New 49'er Newsletter

FOURTH  QUARTER, OCTOBER 2013                                VOLUME 27, NUMBER  9

Dave Mack



By Dave McCracken




 Cover image Gold in the pan

This past season was really good for us. Our innovation of a new method of underwater suction gravel transfer sparked a huge burst of interest and excitement.  Lots of members visited Happy Camp over the summer months, the most we have seen in years. The main thing me and all our staff noticed, even before the season started, has been this surge of enthusiasm — which extended right through the final Weekend Group Project in late August – even though it poured rained on us.

Our final project was done out on our famous Mega Hole property at K-15A.  This is a very popular place with the members for surface mining activity. There is a really nice campground there which makes it convenient for people who are not staying in private lodging facilities in town.

The upper end of K-15A has a huge gravel bar, most which has a surface storm layer which is about a foot deep.  The contact zone where the storm layer rests on an older layer of hard-packed streambed always produces some gold.  Some places are better than others. Since there has been quite a lot of member activity out there during recent years, the challenges are (1) to find areas that have not already been mined, and (2) to find areas where the contact zone is paying well.

John smiilingThere was no sign of rain out there on Saturday.  We always begin with a demonstration for all the participants what hard-packed material looks like.  The existence of hard-pack in the top layer shows us what has not already been worked by others before us.  Then we provide a very thorough demonstration of how to gather a really good sample of the contact zone at the bottom of the upper storm layer.  I provide a panning demonstration for those who need to learn, working the sample all the way down to whatever gold may be in the pan.
I recovered an average amount of gold in my sample.  By average, I mean a few medium sized flecks and some fine colors.  Showing the result to the participants gives them an idea of what they are looking for.  My advice was that they would have to find more gold than my result if we wanted to have a good day on Sunday with the use of our high-bankers. We try on Saturday to discover a rich location that we can work the following day with some portable production machines (high-bankers).

This bunch was boiling over with the same kind of enthusiasm we had been experiencing all summer.  So off they went with more determination than we are used to seeing on the first day of these projects. Participants get to keep the gold they find in their pans on Saturday.  But I think nearly everyone was just happy to be out there.  August is a wonderful time to be on the Klamath River.

Lots of people Lots of panning

It wasn’t long before we had more people panning on the gravel bar than we had ever seen before.  This bunch was having a lot of fun!  Here are some video segments we captured of the moment:

I’m very sad to report that longtime member Bill Pechtel shown in the video segment above passed on from natural causes several weeks after this project.  Bill loved to come out and help newcomers learn to prospect.  We will miss him a lot.

Normally, if we have a bunch of people sampling out on K-15A, it does not take more than about an hour or so for someone to turn up a good strike.  A good strike is when the amount of gold being recovered in the gold pans will add up to a lot of gold on the following day when we step up into a production mode. Larger flakes of gold add up really fast.  So that’s what I’m always hoping for.

Happy CamperSince I am the one who does the gold split on Sunday afternoon, and I always like to send everyone off with a healthy pinch of gold, once I finish my demonstrations out on the gravel bar on Saturday afternoon, my entire focus changes to finding a good gold discovery.  I don’t make the discovery on these projects.  This is something the participants must do.  My part is more about providing encouragement, maintaining a sense of hope, and waiting for the magic moment of discovery.  That moment of discovery is always joyful for me. It is a reminder of how lucky I am to have a job that I really enjoy.

One of the things that make these projects great is that we always have a bunch of experienced members who come out and help.  By help, I mean they devote these weekends assisting participants in dialing in their panning skills.  They also coordinate the more serious dig that happens on Sunday. And they help keep the group chemistry on a wavelength where miracles can happen. Rich Krimm heads up the field activity on most of these digs.  He had five experienced helpers on his team this weekend.

Still, for the most part, it is the participants who must make the discovery and get the work done.  We mostly provide encouragement and advice. This way, the participants actually bring their gold splits into existence from their own combined effort.  There is some magic involved in this.  I like to think of it as a form of alchemy; using the wavelength of hope to convert base metals (raw effort with tools) into golden treasure and joy.

Sample gold

This was the discovery gold.

True to form, about an hour into the sampling, a man and wife team turned up a rich discovery from under the very place where we had been storing our high-banking gear between the projects.

One of the most valuable things that participants gain in these projects is the ability to relate how the visible gold in a sample pan will add up the following day when we process hundreds of buckets of the very same material.  We made sure to show everyone what the discovery looked like.  It was actually a very good discovery, considering the small volume of material that had been processed.  Here is a video sequence that captured the moment:

All the dynamics of the project immediately change upon the discovery. Everyone wants to recover as much gold as possible.  For some, it is the first gold they ever found. A bunch of the participants were still panning in the high-grade gold when our helper-team left the gravel bar on Saturday afternoon.

