Placer Mining in BC

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About Placer Mining

This part of the website is about placer mining in BC in general - the equipment and what people do - panning, prospecting, using sluice boxes, reclamation, and so on.

For information about placer mining rules and laws in BC - basic rules, placer claims, pumping water, cutting trees, private property, cabins, etc., see Placer Mining in BC. There is also a green link near the top of this page.

Placer Mining and Placer Minerals

Placer mining is mining placer minerals - minerals that have been moved and deposited by running water. In BC, this generally means gold, sometimes with platinum. This differs from hard rock mining in solid granite or related rock.

Where Gold is Found

Gold is much denser than everything else in the stream. It settles out in places where the water slows down - behind boulders and outcrops of bedrock, in and behind gravel bars, and just around the inside of bends in the stream. Gold may be found in existing channels of a stream, and where the channel has been in the past - in abandoned/ancient channels, and in flat areas above stream level called "benches". Gold deposits usually include sand, pebbles, and maybe some gravel, that settle out with the gold.

Gold High Above the Stream

Valleys are cut and/or shaped by the erosion of "bedrock". Up to a point, any ground that you see in a valley was once the stream bed, usually covered by material from up-stream and/or from up the sides of the valley.

Gold bearing benches and parts of ancient channels can be found well above the current level of the stream - sometimes hundreds of feet above.

Deep Gold and Bedrock

Over time, gold can settle through the material in the stream bed. More importantly, when glaciers melt as an ice age ends, vast amounts of water move huge amounts of material downstream.

Often, much of the gold in a channel is on or close to the bedrock. Sometimes gold is found on "false bedrock" also known as "hardpan" - very hard layers of clay. In the famous Cariboo area of BC, it was not uncommon to find gold under 60 or 100 feet of sand, gravel, clay, boulders, etc.

Gold deep under streams is generally not accessible today. Underground placer mining was popular in the 1800s. Due to modern regulations, it is almost always too expensive and uncertain to be practical today.

Benches for Hand Mining

Perhaps the best opportunity for hand mining is small benches on the side of the valley, ideally, just behind a bend or an outcrop of bedrock. Such benches can be partially or totally covered or buried by material from higher up the side of the valley.

A bench covered by a ton or two of worthless material that has to be moved by hand may not sound good, but it can be the reason that the deposit is still there for you to find.

Placer Mining Activities

Note: Other than working with a hand shovel and a gold pan, a person requires a Free Miner Certificate (FMC), and generally works on a claim. See the How it Works in BC part of this website for more information. See the green link near the top of this page.