Wednesday, July 14, 2010

High Gold Price + Bad Economy = Gold Panning

A feature report in the Telegraph goes into the newfound popularity of gold panning in California. In part, the trend is a return to the state's old roots. The main driver, though, is high gold prices plus lack of opportunities elsewhere.
[T]oday – driven by the Great Recession, soaring gold prices, and a new, desperate energy among the jobless and the dreamers – there is a new gold rush going on in California. It takes a certain kind of person to be a New 49er, the kind of person who embraces living outdoors much like a mountain man, yet there are more and more of them.

The best measure of exactly how many is the number of mining claims on file with the US Bureau of Land Management in California; five years ago there were 15,606, in late 2009 that had increased to 23,974. Some are joining this new gold rush for fun - a little hobby for the weekends - some exercise with the kids to make a few bucks and have a few old-time thrills in the mountains.

‘Yeah, there are prospectors these days who are just killing free time – but the most real ones are the ones who are desperate or just plain determined,’ says miner Les Berg, who plied the rivers of northern California until he realised selling equipment to others doing what he was doing was an even surer bet for steady cash. He is now one of 130 gold-prospecting equipment dealers in California.

‘The desperate ones are the most serious – they work the hardest,’ Berg tells me. ‘It’s just like in the 1800s. They get themselves a shovel, then all they need is a sluice box and a pan, and they’re off. Been that way for more than 100 years and I don’t figure it will ever change.’
Later in the article is a discussion of how placer-gold dredging is changing: mechanized dredgers, tools that are often necessary to squeeze a good living off a claim, are now forbidden.


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