Although it is impossible to know exactly when humans first started mining gold, we know that it has been around at least 7000 years ago.
That makes sense. Gold, being the most popular precious metal, is highly coveted for jewelry, currency, and many things in between to people all across the globe.
During the 19th century, many gold rushes in regions all around the world caused migrations of people wishing to strike gold. Some examples are the Victorian Gold Rush, the Klondike Gold Rush, and the one everybody knows about, the California Gold Rush. When gold was discovered at the Witwatersrand, not only did it initiate a war, it also helped start South Africa as a country.
California is not the only place in the U.S. where tons of gold have been found. In 1961 the Carlin Trend in Nevada was discovered. Officials indicated that total world gold production since the beginning of human civilization has been 4,970,000,000 troy ounces. Nevada’s production is three percent of that, which ranks Nevada as one of the largest gold producing regions in the world.
Prior to the 3rd century AD, people in India mined gold by digging small pits. Since then, technology has made mining for gold much easier, and safer!
A very common process that is popular all around the world is panning. Wide, shallow pans are filled with sand, dirt or gravel that may contain gold. The person holding the pan then puts it underwater and shakes it, hoping there is gold present. Gold is much denser than rock so it would sink to the bottom of the pan.
Although popular, panning is not commercially viable for mining gold from large areas, except in situations when labor costs can be very low or if there is a lot of gold to be found. Panning has been used a tourist attraction on old gold fields.
Sluicing is a process where gold miners extract gold from placer deposits. The majority of it is commonly used in small-scale mining.A sluice box is a manmade “channel” with riffles set in the bottom. These riffles create dead areas in the water current to allow gold to fall down. Less dense materials flow out of the box as tailings.
When water is not accessible, a Rocker box, also called a cradle, is used. Areas with little water tend to use this system, relying on a rocking motion and gravity to separate the gold from other debris.
Hard rock mining is the force behind the majority of gold production. Gold is extracted from rock, rather than from loose sediment. Sometimes open-pit mining is used while other gold mines use underground mining, which uses tunnels and shafts.
South Africa has the deepest hard rock gold mine at 12,800ft underground. The heat at that distance down is so unbearable that air condition is required for humans to be able to mine.
Whether you a large gold mining company, such as Barrick Gold or Newcrest Mining or a tourist in Nevada who wants to try your luck at panning for gold, there is a way that fits you.
Just whatever you do, if someone says they’ve been digging for gold, you might want to be sure they wash their hand before you shake it.