|Claim post on Federal Minerals. I often get questions about claim staking,|
but I'm as confused as you are. Please contact the US Bureau of Land
Management for information and hope they provide you with the correct
Know what areas are open to mining claims. Much Federal land is open to claiming, but some is closed to claims. To find out what is open, visit you local BLM (Bureau of Land Management) office. State land cannot be claimed but often can be leased. Private land cannot be claimed unless it has Federal Minerals under the private surface. One problem with mining claims is that new claims are constantly filed, and at the end of the fiscal year, others are not renewed thus claim maps change. One way to access claim information that is mostly up-to-date is to access the BLM GeoCommunicator website (sorry, the BLM apparently decided to eliminate claim information on their website recently). This can also be found by doing a Google Search for "BLM GeoCommunicator". Just like the government, this site does not always work and it is also very slow.
|Gold nugget found in Rock Creek, South Pass.|
Other sources that are excellent for prospecting include Google Earth and Virtual Earth. These provide aerial photos over areas of interest as does the GeoCommunicator. With the aerial photos and associated maps on these programs, relationships between geology, topography, mines, prospects, roads and drainages can be seen from the air prior to visiting a area of interest.
Schedule a trip to the Hidden Hand gold mine and vicinity in the Lewiston district of the South Pass greenstone belt in the southern Wind River Mountains in western Wyoming. The legal description of the Hidden Hand mine is SE section 5, T28N, R98W and map coordinates are 42o25’30’N; 108o32’39”W. Thus if you examine the Radium Springs quadrangle and find section 5 with the Hidden Hand mine labeled on the map, it is located in the southeast quarter of that section. Or by using the map coordinates, you should be able to zero right in on the mine with Google Earth.
|Inside the power house at the Vulture Gold Mine ghost town, Arizona.|
The WGS and USGS websites should have topographic map indexes. First find a 1:100,000 scale (2 degree) topographic index for the state. Now search the coordinates T28N (vertical scale) and R98W (horizontal scale). These coordinates intersect within the boundaries of the South Pass 1:100,000 scale topographical map. This is the first map you need for your excursion. Often there is a companion 1:100,000 scale BLM map on Land Status. The South Pass Land Status map will be useful as it gives general information on location of private, public and state lands. These Land Status maps also have a layer of topography sitting under the land status designations.
Next, examine the 1:24,000 scale (7.5 minute) topographic map index. The coordinates of the Hidden Hand mine places it within the Radium Springs quadrangle near the top of the map. The map to the north is the Atlantic City map which may also be useful. Search for geological maps on the WGS website: geological maps provide important geological relationships associated with the mine, such as rock types, nearby structures such as faults, shear zones, folds. The necessary geological maps are found by searching the Map Series page on the website. This part of the WGS website is poorly organized, so you will need to dig through the list of maps. After digging, you will find a geological map of the Radium Springs quadrangle (Hausel, 1988e). Other geological maps in this area that will be of use sooner or later include Atlantic City (Hausel, 1989), Miners Delight (Hausel, 1992e) and South Pass City (Hausel, 2007). Next find the Report of Investigations page on the website. Search for Report of Investigations 44 (Hausel, 1991a). This report will be useful as it is a detailed discussion of the geology and gold at South Pass. Another report that will be useful when learning geology and rock types of the area is Reprint 49 (Hausel and Love, 1992). This will be found on the Reprint page on the WGS website. The reprint was put together for a past Wyoming Geological Association field trip guide and describes important rock outcrops and will lead you on a personal field trip through South Pass. One more page that might be of interest is the Bulletin page. This has a group of books that contain general information on mineral deposits statewide - Bulletin 68, 70, 71, and 72.