We had a full house at pot luck on Saturday night.  Morale was so high; there was no need to say much of anything to keep people laughing. Mostly, we talked about how early we were going to meet up the following morning (6:30 am) to get our work done before the heat of the day set in.  That was a bit of a joke; because it then proceeded to rain all night, and it was still raining hard on Sunday morning.  I half-expected that most of the participants would not show up in the pouring rain, but everybody in this crowd showed up early!  When I arrived, Rich Krimm and his helpers had the whole team organized into production crews. There wasn’t a single person out there that seemed to mind the pouring rain.

Digging in the rain Umbrella

They were having a good time just getting the job done.  Here follow some video segments which captured some of the action:

We recovered just under a half-ounce of gold in a morning of work in the rain.

We recovered just under a half-ounce of gold in a morning of work in the rain.

After a while, the rain tapered off and we actually had a perfect day out there for this sort of work – certainly better than a 100-degree sunny day!  In all, we estimated that we processed around 700 half-buckets of pay-dirt through the two high-bankers that had been set up out on the gravel bar.

Sometime around noon, we finished up the dig, back-filled our excavations, completed the initial processing of our gold concentrates, and loaded up our gear into several trucks so it could be put away for the winter.

Several hours later in Happy Camp, with everyone looking on, we finished cleaning up the gold and weighed out at just under half-ounce of beautiful gold. There were 12 gold nuggets.  The gold was split evenly between 42 people.

With lots of cheers from the participants, I was just sitting there thanking our lucky stars for finishing up the most productive season we have had in a long time!

We Have Some Incredible Gold to Give Away!

The New 49’ers is the only mining association of its kind in the world.  We have around 2,000 active members. Only a fraction of our members show up any given time, spreading out over around 80 miles of the richest gold-bearing waterways in Siskiyou County in northern California.  We do training programs and provide other support to help our members get better results for their effort. We provide legal and political support. We have four fulltime staff in our administrative departments and several part-time staff that help with other important duties. This season, we had two additional guys heading up our Internal Affairs under the guidance of Rich Krimm.  Mainly, their job is to keep an eye out on what people are doing on the properties.  Sometimes they need to coordinate with various State and federal agencies.  The idea is to keep it all going in a way that makes everyone as happy as possible.  We are all pretty busy between May and September.  Activity tapers off a bit during the winter months.

As long as things are running smoothly, I personally try and work in a few days of underwater mining each week.  After all, mining gold is how it all started for me.  Most of my adult life has been about underwater gold mining. I still like to go out and find some gold for myself.  There is nothing else quite like the joy of uncovering high-grade pockets of gold!

I teamed up with Rich Krimm this season.  Rich is slightly older than me in years; but he is a powerhouse of a work machine when it comes to getting the job done.  As I touched upon above, it is necessary to develop this magic alchemy in successful gold mining. When everything is in alignment, physical effort (with some tools) is converted through hope directly into raw gold and pure joy. If there is anything in this world more exciting than that, I have not found it, yet!  The key is getting the prospecting program in alignment.  A lot of this has to do with the chemistry between the partners, and the chemistry between the partners and the physical world.  Rich and I get along really well.  We have found good gold on every project we have ever done together.

Thumbs upBecause it was a busy season, Rich and I only averaged a few days a week mining for our own gold.  This began down on our new Middle Independence property at K-24A with the use of an underwater gravel transfer system.  It took us a while to touch down on a rich deposit. But when we finally did, the gold was exposing itself in rich pockets of mostly nugget gold. It was a fantastic experience!
A big part of the New 49’er program is in maintaining an aggressive stand to preserve the rights of small-scale gold miners in America.  This is a never-ending battle that requires a steady stream of legal defense money.  I often say that raising legal fund money is more challenging than the actual legal battles that we fight. This is mainly because I really do not like asking others to send money.

Shortly after getting into the nuggets, Rich suggested one day that we ought to use three ounces of our season’s best gold as the next set of legal fund prizes.  It’s not very often that someone offers to contribute such incredible treasure to help defend our industry. I took Rich up on his offer without hesitation!

Mouth piece gone

The water was so fast, the first thing Steve Jones did when dredging with us one day was bite both nipples off the inside of his mouth piece!

After finishing up in our deposit on the Klamath, Rich and I devoted a few days a week for the final 6 weeks of the season dredging for gold in a (very) fast section of the Rogue River over in southern Oregon.  All the gold we recovered over there was very fine.  But there was plenty of it.  It’s fun to get the nuggets.  But I can tell you that Rich and I shared some great experiences recovering gobs and gobs of fine gold.

