On an alluvial lead the object of every one is to “get on the gutter,” that is, to reach the lowest part of the old underground watercourse, through which for centuries the gold may have been accretionising from the percolation of the mineral-impregnated water; or, when derived from reefs or broken down leaders, the flow of water has acted as a natural sluice wherein the gold is therefore most thickly collected. Sometimes the lead runs for miles and is of considerable width, at others it is irregular, and the gold-bearing “gutter” small and hard to find. In many instances, for reasons not readily apparent, the best gold is not found exactly at the lowest portion of these narrow gutters, but a little way up the sides. This fact should be taken into consideration in prospecting new ground, for many times a claim has been deserted after cleaning up the “bottom,” and another man has got far better gold considerably higher up on the sides of the gutter. For shallow alluvial deposits, where a man quickly works out his 30 by 30 feet claim, it may be cheaper at times to “paddock” the whole ground—that is, take all away from surface to bottom, but if he is in wet ground and he has to drive, great care should be taken to properly secure the roof by means of timber. How this may best be done the local circumstances only can decide.
LODE OR REEF PROSPECTING
The preceding chapter dealt more especially with prospecting as carried on in alluvial fields. I shall now treat of preliminary mining on lodes or “reefs.”
As has already been stated, the likeliest localities for the occurrence of metalliferous deposits are at or near the junction of the older sedimentary formations with the igneous or intrusive rocks, such as granites, diorites, etc. In searching for payable lodes, whether of gold, silver, copper, or even tin in some forms of occurrence, the indications are often very similar. The first prospecting is usually done on the hilltops or ridges, because, owing to denudation by ice or water which have bared the bedrock, the outcrops are there more exposed, and thence the lodes are followed down through the alluvial covered plains, partly by their “strike” or “trend,” and sometimes by other indicating evidences, which the practical miner has learned to know.
For instance, a lesson in tracing the lode in a grass covered country was taught me many years ago by an old prospector who had struck good gold in the reef at a point some distance to the east of what had been considered the true course. I asked him why he had opened the ground in that particular place. Said he, “Some folks don’t use their eyes. You stand here and look towards that claim on the rise where the reef was last struck. Now, don’t you see there is almost a track betwixt here and there where the grass and herbage is more withered than on either side? Why? Well, because the hard quartz lode is close to the surface all the way, and there is no great depth of soil to hold the moisture and make the grass grow.”