Guide to Prospecting Precious Metals & Gems

Guide to Prospecting Precious


Some Gold Nuggets look like the shape of the Country they are found in.  This Nugget looks very much like most of Australia – and it was found in Queensland using a trommel  and concentrator.  It weighed in at a little less than an ounce.  


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the precious metals?            

There are numerous precious metals but usually we think of gold, silver and platinum (to name a few).


How does one go about finding them?  

Prospecting takes many forms and uses many techniques.  Gold and platinum are metals that provide very good returns, silver somewhat less.  But the FUN is in the chase – so any prospecting method provides the enthusiast with a reason to be in the wilderness, active and possibly find valuable precious metals or gems.

Finding precious metals (or objects) can be as simple as using a good quality metal detector on a popular beach, or it can be spending some time researching historical mining areas and either panning for precious metals or electronically detecting them with a modern metal detector.  But if the area is rich and you get your Claim registered, you can expand the business opting for an excavator, loader, trommel and a jig / spinner or spirals to actually process or concentrate the gold and other heavy metals and minerals that can be found at the site.

What is required?

In situations where the precious metal is contained in gravels or sands and the metal is small in size, then a panning technique is appropriate.  Panning requires appropriate pans that are now manufactured in a number of sizes, even though locals in Indonesia make their pans from trees, they are actually very efficient and usually quite large so you need to be strong to use them.  See below photo of a pan with gold specks in South America, and an Indonesian pan which is much larger and flatter.









Indo goldpan











When the precious metals are larger in size (more nuggets, over say 1/8 of an inch or 3mm) then a good quality metal detector is used.  Gold nuggets usually fetch better than the prevailing gold price because of their rarity.  Modern metal detectors are capable of discriminating precious metals down to a depth in excess of 2½ feet (around a metre).  Detectors are manufactured by a limited number of companies and can be very simple or very complex.  The level of sensitivity and power of discrimination combined with the size of the coil determines the cost and effectiveness of the system.  Usually simple metal detecting systems are used on the beach and more complex systems are used by professional prospectors.

How does one research where to look?

Locally there are groups of enthusiasts that can assist the novice by introducing them to local precious metal hotspots.  Alternatively local libraries are a source of information on historic alluvial mining and other mining areas.  Mining registries and geological bureaus are also good sources of information facilitating the targeting of historic mining camps.


What about entering an area for prospecting?

There are different Laws relating to entry and entry permits on sites, so it will pay to check out the Local situation and act accordingly.  There is no point in being on someone’s land without permission, so always check before entry.  As well if the land is privately owned, then it is always best to speak with the owner prior to entry.  Some areas are also under Mining Claims so it would be necessary to ask the Claim owner for permission to prospect.  The Claim owner may want a share of any precious metals you discover.


Where do prospectors buy their equipment?

It really depends on the scale of the operation.  Panning gear and good quality metal detectors can be purchased at any good “Prospectors Supply” business, along with other ancillary equipment including clothing and camping needs.  Usually bigger equipment like trommels, jigs, spinners, loaders, excavators etc are fabricated or bought new or second-hand by miners. 

Here are some photos of gold found with detectors in Queensland Australia, but similar gold could have come from numerous sites in many countries.  As well photos of a medium scale gold plant which comprises an ore bin and conveyor feeding a trommel with a slide down to a jig or spinner which concentrates or captures the gold.  The final pipe is the tailings discharge going to a waste dam.  The hope is that any gold in the ore feed is caught in the spinner, so the tailings are just waste even though recovery is never 100% so some gold reports to the tailings or waste dam.


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