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Friday, December 31, 2010

How to Build a Simple Magnetometer for finding Magnetic Minerals

The earth is nothing more then a giant magnet as attested by its magnetic poles that attract a magnetic needle to magnetic North and South. The same phenomenon of magnetic attraction can be used to detect magnetic minerals even as small as what are termed micro-mounts, or for that matter large masses of magnetic minerals like magnetite below the surface of the earth. Although gold itself is not magnetic it often occurs in the company of different minerals that are; one example is granular magnetite.

Magnetic Vectors affecting a simple magnetometer.

This deceptively simple magnetometer can be used both at home or in the field. Its materials are also simple consisting of a very few parts that are obtainable anywhere. The core of this magnetometer is nothing more complicated than an ordinary soda straw with a small magnet glued on one end. There is a needle shoved through the straw at approximately its balance point with the magnet attached. The needle rests on two parallel sides are far enough apart to allow the straw to present up and down.

The best kind of magnet that you can use as a so-called rare earth magnet that is far more powerful than an ordinary magnet. Small maintenance of this type can be found in auto parts stores, sources say are part of an automobile alternator they can also be found in your local junkyard. The best kind of soda straw to use is one that has a flexible joint near its upper end, so you can bend the straw to get it perfectly balanced.

At home your magnetometer is used to detect magnetic minerals that is accomplished by passing the near the magnetic tip to see if the magnet is attracted. If it is you know immediately whether or not the mineral is magnetic, conversely if the magnet is not attracted to the specimen then it is not magnetic. This is important because many minerals look alike and the magnetometer test is one step in identifying the mineral.

In the field; all you have to do is walk a straight line while watching the straw, if the magnet is attracted to a magnetic mass in the ground the straw will move up or down. This is also important because many different mineral deposits are magnetic and have other minerals that are associated with them including gold. A quadrant can be added next to the straw so you can measure its angle. Changes in the straw's angle indicated underground masses of magnetic material.

Sorry, no pictures are available so please follow this URL: 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Job of the Mining Engineer through History

According to the experts a mining engineer follows a discipline involving several different facets all of which involve one facet or another of the mining industry.  Some of these many facets include discovering mineral resources that might be mined.  It also includes evaluating a known mineral showing to determine if it will produce a viable mine.  At other times he might be involved in the physical extraction and processing of minerals from a natural environment in such a way as to increase their value.  In many cases he is also responsible for protecting the environment from excessive damage from any mining operations.  Finally it is the mining engineer upon which the responsibility of closing a mine.

Headframes in Butte Montana that were designed by a mining engineer

Although decried by many our standard of living is based on mineral extraction even though any mining activity will cause great disturbance to the environment in the vicinity of any mining operation.  The mining engineer must also be concerned with the environmental damage produced from any mining activities that involve the mine where he works.  Beyond the production and processing of any minerals produced from the mine he must also be familiar with the methods of mitigating any damage to the environment resulting from mining operations.

A bucket wheel excavator gives some idea of how large mining equipment is used in mining.

Mining goes back to the beginning of civilization with people having used the products of the earth to build the civilization we know today.  It doesn’t make any difference if it is stone for making tools and weapons or for colorful minerals that were used to decorate their bodies.  The oldest known mine in the world is the “Lion Cave” in Swaziland, Africa where using the radiocarbon dating process proves mankind was in the mining business around 43,000 years ago.  The product they mined was hematite an iron ore, but they used it to produce the red pigment iron ochre to paint their bodies.

Other mine shafts dating back to the earliest time have been found in both England and France where the early miners dug into the chalk deposits for flint used in the production of tools and weapons.  Other early mining activities were for clay used to produce brick and ceramic vessels.  From this you can see that the mining engineers job is not only important, but is one of the oldest professions in the world.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The uses of Pumps in Mines

A pump is a mechanical device used for transferring fluid from one point to another. There are several different varieties of pumps that are found in the marketplace, but the most common in use are the centrifugal pump and the piston pump. The most common pump in use now is the centrifugal pump although in the past the more common variety of pump was operated with Pistons. The primary use for pumps in the mining industry is for the removal of groundwater that seeps into the mine from the surrounding strata.

This is a Cornish piston pump used in the 19th century to pump water from a mine.

In some mines the order is reduced to a powder that is mixed with a fluid allowing it to be pumped as a slurry. Other pumps are used to supply power too hydraulic units that are attached to various types of mining equipment.

