast A particle/grain/rock in sediment or rock.

Classify To separate material by size.

Clay Material composed of microscopic grains or crystals of sheet-like "Clay Minerals". Deposits of clay generally include water that is semi-bound to the surface of the mineral fragments.

Concentrates Black sand, some light sand and hopefully some gold that has been concentrated from paydirt by a gold pan, sluice box, jigs or other washing/processing equipment.

Cobble A piece of rock larger than gravel, but smaller than a boulder.

Crown Grant In BC, a legal interest that gives the owner the right to the surface and/or some or all minerals under the surface of an area of land. They are no longer being granted, but old Crown Grants still exist.

Debris Flow A flow of water and at least 40 to 50% solids, moving downhill as sort of a two-phase liquid/solid landslide. They can be thick with soil/clay or they can be very fluid, with silt and sand adding density to the fluid, providing buoyancy and lubrication to cobbles and boulders.

Delta See Alluvial Fan

Diamicton A poorly sorted mixture of broken rock, from silt to boulders, in which larger pieces are suspended in a "matrix" of fine material - clay-silt-sand.

Down-Cutting See Stream Erosion

Drift (glacial) Material deposited by glaciers or glacial runoff, often composed of clay and silt plus some larger pieces. See Till.

Drift (mining) A tunnel or sub-tunnel in an underground mine; sometimes: an exploratory tunnel to see where mining should proceed.

Expiry Date See Good-To Date

False Bedrock See Bedrock

Fluvial See Alluvial

Good-To Date In BC, the day on which a claim will will expire - no longer exist - the Expiry Date.

A claim can be Renewed - the Good-To Date moved out - by either registering work done on the claim or paying money to the BC government. See the Good-To Date and Renewing Claims page.

Gravel Pieces of rock larger than pebbles, but smaller than cobbles.

Hardpan See Bedrock

Hardrock Mineral or Hard Rock Mineral A mineral in the solid (usually granite-like) rock in which it formed, as opposed to a Placer Mineral, which has been moved.

In BC law and regulations, the words "Hardrock" or "Hard Rock" are not used.

Highbanker or High Banker A sluice box, generally on some type of stand, with an attached Grizzly to remove oversize pieces and an attachment for a hose from a water pump.

Grizzly A screen or grate through which paydirt is dumped to remove boulders, cobbles and possibly oversize gravel before further processing.

Ice Age The advance and retreat of glaciers and ice sheets over the last 2.6 million years.

Jigs Equipment that is used instead of, or in addition to, sluice boxes to separate placer minerals from pay dirt:
A box, or often two boxes in series, each containing water above the level of the Jig Bed (or Ragging) - often a screen or bed of small steel balls. Water and screened paydirt flows over the jig bed and off the other side. Water in a jig is repeatedly forced up and down - the Jigging action - which suspends the material and forces it up and down. Denser minerals move up less and down more, resulting in the denser materials moving down through the jig bed into the bottom part of the jig, while lighter material flows off the top of the jig. They can work well on for some sizes of gold, but not very well for very fine gold and possibly gold too large to settle through the jig bed.

Meandering Stream A stream with a single winding channel.

Mine In BC, Section 1 (Definitions) of the Mines Act, provides an open-ended definition, saying (roughly) that a mine includes...

The Mines Act also says that a a permit is required before any work in, on or about a mine is begun. This applies to hardrock mines and machine-digging placer mining operations. It doesn't apply to most placer hand-mining operations, which for this purpose, are considered to be exploration, not a "mine".

Mineral In BC, either...

Mineral Claim In BC, a legal interest - a kind of Mineral Title - which grants the owner the right to the hardrock minerals in the area of the claim.

Mineral Title In BC, a legal interest in some or all minerals in a particular area. Mineral titles include placer and hardrock claims and leases.

Mining Activity In BC, according to Section 1 of the Mines Act (roughly)...
Any activity related to the exploration, development or production "of a mineral, a placer mineral, coal, sand, gravel or rock, and includes the reclamation of a mine."

Not all mining activities qualify as work that can be registered to renew a placer claim.

Moraine Material moved and deposited by a glacier - glacial till...

Overburden The material that must be dug away to expose paydirt. Some material could be overburden or could be paydirt depending on the price of gold and the technology available. When planning costs, trees are overburden.

Paydirt or Pay Dirt Gold-bearing material that is washed to recover the gold. This usually means all the material dug and processed, as opposed to overburden, which is not processed.

Pay Streak A paydirt deposit that must be followed horizontally, often from a cross-section, which may wind across (or under) a valley, pinch out where the deposit ends, or abruptly stop where it has been eroded away.

Paleo Very old.

Pebble A piece of rock larger than sand, but smaller than gravel.

Permafrost Ground at high latitude or elevation in which the water remains frozen year-round. Except at very high latitudes, the water in the ground at the surface melts in summer - permafrost begins below this layer.

Pit An excavation with sloping and/or stepped sides.

Placer Deposit Sediment deposited in moving water that has accumulated pieces of gold and other dense minerals, from microscopic particles to nuggets, that settle out because speed of the water is not sufficient to keep them moving, but is sufficient to move lighter sand.

