By Roseanne McKee
Reprinted with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
When Mike Grim retired, he had no idea what adventures lay ahead for him. One small decision changed the course of his retirement — he joined the GPAA (Gold Prospectors Association of America).
“They had a big dig in Montana in 2011. That was the first year I went prospecting and I’ve been going there ever since.”
This spring he brought back 16 buckets of concentrate, each weighing 80 to 100 pounds. The concentrate consists of dirt, rocks and gold. “I bring it home and go through it later in the year, but we’ve had a really nice August,” Grim said. “So, I’ve started working it just for the heck of it.”
He demonstrated the process with his Omni Fox brand gold machine. Water flows over the concentrate he feeds into the machine one trowel at a time.
“What I’m gonna do with this is run it through the [machine]. This will allow me to separate the gold from the rock. As the water carries it down, these rubber riffles will stop the gold from flowing out. Gold is heavy, so it stays. Rocks and water run by. A gallon of gold weight 160 pounds. Water weighs about eight pounds. Rocks weigh less than gold, so they and the water will run out of the sluice box,” he said.
He also said he has “eight, five-gallon buckets of concentrate that came out of an open pit sapphire mine outside of Helena, Montana,” and he’s excited to see what he will find.
If he gets tired of processing concentrate, he will go on another kind of adventure.
“This fall I plan on going to Arizona, and I’ll metal detect in the desert. My most expensive investment has been a metal detector. If I had to get rid of everything, I’d keep my metal detector,” Grim said.
“I find things every time I go out with it. I’ve found old silver dollars, some rings that I sold to Treasures Jewelry in Bartlesville. It was a diamond ring set in platinum,” Grim explained.
He’s dug a foot deep when he metal detector went off indicating there was something there. He also uses the metal detector in Montana.
“When you’re in gold country, you want to dig everything you find,” Grim said.
With a gleam in his eye Grim provided some Montana history. In the early gold prospecting days, Chinese immigrants, who worked in the mines, were known to bury gold in glass jars. Then, later they would come back and dig it up. Today, with a metal detector, one might find gold left behind a Mason jar somewhere, he said.
The first year prospecting, Grim had a bit of beginners luck. He found a gold nugget. Grim didn’t have to wait long to find a buyer. Back at this camp, the first person he showed it to asked to buy it for several thousand dollars.
Along the way Grim has also found sapphires, garnets — even a diamond. Grim acknowledges that gold prospecting is a time-consuming, meticulous pastime. Each bucket of concentrate must be processed several times before the gold is fully separated out in tiny flecks, but at $1,200 per ounce, Grim says his search for gold is well worth it.
“I’ve been a member of the GPAA for roughly nine years and they’ve opened doors for me. They have thousands of claims throughout the U.S.
— that’s worth the cost of membership and more,” Grim said.
For $84.50 the first year, GPAA members receive the GPAA Claims Club Membership Mining Guide, the bi-monthly publications the Pick and Shovel Gazette and Gold Prospectors Magazine. Members are also able to network by posting and conversing at the GPAA on-line forum with special members-only area.
For those interesting in prospecting, Grim recommends, “watch, look and learn before you begin. On the metal detector don’t cut corners — get a good one.
“I could do this from now on. I don’t drink, don’t smoke. It just fascinates me when I find a nugget.”