|A 7.5 ounce nugget found in tributary of Rock Creek, WY|
The Hidden Hand mine is located about 8 miles east, southeast of Atlantic City along the Lewiston road (also referred to as the Oregon trail road) south of both the Lewiston ghost town site and Strawberry Creek. The mine is on a patented claim. Patented claims are claims filed under the 1872 mining law that had enough value the government allowed the claimants to purchase the property at a fair market price. This was done in the 19th century to try to stimulate interest in mining and development of the West (something the government today no longer does - now they just discourage development and protect bugs, flowers and dirt). Today, it is impossible to patent claims. Although I never had access problems to this mine because it sits in the middle of BLM ground surrounded by vast, empty, wasteland, it could easily be blocked off. There is a very disturbing trend that non-mining people buy patented mining claims and then close it off because they feel they have something of value when they have little to nothing other than coyote pasture. This is what has happened to many of the diamond deposits in the State Line and Iron Mountain districts. If it isn't the democrats stealing our future, it's the government stealing our land. Have you seen what the legislature did to the Carissa mine? This once potentially productive gold mine (it likely has more than a million ounces of gold in the ground) is now Wyoming's version of Disneyland.
When this district was mapped (Hausel, 1986c) I stayed in a tent near Lewiston for much of one summer and did not see another person all summer. But that was 25 years ago. Maps that cover this area include the Radium Springs 7.5 minute (1:24,000 scale) topographic and geological maps.
Now if you examine Google Earth, you should see distinct foliation (closely spaced lines) in the Miners Delight Formation metagreywacke that trend to the northeast. The rocks in this area are folded, faulted and turned on end. Also noticeable is the alignment of the Burr Mine with the Hidden Hand mine and this trend parallels regional foliation. A nearly east-west to northeasterly trending line of vegetation is visible southwest of the Hidden Hand that represents a cross-cutting shear zone that intersects the primary shear at the Hidden Hand. There are several prospect pits and a number of backhoe trench scars (some remain open, others are reclaimed) cut perpendicular to the primary shear zone.
The shaft was sunk on a 10- to 30-foot-wide, N40oE-trending, 62oNW-dipping shear in chloritized, hematitic metagreywacke (the normally black rocks actually have a slight reddish to greenish hue due to rock alteration) The shaft was 110-feet deep and the shear was explored by at least 640 feet of drifts prior to 1926. Ore from the 30-foot level was reported to run as high as 75 opt Au (ounces per ton in gold). In 1916, about 1000 tons of ore with an average grade of 4 opt Au were reportedly stockpiled. Some specimen-grade material assayed 3,100 opt Au (since there are only 32,000 ounces in a ton, this indicates that this specimen contained 9.6% gold). I must point out that such high assays must be questioned and are suspect.
Samples of altered metagreywacke that I collected from the dump contained only trace gold (Hausel, 1989). This discrepancy suggests one of a two possibilities: (1) the reported assays were exaggerated or (2) that the property developed a reputation for producing excellent gold specimens that the mine dump was thoroughly picked over by collectors over the years. Little information about this district and mine has been published and the mine workings are inaccessible, thus it is difficult to provide much in the way of conclusions. In addition, the explored structure at the Hidden Hand mine exhibits considerable brittle deformation – something that is more typical of Laramide faulting (post gold mineralization) in this region.
When looking at the Hidden Hand or other prospects, mines and districts, try to learn as much as possible. Soon you will become an expert prospector. If a prospect has a vein, try following the vein on the surface: look for minerals that are described in the area. Try to visualize the vein in three-dimensions. What does the vein look like at depth, how far does it go into the earth: five feet, 500 feet or 5,000 feet? Does it pinch and swell at depth? Does it pinch to 1 inch, is it faulted at depth, does it swell to a giant vein? Of course you can’t be certain, but sometimes there are things around you that give you clues as to what might happen at depth. One minable gold vein in Yellowknife, Canada that I looked at several years ago was only 1 foot wide on the surface, but at 100 feet deep, it is 8 feet wide and rich in gold! What angle does the vein project downward into the earth?
|Outcrop of the distinctly dipping Vulture vein.|
|Adit (tunnel) dug into eluvial and alluvial material. Many gold deposits in Arizona and some in Wyoming were found in alluvial and eluvial material, but few of these were ever explored at depth.|
|Quartz breccia on the Vulture property is worth looking at as many breccias in Arizona (as well as elsewhere) provide a clue to former high-pressure mineralized and gaseous fluids at depth that erupted because of the gas under pressure.|
|Folded schist that forms the foundation of the Vulture mill.|