No matter what its use; pumps require an external power supply that used to be supplied by steam, but is now replaced by diesel. In many cases the motive power for operating a pump is supplied by electricity this is especially true of the smaller pumps that have electric motor attached correctly to the shaft of the pump.

A cutaway view of a centrifugal pump.

Pumps are also used in various hydrometallurgical processes used to separate ore from gangue. This is illustrated by their use in flotation cells for separating sulfide minerals from the surrounding rock. In other cases pumps are used in the heap leach method of recovering gold with a solution of cyanide. In this case the pumps pressurize a cyanide solution forcing it out through nozzles where is allowed to seep down through the heap of crushed ore where it is collected in a sump at the bottom of the heap to be recirculated through the heap several times until the solution becomes pregnant with gold.

The pregnant solution is then drawn off, and the gold or other metal values are removed by reacting to solution with a powdered metal such as zinc to precipitate the gold that is then taken to a refinery for further processing.

In alluvial or placer mining centrifugal pumps are also used in several places notably in supplying water to sluice boxes or hide bankers. They are also used in the operation of a suction dredge for the removal of mineral laden sand and gravel from the bed of the stream. In larger gold dredges they are actually used to process the gold bearing sand and gravel.

A gold dredge in operation in Nome, Alaska.

 As you can see there are many uses for pumps in the mining industry, and because man is an ingenious creature he keeps developing more!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hunting for "ET" to turn a Profit

Hunting for ET:

Several years ago Steven Spielberg produced a movie that’s title was “ET” in the movie the ET was an extraterrestrial being there for all the world looked like a mud turtle that had been defrocked frrom his shell. In this case the ET is a visitor from outer space that impacted the surface of the earth. They are more commonly known as meteorites that are usually particles of matter from outer space most of which have their origin in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. Other meteorites have their origins in impacts on the surface of Mars or the moon. These are much rarer than just run-of-the-mill outerspace bodies.

Stony and Iron Meteorites

Ifyou may wonder why in a Blog devoted to mining and prospecting that we include meteorites; the reason is because they're worth quite a bit of money there are thousands of people on the earth that collect them. Some of the better specimens have been known to fetch prices exceeding $30 per gram, and it is not unusual for a 1 pound meteorite to demand $1 million. This makes seeking meteorites worthwhile, and there are some people in the world who make it a full-time business. There are plenty of other people that buy and sell meteorites that can be found on the Internet. Going further, there is even a TV program on the Science Channel about meteorite hunters.

A Lunar Meteorite knocked off the moon by a meteorite impact. 

To locate meteorites you're going to have to have some specialized equipment notably a deep penetration metal detector and a rare earth magnet that can be found by querying the Amazon search box at the bottom of this article.

It is estimated that approximately 50,000 tons of extraterrestrial material reaches the surface of the Earth per year. Ninety-six % of this material is stony meteorites that are not detectable with a metal detector, and are usually found by accident. Three % of this material is composed of iron nickel, and the last 1% is a special type of meteorite called as stony iron. Other than the stony meteorites the other two types are detectable using a metal detector. The other piece of equipment that you will need is a shovel used for digging a hole to retrieve your find.

A team recovering meteorites in Antarctica

The best place to go looking for meteorites is in open fields or even better desert. You can expect to find just about every piece on iron ever dropped onto the surface of the earth whether it comes from outer space or from the hand of man. Some of these iron artifacts that are man-made may also have value as antiques, but the real prize is when you find a genuine honest to gosh meteorite.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mineral exploration in the state of Maine

This is what I was looking for, native copper.

Of all the New England states Maine probably has the most active mineral exploration program. Number of years ago we were asked to go up and evaluate some mining property way down East in Maine just above Eastport located in the town of Perry. The property in question is on the banks of the St. Croix River where native copper was found in the flows of basalt of Devonian age. The other side of the river is the province of New Brunswick in Canada.

When I got the contract to do this job there was still plenty of snow on the ground in the hills of northwestern Connecticut where I live, so to find out how much snow was in Perry I called the police and Eastport to find out how much snow was on the ground. They told me there was none that also reminded me that that part of Maine was warmer than northwestern Connecticut. Would that I packed my gear including my brand-new Brunton pocket transit that all geologists should carry because it has a mirror on the inside of the back cover so you can open the thing and look in the mirror to see the monkey the gotcha lost.

I left home at about 430 in the morning with nothing more than a cup of coffee and donut figuring I would get my breakfast on the way up to Maine; it was in before I got onto the Maine Turnpike that I finally stopped for breakfast at the first rest area. From there I drove on to Augusta where I wanted to stop at the state geologist and pick up some maps and publications.

