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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gold Occurrences in New Mexico

A copper mine in El Chino that produces gold as a byproduct.
Photo by Eric Guinther




New Mexico may be billed as the Land of Enchantment, but it is also known for its gold deposits as well as other minerals. These gold deposits generally follow along the crest of the Sangre di Cristo and other mountain ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This gold bearing belt cuts across the center of the state from the Colorado border south to the Mexican border. In this area it is possible to find both placer and lode gold. In much of this area gold is produced as a byproduct of mining other metals particularly copper.

Gold was originally discovered in New Mexico by the Spaniards in 1828, but there is evidence that the Native Americans they have found the gold deposits even earlier. This goal is mainly contained in a gold belt that cuts diagonally across the state from northeast to southwest that ranges from 50 to 100 miles wide. The gold and other metal deposits are closely associated with volcanic rocks found in the same area that can range from quartz monzonite to granodiorite intrusives. Most of these volcanics were produced during the Cretaceous or tertiery times.

There is a fine brochure produced by the New Mexico Bureau of mines and mineral resources that outlines the process of prospecting for gold for both amateur and professional prospectors. Many of the principles of prospecting can be used in other places as well as New Mexico.

There is no longer history of mining in New Mexico a place that had many good mines in the past, but today most of the gold produced in New Mexico is a byproduct of the copper mining industry.

The state also contains extensive placer deposits that have been washed down the mountains in dry washes and streams whenever a flash flood strikes. One authority states that the placer gold found that New Mexico has hardly been scratched because it is so dry that conventional panning methods don't work. To compound this does so-called dry panning methods don't work either because throughout the area the matrix containing the gold is damp and doesn't take kindly to conventional mining methods. Another factor limiting the hunt for placer gold is a layer of concrete subsoil called caliche but also limits the production of gold.

To find placer gold it is best to hunt in areas that have already produced gold. One of the places of interest is where deposits of gravel have come down from the mountains in arroyos, but these he posits are often naturally cemented together forming a stone like deposit that has to be treated like hard rock. Also the placer gold state is found between 3000 and 8000 feet. The higher elevations of least produce enough water for conventional placer mining.

3 comments:

  1. I have been mining in the San Pedro Mts. and find lots o fine gold and sometimes wire gold. If there were not streams, then how does the gold get distributed and from where if there are not quartz outcroppings.

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