Hard rock mining is removing rock from the ground, in which miners tunnel and blast into rock, seeking deposits of gold. Veins of gold ore are often found several inches or feet wide in certain rock formations in a volcanic deposit and in certain bed layers in a sedimentary deposit, hence the minerals may be removed, collected, and treated to process the gold and other valuable metals (such as silver) from them.
Alaska Gold Panning
Many rivers hold gold in Alaska
Striking it rich! Finding the mother lode! 'Tis the stuff
of miners' dreams. Unlike professional gold
seekers, recreational gold panners benefit
mostly from the adventure. The entire family
can share in the fun of prospecting and gold
panning. Fairbanks, Juneau, Chicken, and the McCarthy
Area are good places to start.
How to gold pan.
– SEE BELOW
The basic equipment
is quite simple and requires only a minimum
investment. A gold pan is most important. Metal
pans were used by early prospectors; modem
versions are plastic with built-in riffles. In
a pinch, frying pans and even hub caps will
work. New metal pans generally come with a
coating of grease and should be cleaned
thoroughly by heating over an open fire. The
pan will rust, but some rust is beneficial for
collecting fine gold.
(plastic with riffles or metal); 14" size is
loosen gravel from creek bottom.
with 1/2-inch holes in bottom; this pan helps
separate coarse gravel, speeding up the
lens (at least 10X power) to identify
approximately 3 feet long; (construct or
obtain commercially; aluminum version is
picking up gold; a dry finger will also
for separating out magnetic black
vials to hold gold.
to protect hands from cold water.
to keep feet dry while wading in
Here are a few
simple guidelines that all recreational gold
panners should know and follow.
national forest rules such as camping limits,
discharge of firearms, use of trails, etc.
These regulations are found in Title 36 Code
of Federal Regulations (CFR), with general
prohibitions in part 261. Copies are
available at Chugach National Forest offices
in Anchorage, Girdwood, and Seward.
Regulations may or may not be
Gold pans and
manual-feed sluice boxes are allowed
year-round in streams listed in this article.
Four-inch or smaller suction dredges are
allowed in salmon streams from May 15 to July
15 only with a permit from the Alaska
Department of Fish and Game.
mining or use of earth moving equipment is
allowed without an approved mining plan of
Work only the
active stream channel or unvegetated gravel
bars. Do not dig in stream banks!
gold panning does not allow you to build
structures, cut trees or dig up
archaeological historical or paleontological
objects. Nor does it give you the right to
obstruct others in recreational
The 1872 Mining Law,
although amended several times, remains
essentially intact. The law allows a person to
locate a mining claim on federal land and to
mine that claim. However, when certain lands
are withdrawn from mineral entry, no claims can
be staked there (although there may be
preexisting claims). The four designated areas
in this publication have no mining claims. Any
other federal lands in the Chugach National
Forest not covered by claims are available for
recreational panning. Remote areas are less
likely to have active mining claims.
Rights: As a
recreational panner, you do not
have the right to keep others from panning. You
can walk, fish, hunt, and recreate on a federal
mining claim, but you must respect the
claimant's equipment and operation. The claim
owner has an exclusive right to mine his/her
claim. You must have permission from the
claimant to pan on his/her claim.
How to pan for gold:
The key to
recovering placer gold from gravel is the
weight difference which allows gold to move
downward (concentrate) when agitated. The
simplest placer mining tool for this purpose is
the pan. Scoop some soil from the river bed.
Totally submerge your 1/2-full pan in water.
Panning may be done from a squatting or sitting
position at the stream edge, in gently moving
water, holding the pan between the knees.
Keep pan riffles pointed away from you to catch
any gold that might slip over the lip. Liberal
water, agitation, and patience are required to
persuade gold to settle to the bottom of the
pan. While the pan is submerged, break up any
clots of dirt and wash any cobbles that may
have clay that can trap placer gold. The clay
has been removed when the water in the pan
starts to clear. Pick pebbles from the pan to
get them out of the way. Look for heavy pieces
with unusual color or shape. You might find a
gold nugget or a gold-bearing piece of vein
Hold the pan level under water and shake it
with a sideways or circular motion. The gold
will settle to the pan bottom. Occasionally
tilt the pan, to let the sand-sized material
wash out. Dipping the pan in and out of the
water with a slightly forward motion while
tilted, will wash lighter material away.
Alternate underwater swirling and dipping until
only a few spoonfuls of heavy minerals remain.
When dark, heavy mineral grains (black sands)
are present, the panning is being done right.
Black sands may be a variety of heavy minerals
including magnetite, garnet, scheelite, zircon,
cassiterite, and platinum. If it's heavy, keep
it and seek identification from a geologist or
Beginners are often impatient to find gold
quickly. Take your time. During the panning
motion, black sand and other fines concentrate
in the crease or riffles of the pan. Gold can
be separated from black sands by rolling water
in the pan with a combination swirling and
rocking motion. Lighter material moves to one
side, gold stays put. For safety, do the final
panning over another container to keep gold
from being lost. Dry the fines. Use a magnet to
separate magnetic grains and tweezers, a knife
blade, or a dry finger to pick up small gold
pieces. Save the gold in a water-filled
Examine your gold. Rough, nuggety gold is near
its source. Gold that is flat and smooth has
traveled some distance from its point of
origin. Flour gold has been flattened to a few
microns thickness and will float on water.
Panning is a relatively slow method for
recovering gold. Experienced panners can
process about 10 large pans per hour. A sluice
or suction dredge can increase productivity.
AK MARINE HIGHWAY