Little did I know that some of the wackiest adventures you can imagine started in Augusta at the state geologist's office. I drove down State Street past the capital of a half a mile further on was the state geologist's office is located in an old firehouse with a brick tower on it. When I got there the state geologist was no longer there instead the building was now occupied by a wholesale plumbing firm. I went inside to find out where the geologists had vanished, but the guy that ran the store didn't know.

At that I asked him if I could use as phone, and he said yes it's right over there. I took one look at the telephone and the whole bottom of it was covered by buttons, so I asked him which button I had to push, he showed me. Then I looked in the telephone book for the state geologist number. There was no number listed for the Maine Geological Survey. With that the store keepers suggested I look under State of Maine. I looked and there they were to follow after column of bureaucrats finally I found one that said Maine Geological Survey, so I dialed up the number, and the state geologist and certain the phone. I told him I was at their old headquarters were some fella tried to sell me a bathtub, and where are you located now?

This is what the edge of the St. Croix River looked like.

He replied he go back up State Street past the capital, and turn right onto the bridge just past the capital down that street and turn right at the second satellite. (You have to understand how they speak in Maine he actually meant the second set of lights.) He told me drive down that street about a half mile and you'll see where we are in a big brick building that's the mental hospital.

With that I started laughing and made some kind of a comment about how I can think of any number of geologists that belong to a mental hospital, but he wasn't kidding. They were in the mental hospital alright I was pouring rain and they were down cellar and when I arrived at the mental hospital it was not only pouring rain, it was an absolute deluge. While I was looking for a parking place I saw all kinds of empty spaces with a big sign hanging up over the lot that said, "Doctors only." Well, I have a doctorate in geology so I guess that makes me a doctor doesn't it?

So I parked my car and went through the deluge to the first door I could find. When I entered through the door I came out in a big square room with bars on the windows, and as the door closed I heard the lock click. Now here I was locked into the mental hospital so I stood in the center of the room dripping. After a while a fellow came in through one of the other doors a took one look at me and said, "Were you going? I said I'm a geologist were is the geological survey. He said, “They're down cellar at the other end of the building!”

With that, he went over to the door that locked behind me, and opened it upon looking out if anything it was raining evenu harder than when I came in. He then turned to me and said well I suppose you don't want to go back out into the rain do you? I said, “Not really!”

Then he said I'll let you go down through the building but you just be sure you stay in the middle of the hall; I'll wave to the guard at the other door to let you through.” With that I went walking very carefully down the middle of the hall. The guard at the other end asked me where I was going, so I told him to the state geologist’s office. He told me it was down cellar at the bottom of the stairs. So down cellar I went!

When I got to the office the state geologist was inside with his feet cocked up on the desk reading a book. When he had his office in the other building he had a real cute secretary, but she had been replaced by a much older woman that looked to be in her late 50s. I gathered up my books and maps paid for them and left.  

Things are pretty uneventful until I got to Perry where I went looking for a place to spend the night as it was already getting dark; it takes a long time to drive from northwestern Connecticut to Perry Maine. Finally out of the gathering darkness I spotted a motel, the only one in town. What I didn't know was the front of the building was a motel, but the back of the building was a kennel. Now I don't know what kind of dog was right behind my room, but all night he kept barking, and it just wasn't some ordinary dog that was doing the barking this one had a great “ruff” that sounded like a hound of the Baskervilles, and he kept it up all night. Morning solved the mystery of what kind of dog was behind me when I opened the door of my motel room and was greeted by a huge St. Bernard. Oh yes, he was  a real big one alright.

I spent the next three days going over the property checking it for copper. Guess the property did contain copper, but not in economic quantities. It required several channels cut into the bedrock for further analysis to discover this however. With my report the owner of the property decided not to do any further exploration. While I was doing the survey work I also collected some real nice agates that had weathered out of the basalt.

With the job done I took a couple of days to get back to Connecticut, but not before having another adventure in the State of Maine ensued when I got stuck up to the frame of my car is the middle of Main Street in Bar Harbor. It seems the town had turned Main Street into a ditch about 6 feet deep, so I write was stuck in the middle of Main Street. Pretty soon a policeman showed up driving a jeep. He stopped at the top of the ditch and yelled down to me, “It looks like you're stuck!” I had to agree! Then he yelled down to me, ”Don't suppose you want me to call a wrecker from Ellsworth do you!” I replied, “Not really!”