Placer deposits can occur where the current is slower, such as around the inside of a bend in the stream. They can also occur where gold can settle into spaces between gravel or boulders on the stream bottom (which may be the top of a gravel bar that can be worked when the water is lower).

Placer Mineral In BC, according to the Mineral Tenure Act, (roughly)...

The exceptions (that can be mined but are not placer minerals) include coal, road gravel, stone for construction and talus).

Placer Claim In BC, a legal interest - a kind of Mineral Title - which grants the owner the right to the placer minerals in that area of the claim.

Placer Lease In BC, a legal interest - a kind of Mineral Title - which grants the owner the right to the placer minerals in that area of the lease. The owner of a placer claim may apply to have the claim replaced with a placer lease if a medium to large scale mining operation is planned. A lease provides a more secure form of title over a long period - "for an initial term not longer than 30 years" according to Section 42 of the Mineral Tenure Act. Placer claims have a production limit of 20,000 cubic metres of pay dirt per year - a placer lease has no production limit.

Postglacial See Ice Age

Processing See Washing

Reclamation To restore the ground to its original state, or as close as is considered practical and acceptable, in places where it has been disturbed by mining activities.

Renew a Claim See Good-To Date

Riffle A ridge, edge or other shape on the bottom of a sluice box to catch gold by creating a zone of slower moving water in which the gold can settle.

Sand Pieces of rock larger than silt, but smaller than pebbles.

Settling Pond A natural or artificial pond (or tub or tank) into which the output of the sluice box flows, so that the water seeps into the ground or so that the suspended solids can settle, and the water can be reused for washing paydirt.

Shaft An excavation that is much deeper than its (generally rectangular) cross-section, generally dug through overburden to reach ancient channels, below.

Silt Pieces of rock smaller than sand.

Sluice Box A box, generally of metal, open on top and two ends, through which water flows, used to wash paydirt - separate and trap placer minerals - primarily gold and sometimes platinum. A sluice box has an irregular bottom that creates places where the flow of water is slower so that gold can settle out and be trapped. It may have riffles (strips going cross-wise) and matting on the bottom, or the shape and texture of the bottom may create the places where the gold can settle out.

Stope An excavation in an underground mine to remove ore that has been exposed, leaving an empty space, particularly when the excavation is vertical or highly inclined.

Stream A creek or river.

Stream Erosion The removal of material, from clay to bedrock, by a stream - by the push and pull of the water itself and/or the effect of being hit by pieces of rock (sand, gravel, boulders) being moved by the stream.

Stream Load All the solids, from clay to boulders, that are being moved by a stream. The load of (and erosion by) a stream may be much higher during seasonal and exceptional high water than it is when the water is lower and slower.

Tailings Material left over after paydirt or ore is processed - material not retained as concentrates by a wash plant - solids that come out of the end of the sluice box.

Talus The broken rock that accumulates at the base of a cliff or very-highly angled slope. In BC mining law, talus is not a placer mineral - it is a hardrock mineral.

Terrace See Bench

Tertiary The geologic time period from about 2.6 to about 66 million years ago - the time before the ice age of the last 2.6 million years.

Till Material deposited directly by glacial ice. See moraines. Till is usually a mixture of fine material (clay and silt ground up by the movement of the ice over rock) and pieces of any size randomly distributed (without any layering or sorting of sizes that is seen in material deposited by flowing water). Boulders in till may be quite round as a result of being rolled between the ice and bedrock. Till rarely contains minable gold.

Trench An excavation that is long and narrow, with the long walls more or less vertical, usually dug by a backhoe or excavator to obtain samples and/or determine the depth to bedrock.

Trommel Equipment with a perforated rotating drum at an angle used to wash and classify (separate by size) paydirt. Material is fed into a hopper at the upper end of the barrel, usually through a grizzly (grate) to remove cobbles and boulders. A spray-bar runs part way down the center of the trommel barrel. The inside of the barrel has plates running lengthwise so that material is repeatedly picked up and dropped (like a clothes dryer). The dropping helps to break up clay and (lightly) consolidated material. All material that makes its way through the holes in the trommel barrel (which may be 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch across) is directed through sluice boxes, while material that comes out the end of the trommel barrel is discarded.

Trunk Valley A large valley with significant tributary side valleys.

Washing To process paydirt to separate materials, break up clay and recover placer minerals (primarily gold). Separation of gold is virtually always based on the fact that gold is much denser than other materials in paydirt - gold is about 19 times denser than water while black sand is about 5 time denser and quartz sand is about 2.6 times denser.

In BC, washing almost always involves water (although there are Dry Washers for use in arid regions, such as the South West part of the United States). Water helps separate the components of the paydirt. It also adds bouncy, which favors gold - gold weighs 19 - 1 = 18 g/ml in water, while quartz weighs 2.5 - 1 = 1.5 g/ml in water.

Yard A cubic yard, as in "half a gram of gold per yard" or "wash twenty yards per day".