We only mine underwater about three hours a day.  The work is hard! Mostly, we really enjoy our time out on the river, pushing ourselves to overcome the physical challenges and reaping the golden rewards.  Neither of us really do it for the money.  We do it for the glory; for the exhilaration that we experience every time we bring up more of Mother Nature’s most cherished treasure. Most experienced gold miners I know feel that the emotional rewards are worth more than money.


10 Ounces of Gold

Here is the 10 ounces of gold Rich and I recovered during the 2013 season.

Here is some video that captured Rich and I on our final day of the season:

The first thing Rich and I did once our gear was put away for the season was weigh up all the gold we recovered together. In all, we recovered 10.2 ounces of beautiful gold for the season.  That’s pretty good for the size of our gear and the amount of time we were able to invest.  Then we screened all the nuggets out and weighed up twenty-five prizes for this next legal fund-raiser.  There is a one-once prize; there are four quarter-ounce prizes; and there are twenty one-pennyweight prizes.  All the prizes have nice nuggets.  I insisted that Rich take the largest nugget we found this season, because he was right there in that magic moment when we uncovered it.  Tears came to his eyes when I put it in his hand. That’s the right kind of chemistry alright, and we are already making plans for next season.

When we were finished weighing up the prizes, all of the nuggets we recovered in our personal program from this season were gone.  Those nuggets are for you guys.  Let’s spread the joy around!

Last Chance to Win Our 2013 Gold!
Weighing out prizes

Rich Krimm weighing up the prizes

Since this is our last newsletter before we will give these prizes away, I am hoping for a lot of participation over the coming month.  So far, we have only issued 360 drawing tickets! I know you guys will come through, because you always do!

The drawing will take place just before the close of business (5 PM) at our headquarters in Happy Camp on Friday evening, 8 November 2013. You do not need to be a member of our organization to participate. Though you are welcome to be at the drawing, you do not need to be present to win.

Our office will automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets, etc.). There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions or to the number of prizes you can win.

Legal contributions can be arranged by calling (530) 493-2012, by mailing to The New 49′ers Legal Fund, P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, CA 96039, or can be made online by clicking Here

Legal Update

The San Bernardino Superior Court has denied a motion by Public Lands for The People (PLP) for a Preliminary Injunction to overturn California’s Moratorium on suction dredging. But the court also denied the State’s motion to dismiss our federal Preemption challenge (to the Moratorium), and our Takings claim in the event that the State ultimately succeeds in putting an end to suction dredging in California.  Therefore, we remain in a strong position to win one way or the other.

It is our belief that while controlling case law allows the State to impose some reasonable restrictions upon mining, the very same law forbids the State from prohibiting mining on the public lands.  The existing moratorium clearly amounts to a prohibition without end.  I will personally be very surprised if we do not succeed in overturning California’s moratorium with the federal preemption argument.

In the event that we do not succeed in this argument, claim owners and others with mining interests in California will have a right to be paid for our losses.

The case that was filed in Siskiyou County to overcome the State’s use of Emergency Regulations to stop our new method of underwater gravel transfer has now been transferred to San Bernardino.  The jury remains out on whether or not this has overturned the Temporary Restraining Order issued by Siskiyou County that has prevented the State from enforcing Emergency Regulations in Siskiyou County. Only time will tell on this.

You should be aware that we have some exciting plans on the table concerning how we will keep underwater mining going in California for the upcoming season.  Please stay tuned for more details when the timing is right.

The most recent and important legal development is that the Third Appellate District of California has just agreed to consider our preemption arguments in the Brandon Rinehart case. Many of you will recall that Brandon was cited last year for operating a suction dredge in California without a permit. With financial assistance from PLP and others, Brandon hired our attorney, James Buchal, to defend against the criminal citation.  Brandon’s defense was largely based upon our federal preemption argument that the State does not have the authority to prohibit suction dredging, and that refusal to issue a permit amounted to a prohibition.  The judge in that case rejected the preemption argument on the premise that we would appeal to the Appellate Court.

Now that the Appellate Court will consider federal preemption, we are on a (very) fast track to get this important issue decided.  In the event that we win the argument, my guess is that suction dredge permits will again be available in California.  It’s possible that could happen before this next season.  We have offered to provide financial assistance to pursue the preemption argument in the Appellate Court, since that is likely to resolve many of the unsettled matters in San Bernardino.

So there is reason for hope!  Maybe this will encourage you guys to send contributions to our legal fund!

I’ll talk more about the legal situation up in Oregon in next month’s newsletter. 

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The New 49’ers Prospecting Association, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012

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