Then he yelled down, “If you aren't going anyplace, I'll get a log chain and pull you out with the Jeep.”  He left, and came back about an hour later with the chain that was this great ungodly log chain with one inch lengths that must've been 100 feet long. We pulled my car out of the middle of Main Street. We unhooked the chain, and I went off looking for a restaurant.

Although I had already been told there was one restaurant opened in town, I'll be darned if I could find it, but I did find a pizza joint that was full of college kids. What I really wanted that night was a stake, what I got was a pizza!

Friday, December 17, 2010

How to spoof ANFO into having a Higher Detonation Velocity for Blasting

It is a well known fact that in blasting the best rock breakage occurs when the detonation velocity (DV) of the explosive matches the speed of sound through the rock being blasted. The explosive ANFO is made from a intimate mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil that because of its low cost provides the preponderance of explosives used in mining and quarrying. In most cases the detonation velocity of ANFO is much lower than the speed of sound through the rough is being blasted resulting in poor breakage.

An explosive charge is fired in a quarry.
ANFO is mixed for use with one gallon of fuel oil per each 100 pounds of ammonium nitrate.  The mixing of the mixture usually happens as the borehole is being loaded.  This mixture is so insensitive to detonation a booster charge is placed in the bottom of the borehole with the wires or prima-cord threaded up to the surface of the hole.  Under the best conditions for blasting the velocity of detonation (DOV) is around 12,000 feet per second whereas the velocity of sound in crystalline rock approaches or exceeds 20,000 feet per second (FPS).

In our quarry we were mining granitic gneiss that had a speed of sound through the rock of about 22,000 FPS roughly 10,000 FPS higher then the DOV of ANFO.  The resulting blast using 12,000 pounds of powder loaded into bore holes that were four inches in diameter by 100 feet deep on a six by six foot pattern that produced too much oversized rock that had to be broken to size using a hydraulic hoe/ram to make the shotrock fit our crusher that had a jaw size of 40 x 48 inches.  We were producing over 25% of oversize rock that was costing a fortune to break up into size.

Hooking up detonating cord.

We were able to raise the DOV of the ANFO by placing a thin plastic tube loaded with a slurry explosive having a much higher ROV then ANFO. By extending this to both high velocity explosives through the entire column of ANFO we were able to trick the info into exploding at virtually the same ROV as the slurry. The net result was a much better breakage patterns and the shock rock. Much more of it was able to be passed through the crusher without any further work.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Closed Mines -- Lost Jobs

The basic problem is for the past half century the country has been hell bent on ruining the economy, and unfortunately they have almost succeeded.  Some serious rethinking about priorities is badly needed.  One of the biggest problems is frankly the EPA they have virtually made it impossible to accomplish anything in the United States.  

We need factories in this country, but the environmental movement has made building one too costly and virtually impossible.  Reforming the EPA so as too streamline the permitting process both cost and time wise would go a long way to begin getting our house in order.

As an example there are any number of gold mines in the Colorado Gold Belt possessing $50 million worth of proven assets, but with the permitting process to reopen these mines costing $75 million the mines remain closed.  Closed mines translate into lost jobs.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Aggregate Industry in America

An example of what aggregates look like
As far as mining goes the value of the Aggregate Industry can far exceed the total value of all other mining operations. If it is reported there are over 7,000 active mines in the entire world there are more than 10,000 pits and quarries in the United States alone producing a wide variety of products ranging from simple sand and gravel, to crushed stone and a whole plethora of other industrial minerals. This type of mining is nowhere near as glamorous as mining for gold, but in reality a good producing sand and gravel pit near a viable market is more profitable than a gold mine.

Although it is not realized by many people the aggregate industry forms the foundation of our modern way of life. There is a hardly Day that goes by when somehow or other aggregates don't touch our lives. We find them in our schools, hospitals, factories, roads, bridges, airports and the foundations of our houses. The one thing you can be certain about aggregates is we drive, sit upon, stand on or walk on and drive on aggregates, but that is only part of the fascinating and important story behind aggregates.

This is a story so simple and yet so complex that you really don't know where to begin, but a good place is with economics. This is a story that begins with getting goods to market because our infrastructure depends on the use of aggregates that make up more than 90% of all the asphalt used to build roads or 80% of the concrete used for the same purpose. Lacking a sound infrastructure such as highways, mass transit, airports, water and sewer systems or the rail roads we would neither have an economy, nor could it grow.

