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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gold Occurrences in Arizona

Superstition Mountain the reported home of the Lost Dutchman Mine.
Photo by Doug Dolde

As the home of the famous Lost Dutchman Mine on Superstition Mountain as well as several other lost gold mines it is apparent that there is gold in Arizona. The gold runs across Arizona in a line from Greenleee County on the New Mexico border to the Nevada border in Mohave County. The greatest concentration of gold can be found in Yavapai County in central Arizona. This concentration of gold ore extends to the southwest into La Paz County. There is a fine map by the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources that depicts the known resources of metals found in the state.

Placer gold in Arizona is a resource that was mainly tapped by the first prospectors that came into the state because finding this gold is so easy that it is often called “poor man's gold.” Although this may be true it also be remembered that every flash flood that occurs in Arizona brings more gold down from the mountains. Although placer gold is not as plentiful now as it was during the pioneering days of the 19th century it is still possible to find placer gold. There are probably many places in the state where rich gold deposits are still able to be found that were overlooked by the original prospectors.

One of the greatest difficulties faced by prospectors in Arizona that are searching for placer gold is the lack of water. Although it is true in many places you can prospect for gold using the dry wash method, but it still leaves you with the problem of having sufficient gold in your prospector’s camp to pay your expenses.

During the summer months it becomes extremely hot in southern Arizona, so hot in fact that I once observed that coyote was chasing a jackrabbit; they were both walking. This extreme heat makes for difficult prospecting that requires a considerable amount of physical labor. The best time to prospect under these conditions is during the colder months of the year.

Although a few prospectors are making out very well, and even more are making expenses, but the majority are not even making enough money to pay for their food. In these days of high unemployment if a man has enough money to afford to go prospecting rather than lying around there is always the chance that may find some high-grade gold deposits that have been overlooked by the early prospectors. It is this chance for sudden riches that drives gold prospectors.

Placer gold is a product of weathering where the gold weathers out of some gold bearing veins founded in hard rock. The gold is concentrated by the action of running water or wind in placer deposits. In some places in Arizona for placer gold as soon trapped in a cement like soil called caliche where it is virtually impossible to recover unless the caliche is broken up in a crusher just like hard rock.

Gold on Quartz
Photo by Rob Lavinsky

The state of Arizona contains more than 219 known metallic mineral deposits. A total of 26 of these districts have produced more than 100,000 ounces of gold, and 46 more have produced more than 10,000 ounces. This gold is found in many different types of mineral deposits that either produce gold is the primary metal or as a byproduct from mining other metals principally copper.

The most recent producer of gold the state was the Copperstone deposit that produced over 500,000 ounces of gold before closing in 1998. Parity posits that the state that are capable of producing over 100,000 ounces each but it just been waiting for the price of gold to go up. It is probable that these resources are being ramped up for production as you read this article. Among the gold deposits are those at: Yarnell, Newsboy, Moss, Mexican Hat, Tiger, Golden Eagle and Copperstone underground.  


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