As ancient as the Great Pyramids of Geza themselves, the art of gold panning continues to be one of the most effective ways for determining the presence of placer gold. Simple in design and cost effective, the pan has been the tool of choice for both professional and casual prospector for centuries. The pans used during the California Gold Rush of 1849 were shallow circular utensils, with the sides sloping out from the bottom, pressed from stiff metal, usually lightweight steel or iron.
The most common pans in use today are made from plastic, typically with deep riffles to aid in the trapping of fine gold. But pans need not be made of metal or plastic; in fact, on my travels through the tropics of South America I encountered a group of natives using wooden bateas, similar to a large salad bowl, to recover the precious metal from along the banks of the Rio Napo.
Although inexpensive and fairly easy to use, the standard gold pan is not without its shortcomings. If the amount of dirt to be processed is large, or it contains a significant amount of black sand, using a standard pan to treat this material can be both time consuming and labor intensive.
Many automatic panning machines have been tried over the years as a solution to the above problems; some workedsome didnt. One such success story is the subject of this article.
The Gold Miner, manufactured by Gold Leisure Products in Clare, Michigan, is a fully self-contained spiral panning machine designed to offer the highest gold recovery rate possible. Compact and lightweight; the unit measures approximately 20 x 15 x 12, and weighs a mere 10 pounds. It is shipped in a durable plastic tub with cover and a protective cardboard sheet between the wheel and drive hub. This protective sheet helps prevent damage and should be reused when the wheel is stored in the container.
Each Gold Miner kit includes the following components:
A 13 Wheel; pump, filter, and spray bar assembly; catch cup (for gold); carrying case w/cover; drive unit w/frame; tailings container and a micro-adjuster (12V DC battery is not included).
I feel it important to mention that this unit is not intended to be a high volume production machine. It cannot be shoveled into, nor used for large-scale placer mining. Where it excels is in the sampling of new areas, or especially, for the final cleanup of gold-bearing concentrates derived from a dredge, drywasher, high-banker, or sluice. In the early 90s, I spent a great deal of time dredging the seasonal mountain creeks in Arizona. One of the most enjoyable, and yet dreaded tasks, was the final cleanup and separation of waste materials from the gold. I can remember staring down at a 5-gallon bucket worth of black sand-loaded concentrates realizing the amount of work that lay ahead. I loved the anticipation of not knowing what treasures awaited me at the bottom of the bucket, but the hand cramps from constantly swirling the pan and the tedious tasks of using magnets and mercury did detract somewhat from my enthusiasm.
The Gold Miners ability to process an average of 60 pounds of concentrate per hour would have been a godsend; saving my poor wrist and leaving more time to celebrate the rewards of a long day spent behind the nozzle.
The Gold Miner owes its effectiveness to the 500 gph re-circulating pump, computer designed concentrate agitators, and a 13" injected molded wheel with seven spiral leads running at approximately 12 rpms. It is the only wheel that will agitate the concentrate during processing, and the manufacture claims that this agitation increases gold recovery by at least 30%.
The unit is powered off a 12v DC battery, which is not included with the kit. For my testing I used an old truck battery I had sitting in the garage. If a person were going to spend several days out in the field, a small solar panel might be worth looking into.
My first impressions out of the box were, Good quality for the price charged. The folks at Gold Leisure didnt skimp on their building materials and, as far as I can tell, if properly cared for this unit should provide years of use. I did find the instructions to be lacking. The manual consisted of nothing more than two sheets of Xeroxed paper. I eventually gave up trying to read the instructions and relied instead on a photo of what the finished product was supposed to look like. I understand that an instructional video was provided at one point, but has since been discontinued; a shame. A short 5-10 minute presentation covering assembly and basic operation would definitely be a plus for new owners. Aside from that, I was pleased with the overall package.
My first attempt at running my concentrates provided mediocre results. The catch cup did contain some gold, but with that gold was also an unacceptable amount of black sand. It didnt take long for me to realize that the poor results were simply operator error and not a design flaw.
By using the micro-adjuster I was able to steepen the angle of the pan, and by my third run had essentially nothing but shiny, yellow gold trickling out the back into my catch cup. From that point, all that was needed was to open up a new vial and pour in the freshly cleaned gold!
During the course of my field test I also learned that, for best results, the operator should not add concentrates too rapidly. In this case, haste really does make waste, and if a person wishes to achieve maximum recovery, concentrates should only be added to the wheel every 15 to 30 seconds; and then only in 3 to 4 ounce allotments. It is also recommended that the material being processed should first be classified using a #8 or #12 screen (classifier) to remove any oversize, then added to the wheel.
In the beginning I also had trouble getting the black sands to creep up the wheel. I referred to the trouble-shooting section on the provided instructions and discovered that the wheel should always run counter-clockwise; mine was running clock-wise. After switching around the battery leads to Red to Red and Black to Black, I got it going correctly.
An attractive feature for any prospector is the fact that this unit can be used in the field or at home to process concentrates taken from a remote location. The Gold Miner doesnt require a steady source of water, because it recycles its supply and will run all day on approximately 3 gallons. When testing out in the field I made sure to bring along an extra gallon or two to compensate for any accidental spills, and losses through discarded tailings, and evaporation.
This piece of equipment was engineered to be reliable, highly portable, and easy to use. After conducting my testing I felt all three goals were accomplished. With a retail price of only $279, and a full 5-year warranty, the Gold Miner is one of the most affordable and efficient spiral gold panning machines on the market today.
Gold Leisure is a family owned and operated company that has been making their products right here in the good ole USA since 1994. For more information, contact the manufacturer at Gold Leisure Products, 10051 E. Clarella Road, Clare, MI 48617. They can also be reached at 1-888-588-6925, or visit them on the Internet at www.goldleisureproducts.com. Dont forget to mention you read about them in Lost Treasure!