Although most people don't realize it every man woman and child in the United States uses about 8.5 tons of aggregate per year. This is a tremendous number when you consider the population of the United States is over 350 million people causing the aggregate industry to measure their production in billions of tons per year, year after year.
An aerial view of a crushed stone quarry

There are two main components to the aggregate industry that are sand and gravel or crushed stone production. Within reason these two parts of the industry are interchangeable strictly depending upon the nearness to market which they are. Aggregates are one his terms in the industry as having a high in place value. The farther from the quarry you have to move aggregates the more expensive they become because of freight charges.
A producing sand and gravel operation

Although there are some large operators in the aggregate industry most of the production really depends on small family operated facilities. It has been estimated that there are over 10,000 active quarries in the United States alone with a preponderance of them producing crushed stone. There is minor aggregate production that has developed using iron slag as its base material, but this has a limited market.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chinese Government's Ban on Exports of Rare Earth Elements causes a Worldwide Shortage

Without Rare Earth Elements (REEs) a lot of the technology found in the 21st century would be impossible. These are things like alternate energy, rare earth magnets used in car’s alternators, computers, TVs and many other examples of modern technology.  The rub and incidentally the demand for REEs are because 97% or the world’s total supply comes from China.  The Chinese government recently cut the level of their exports of REEs by 70 % touching off a worldwide shortage of REEs. Their former chairman Deng Xiaoping said, “If you want rare earths you had better build a factory in China,” he went on to say that China would become the Saudi Arabia of rare earth metals. 
Allanite one of the ores for REEs

The Chinese extract REEs from clay using essentially the same long and tedious process as used for recovering uranium.  However there is so much clay in the world that could contain REEs it remains to be seen if the Chinese are able to maintain their monopoly.

Many conglomerates also contain REEs associated with the radioactive elements thorium and uranium as they are seen in a quartz pebble conglomerate at Elliot Lake, Ontario or the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Anywhere in the world where uranium is mined REEs are likely to be found associated with the uranium ore.

A pile of monazite sand another ore of REEs

In that atmosphere the worldwide rush is on to discover new sources of REEs.  According to Al Shafsky CEO of Pele Mountain Resources of Toronto his mining company is developing the largest known deposit of REEs in Canada at their Eco Ridge Mine in Elliot Lake, Ontario.  Shafsky’s interest in the Elliot Lake mines is actually uranium with REEs as a byproduct.  Because they are able to be extracted from uranium ore by the same process REEs provide a valuable byproduct with a known market.

Piles of REE oxides
Of the estimated 7,000 producing mines in the world there are very few producing REEs at the moment with most of them in mainland China accounting for 97% of the world’s total production. The other 2% is found in so-called mineral sands that are produced in many parts of the world where it is found in beaches usually as sand sized grains of monazite or other rare earth minerals.  The remaining 1% is produced in Canada mainly from the conglomerates around Elliot Lake, Ontario as a byproduct of uranium mining.  The CEE salts are leached from its ore using the same process as that used for the recovery of uranium the CEE salts are a byproduct. They are all leached with low molal sulfuric acid to recover the metal content.  

A photomicrograph of a REE Magnet

The best way of finding deposits of REEs in the field is with a Geiger or Scintillation counter the same as is used for finding thorium or uranium. REEs are always associated with these elements.   A likely place to look for these elements is the conglomerate deposits of the American West, wherever uranium or vanadium mines were located during the mid-20th century.  Most of the uranium in the United States was produced from mines in Nebraska and Wyoming although there were enough uranium mines in the other western states.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Black Smokers and the Red Sea Alternative

What is a Black Smoker?

Black Smokers are a feature of deep oceanic spreading centers that are caused when a hot brine of calcium and sodium chloride permeate the ocean floor that is composed of basalt that is mainly composed of iron and magnesium silicates.  Contained in this mixture are many metals in trace amounts that are leached by the hot brine to come out of the bottom of the sea on mid-oceanic spreading centers as hot springs.  The temperature of the Black Smokers can reach levels of several hundred degrees.  All the Black smoke that seems to arise from one of these natural springs is composed of various metal sulfides as well as some native metals such as gold.  The major metals found around Black Smokers are gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc and molybdenum.
A Black Smoker off the coast of British Columbia.

Because of earth movements over ages of time it is possible that the mineral deposits associated with Black Smokers can become fossilized in what is termed a volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) like the deposit at the Kidd Creek Mine in Timmins, Ontario or a similar ore body near Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec that presently holds the record as the deepest mine in North America.  

