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Introduction To Gold Panning

Introduction To Gold Panning

What is Gold Panning?

Gold panning, or simply panning, is a form of placer mining and traditional mining that extracts gold from a placer deposit using a pan. The process is one of the simplest ways to extract gold, and is popular with geology enthusiasts especially because of its low cost and relative simplicity.

It is sampling the finding of placer gold that can create a trail to the mother lode. The method most commonly employed is panning. The process of panning is when the prospector uses a specially designed gold panning pan to locate his treasure.

Buying a Gold Panning Pan

Gold panning pans are available at prospecting & metal detector stores, or online, through mail order. The pans themselves can be made of two different materials, plastic and unpainted steel. There are several gold pan diameters available. Gold pans are designed for the specific purpose of panning gold, and it is strongly recommended one be purchased. The amount of strength one wants to use, should be the determining factor as to which diameter to choose. A larger gold pan will hold more material, but will be considerably heavier to weld in processing action. The disadvantage of a heavy pan is an advantage in the success of finding gold, as the larger amount of material searched, the greater the success for finding placer gold.

What type of gold pan to get – Metal or Plastic?

Each material has pros and cons. A metal (steel) pan is most often associated with the old time prospector. As a metal pan, the prospector could use it to heat up food and water in his pan. If panning and heating water and food is important to you, then a metal pan would be the better choice. *METAL PAN WARNING* Since streams and rivers can possibly contain mercury, either naturally or from previous mining activities, using a gold pan for cooking can be very dangerous.

Metal pans will sink, while plastic pans float. If a steel pan is dropped in water, it will sink to the bottom and usually stay put in shallow water.

If a plastic pan is dropped in water, it floats and must be held onto or you will need to retrieve it, possiby chasing it for some distance down stream.

Steel pans must be protected from corrosion or they will rust. There are some prospectors that believe a thin layer of rust creates a rougher surface which helps hang onto the fine gold. To prevent rust is to dry your pan when not in use. Mistaks commonly made are, leaving damp concentrates in a metal pan, and it will cause it to rust rapidly. New metal pans usually have a thin coating of oil to prevent corrosion. But this protective oil coat can cause the loss of fine gold by adhering to the small particles making them float out of the pan. The protective oil can be removed by heating the pan until it turns blue-hot, and stops smoking. Or, one can use solvents like paint thinner to remove the oil coating. Metal pans may also be used to heat up concentrates to dry them.

Plastic pans are typically black, green or blue in color. These contrasting colors make small gold flakes more easily identified with contrasting colored background of a plastic pan. Plastic does corrode, and are less expensive to buy than metal pans. An advantage to plastic pans is, a magnet may be used to remove magnetic black sand like magenite from within a plastic gold pan.

Plastic gold pans, for the most part, come in two pan shapes: A regular flat bottom and the drop center bottom. The drop center bottom helps retain heavy material at the bottom and prevent those heavies from moving up the side of the pan. The drop center pan is probably the best choice for beginners. Various types of riffles are often molded into the side walls of plastic pans. These gold traps cover about one to two thirds of the side, and help keep the heavier material in the pan. The riffles can look like broad steep stair steps or tight finer sharper ridges. The stair step riffles will allow faster panning to start with, but they will get in the way when it comes to separating the heavies in the bottom of the pan, and the smooth wall of a pan will be used to finish panning.


“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi

About the Author:

Founding member of Prospecting Adventures, Senior Consultant for Alberta Gold Mining & Exploration. Owner of of Kinuso Hotel and Jack Pine Mine (placer gold lease) in Alberta, Canada.

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