Gold Panning

Gold Panning

gold panning in waterDo you remember when you first learned about gold panning?  Was it during a western movie, in a history or geology class, or at a gold panner’ stand at a theme park?  For me it was when I was about 8 years old watching the classic western movie “Brighty of the Grand Canyon”, a story about the adventures and misadventures of a donkey, a boy, and a prospector.  Regardless of where you learned about gold panning, it is part of our culture, and for good reason.  Gold panning is the simplest and oldest method of gold recovery dating back to the Roman Empire.

Although panning is not used as a primary method for gold recovery in large commercial operations, it is still used today by prospectors and even sometimes by metallurgists during preliminary metallurgical testing.  Do you want to know how to pan too?  Well you can.  It’s easy, all you need is some cheap equipment (~$50), some practice while watching a YouTube video or two, and you will be panning in no time.Gold Panning Kit

What do I need?

If you are new to gold panning, it is easiest to start with a basic kit.

A basic panning kit typically includes a classifier (also called a screen or sieve), a pan(s), glass vials, and a suction bottle.  It may also include a magnifying glass and tweezers.  Classifier screen sizes generally range from coarse (~2M) to fine (~100M) in size.  Pans can be either metal or plastic, however plastic pans are usually best for beginners as they are lighter in weight and their opaque and non-reflective colour makes it easier to spot gold flakes.  Pan sizes can also vary in diameter.  Smaller pans are typically easier to handle while larger pans can be more difficult to handle, as they can hold a much larger volume of material and become quite heavy.  Pans may or may not contain riffles.  But riffles are recommended as they make panning a lot easier by providing a physical barrier that makes it harder to lose gold when removing lighter materials from the pan.

Looking for the correct method for panning gold:

So now you have your equipment, what’s next?  It’s time to learn how to gold pan.

Step By Step Gold Panning Instructions:

  1. Find a stream or river where gold has been found.
  2. Find a spot along the side of the stream or river with a slow current.
  3. Place your pan over your classifier and fill your classifier with gravel. The finer material will pass through the classifier into your pan.  Shake your classifier side to side to help filter the fining material through the screen.
  4. Submerge your pan in water so it is just below the surface.
  5. Once submerged use a gentle circular motion to suspend the light material in the water (it should look cloudy and brown).
  6. Tilt your pan forward with the riffles of the pan in the same direction as the tilt and use a gentle side to side or back and forth motion to sweep the lighter material off the pan. Don’t tilt so far that heavy material falls out, you don’t want to lose any gold.
  7. As your remove more light material you may find that there are still some coarse rocks in the pan. Gently move these to the side of the pan with your hand, ensure that there are no gold nuggets, and then gently remove them from the pan.
  8. Once all of the light material has been removed, let a little bit of water into the pan then swirl the pan to separate the black sand from the fine gold.
  9. Remove large pieces of gold by hand or by using tweezing and store them in a safe place.
  10. Fine gold can be retrieved using the guzzler bottle. Fill the guzzler bottle with water then squeeze some of the water out of it, and then used it to suction up small gold particles.
  11. Once all of the gold has been collected from the pan, carefully remove the water from the guzzler bottle, and then squeeze the fine gold into a glass vial.

How it works

Panning is a gravity concentration technique the separates material by differences in density.  Low density materials spill out of the pan, while high density materials sink to the bottom of the pan and get caught in the riffles.

Where do you go panning for gold:

Finding a place to go gold panning is relatively easy, just be sure to make sure you are prospecting in a safe and legal area.  In Canada, local gold panning information and regulations can be found at your local department of Energy and Mines.  In the U.S.A., contact your nearest U.S.G.S. office for information and regulations. Regardless of what country you live, it is always a good idea to make sure you know what the regulations are locally.

There is a strong community of gold prospecting enthusiast’s on-line, do a Google search for prospecting in your area. Connect with other people interested in panning for gold in your area, they might give you some hints on where to go, or if you get lucky take you out to one of their claims.

If you really get into gold panning, I highly recommend that you take a prospecting course, where you can learn about local geology and the best places and practices to follow while panning for gold locally.

Where can I buy panning equipment?

Gold panning kits and equipment can easily be purchased on-line through a prospecting store or even on Amazon.  If you don’t want to purchase the equipment on-line, you can often find prospecting equipment at retailers that sell outdoor sport equipment.