The ore is deposited around a Black Smoker in an aura strictly depending on the solubility of the metal sulfides coming from the vents.  The big disadvantage of most Black Smokers is their average depth below the surface.  The average depth of a Black Smoker is around 6,000 meters (>18,000 feet).  The deeper you go into the ocean the more costly it becomes.
A satellite view of the Red Sea. The hot brine pool is just opposite Mecca

The Red Sea Alternative:

At a depth of about 2,000 meters (>6,000 feet) there are pools of mineral laden hot brines possessing enough density so that they pour like syrup, and don’t readily mix with the surrounding water.  At the ocean floor below the hot brine is a thick layer of metal salts that look like a heavy black grease.  It has been estimated that there is perhaps as much as $250 billion worth of metals that could be recovered from this resource not including any Black Smokers found on the seafloor nearby.

For more about the geology of ore deposits please go to 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

How to use GPS to Stake Mineral Claims

I own a Garmin 90 handheld GPS unit that is designed for use in aircraft that although it doesn’t have all the “bells and whistles” as newer models used for navigating on the ground even so it is quite capable of accurately laying out property lines, and corner locations that is exactly what is called for to layout and stake a claim. 

A Garmin Legend unit

A degree of both latitude and longitude at the equator are 60 nautical miles or 69.046767 statue miles.  One minute is one nautical mile or 6080.20 feet, further, a second is 1/60 of a minute or 1,013.37 feet.  The GPS unit is set up so it reads in degrees, minutes and seconds.  The readout on the Garmin 90 will give you the following information heading in degrees.  My unit also gives you the speed at which you are traveling over the ground that probably is not important for any work done on the ground to stake a claim. 

Any GPS unit will give you your position on the face of the earth in degrees, minutes and seconds a GPS unit is accurate within about twenty feet that is accurate enough for government work especially the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  It also gives the distance from a waypoint like where you started from.  Set that position onto your GPS unit as waypoint #1. 

When you have established your first position a.k.a. Waypoint #1 laying out a rectangular claim plot is like shooting fish in a barrel.  For example if we are heading north to stake the next corner just follow a line showing you are heading straight north on the built in compass.  This can be done by pacing (not very accurate, by reading the distance off the unit in parts of a nautical mile (a little more accurate) or with a tape measure (the most accurate).

A Nokia GPS unit.

The GPS unit will indicate the new position where the next corner of the claim is located; enter that into the GPS unit as Waypoint #2.  Now either turn east or west to establish the next leg of your boundary line.  Measure off the distance to the next corner of the claim, and enter its position into the GPS unit.  For the third leg as an example turn another 90 degrees so you are facing due south and measure off the distance to the third corner.  Enter its position into the GPS unit then set the GPS unit back onto the first position and then you have successfully staked a claim.  You can stake adjacent claims by repeating the steps for the first claim except you only have to establish two corners; the other two corners are already established. 

GPS units are also handy for any other use you can dream up like finding your way to the nearest watering hole, or your base camp, or where you found interesting mineralization. The best way to keep this information is in some form of notebook the best is a surveyor’s field book having waterproof paper, and makes the notes with a black ball point pen. 

Although my GPS unit is intended for aviation it has been used extensively in my environmental consulting for establishing property lines, and the location of test borings,  The US DOD only guarantees accuracy within about 20 feet in practice I have found that the accuracy is often far better that is measured in a few inches.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: Before you use your GPS unit for laying out any claims be sure that you carefully read and understand any directions the manufacturer included with the GPS unit in the first place.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

A way to Analyze Ore Samples in the Field

If you ever wanted instant analysis of a sample or ore while prospecting or exploring in a remote area the portable X-ray Fluorescence Meter is just what you want.  They are pretty pricey, but can be rented from various sources for around $500 per day.
A hand held portable x-ray fluorescence meter made in China

There are a number of companies manufacturing portable x-ray fluorescence meters used for identifying different elements in the field whether prospecting or any of a variety of other ways where specific analyses of any chemical element is required.  With one of these meters you can determine the composition of any mineral right in the field without having to take samples home that are later sent to a lab for analysis.

The meter also has many applications in the environmental field among them are identifying lead based paint and other contaminants in the field.  The device will identify all the heavy metals as well as other contaminants.  The EPA and other government bodies use the technology for protecting the public from dangerous substances because of its fast, nondestructive, fast and is capable of being hand-held. 

It is regularly used in the mining industry for field sampling in mineral exploration work in active mining to effectively trace ore shoots.  With this device it is possible to know what you are dealing with eliminating the need to send samples to an outside lab thereby saving time and costs.    

Different XRF meters by Niton being used to analyze copper wire in the field for its gold content.

The best thing about these devices is they are all hand held about the size of an electric drill.  One of these units can be carried in a holster like a pistol, and in fact are pistol shaped.  The whole instrument ready to use only weighs around 11 pounds (5.5 kg).  They are capable of identifying up to 25 elements at a time that are displayed on a screen at the back of the device.  Not only does the device tell you what elements are present, but also indicates how abundant they are.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How to Find a Job in Mining

One of the hats I wear is as an expert on the Internet a job that makes me an ordinary guy with a briefcase and a new pair of shoes fifty miles from home.  My expertise is supposed to be in geology, but the way it has worked though is most of the questions are how to get a job in the mining or oil and gas industries.  A job for which we are not the highly qualified expert, but we try.

How to Get a Job in the Mining Industry:

If you can't read German this is some miners at work in the 15th century by Georgius Agricola the father of mining engineering in his book De Re Metallica. This woodcut illustrates some early mining equipment that was in use then.    
The first thing you have to realize is that the mining industry is a lot of hard work, and not only that it is a boom & bust industry that operates on the whim of the overall economy of industry as a whole.  Mining is only one of the first steps on a long road until a finished product makes it to the final customer.

For the sake of this argument we will consider that you have a college education although some of the steps in this article apply to everyone.

·        Have an applicable specialty – basket weaving does not apply.
·        Get good grades – partying does not apply.
·        Most colleges have a placement agency that acts usually as a lifetime employment agency for their graduates, use it!
·        Most colleges also have career counselors that are often in your department, use them!
·        Prepare a good resume or CV before you go job hunting.
·        On the back pages of all trade journals there are usually help wanted ads, use them!
·        Most big mining companies have training programs, use them!
·        Most mining companies have web pages, read them if you are interested!
·        Most mining companies on their web pages have a listing you can click on saying, “Careers” or something like that, read them!
·        Practice the interview with a friend before you show-up for the real thing!
It takes a certain amount of patience to be a miner, and by the way if you have any questions you would like answered just leave them in the comments box at the bottom of this blog.

Mark Twain once defined a mine as a deep hole in the ground with a damned fool at the bottom, and a damned liar at the top – Maybe he got it right!

Mining Today

We always hear people stating we are running out of natural resources especially ores the problem is these people don’t really understand mining or where mineral resources might be hiding.  The real answer to this situation is simply the true size of the Earth; it is mind boggling.  Seventy-One percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water leaving the remaining 29% covered by land.  Virtually all the mines on earth are on the land with hardly any mining activity occurring at sea.  This is a situation that is apt to change in the years ahead. 

This is an aerial view of the Kidd Mine in Timmins, Ontario    NOAA

Even though mining activity is mostly confined to land areas even there we have barely scratched the surface.  The deepest mine on earth at present is the Mponend Goldmine in South Africa at 13,123 feet.  The deepest surface mine is Bingham Canyon in Utah having a depth of 3,397 feet.  On an average the crust of the earth is 14.7 miles thick ranging from 4 miles thick at its thinnest beneath the oceans to over 19 miles at its thickest beneath the continents!

Recent discoveries indicate that most mineral deposits have their origins from the so-called “Black Smokers” at spreading centers making it highly probable that most ore deposits are to be found on the ocean’s crust.  The ocean floor is also covered with another type of deposit called manganese nodules that in reality contain far more then manganese, but virtually any other metallic element all one has too do is go looking for them with a spectrometer.

There isn’t a mine in the whole world that is more then three miles deep leaving us a tremendous area that remains unexplored.  It must be remembered that modern mining techniques are less then a century old, so there is plenty of room for improvement.  I am sure the 49ers would hardly recognize the world of mining that exists today.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How to open a New Mine


A mine has to be located on a viable mineral deposit, but that isn’t necessarily so giving truth to the Canadian phrase defining a mine, “A mine is a hole in the ground with a fool at the bottom, and a liar at the top.” More then one mine has been built for the sole purpose of bilking the investors.

Aerial View of the Dome Mine in Timmins, Ontario

Opening a new mining site:

Mines are developed in places where viable mineral deposits are located before building a mine is even considered. The site is found through the efforts of a prospector or today in most cases the efforts of a team of exploration geologists working with geophysicists to locate ore bodies deep inside the crust of the earth. It should be remembered that a “showing” of ore doesn’t necessarily lead to the development of a mine. Usually there are as many as three hundred shows investigated before one is found that can support a mine.

Preliminary work:

Finding the future location is done by the exploration team that can range from a single prospector to an entire exploration team searching for a viable ore deposit. Once a deposit is found drillers are called in for diamond drilling to further explore the site, and get an idea on the size of the ore body by drilling a grid with spacing between the individual drill holes of usually 100 meters. Closer drilling is called for to further define specific portions of the ore body.
While the preliminary work is ongoing the mine promoters are busily getting the financing to continue the exploration of the site as well as gaining the additional money required to develop the mine. Most of this work is done on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) although there are others that include all the major stock exchanges in the world.
Virtually all the going on’s at the ore site and the financial efforts is reported on an arm of the Toronto Stock Exchange that reports on virtually all the corporations in the world their filings, financial statements, 43-101 filings, press releases, and notices of stock holder meetings along with their results.


Once a viable ore body is discovered to develop it further is going to require a mining permit that by the time you have gone through the alphabet soup of various bureaucracies can take several years that together with lawyer’s fees that can be quite pricey. The toughest hurdle you will face is the local inland wetlands commission and even tougher if there is one the local planning and zoning board (P&Z). Most lawsuits are initiated at the local level although there are lawsuits aimed to stop the mine initiated by various other groups outside the local area. A mine usually requires several different permits, but the final one is issued by the local authorities.

Heavy mining equipment used in a surface mine.

Constructing and outfitting a mine:

Once the ore body has been proven and all the necessary permits are in place the actual construction and outfitting of the mine site can take place. This is going to require a decision on the part of management whether this is going to happen in-house or if it is going to be farmed out to independent contractors. There are enough independent contractors to both construct the mine and outfit it at the same time. Many mines are also operated by independent contractors hired by management to operate the mine under contract.
A decision also has to be made by management whether the mine is going to be a surface mine or an underground mine. Surface mines are the least expensive to operate, but there are situations that can arise making it more desirable to have an underground mine. This decision will determine the equipment required to operate the mine.
Mines are often built in remote locations requiring not only providing for the mine’s operation, but housing for the workers as well. A large mining operation can require the construction of a city that needs all the facilities like schools, hospitals, libraries and anything else found in a modern city. It will include all the infrastructure found in a modern town or city including roads not only those used in the ore extraction process, but for other means of transportation including in many cases an airport,


These are only some of the steps required to open a mine there are a legion of others that are apt to crop up as the building and operating of a mine continues.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Difference between Mining, Quarrying & Prospecting

Mining, Quarrying & Prospecting are one of man’s oldest endeavors from the time he picked up the first rock from the surface of the earth.  That simple action, a form of surface mining started the whole practice of mining that has come down thru time to the present.  Mining over the years since the first man picked up that first rock has divided into a many faceted industry.  What used to be as simple as bending over and picking up a pebble has burgeoned into the monstrous endeavor of today with their great mining machines.  Some of these machines are so big they will boggle your mind.  Today’s mining industry has come along way since its simple beginnings.  Now we have the vast pits from surface mining, other mines are deep underground sometimes miles into the earth.  Most of these mines are developed to produce minerals of value either metal ores or industrial minerals.

Quarrying no doubt is the senior practice of extracting materials from the earth unlike a mine the quarry operator is more intent on extracting earth materials whether they be stone, sand & gravel, or clay.  These earth materials require little or no work to prepare them for the market and their ultimate use.  Many of these materials are used in the construction industry where they are often termed building materials.  As a rule they are sold as-is straight from the quarry in what is called crushed stone where the rock is crushed into small fragments or as dimension stone where the stone stays as it is from the quarry although some of this stone is “dressed” for its final use.  Some quarries are called cement quarries where the product is crushed then put through a rotary kiln to produce Portland cement.  Producing sand & gravel production is another form quarrying where the earth materials are already reduced to fragments by natural action requiring nothing more then to be screened and washed, loaded and put on a truck.  Clay is another product of quarrying where the clay is used for brick making or ceramics.

Neither of these operations would exist if it were not for the prospector.  He is often pictured by the public as a bearded old cuss leading a donkey through the desert with a load of tools and supplies on the donkey with a gold pan in his other hand looking for the next strike.  This picture of a prospector is a far cry from this popular picture.  The prospector is someone that goes out into often unexplored territory searching for gold or some other mineral.  In the past he used his eyes examining every outcrop or tested the gravel deposits carefully in every stream looking for paydirt.  Today’s prospector often goes by the name of “exploration geologist with a whole plethora of electronic instruments to aid him in his search, but the two most valuable tools are his eyes, a pick and shovel and a gold pan.