There are still millions of dollars of easy to mine gold in California, most of it on public land. The mining laws are clear. All gold and other valuable metals belong to us, the public, in contrast to Russia or China where this wealth belongs to the government. All one needs to do is file a claim and any gold found belongs to the claim holder. But in California this is about to change.
The most available placer gold has always been in the rivers. From the early days of the gold rush men organized to dam streams, build flumes and cut diversion channels through solid rock so they could mine the bed of these rivers. It was a massive undertaking but the amount of gold they found was staggering. From the American River in 1850 three men found nine pounds of gold before breakfast, at today’s gold prices that comes to over $200,000 for a few hours work.
Don Eno, a retired US Navy veteran and professional gold miner, compares California’s rivers to giant sluice boxes, a device long used to “wash” placer gold from the rock and sand where it is found. Every year gold country rivers become raging torrents from heavy winter rains. The erosive floodwaters pull everything along their path into their flow, sand, rocks, and even large boulders. This turbulence dislodges huge amounts of gold that finds it’s way to the river bottom.
Modern technology allows miners to reach this gold far more effectively. But for years the state has done everything possible to deny Californians the right to use this technology to safely and efficiently remove the gold from their legal claims in spite of the absolute clarity of the law. Now that the price of gold has reached record highs the state is trying to slip a rider into the budget bill that will effectively end the ability of individuals to remove gold from California rivers. Then, under the guise of cleaning up those same rivers, the state will use the very technology denied the lawful owners of the gold and thoroughly mine the rivers, scouring every inch of the bottom, recovering small amounts of pollutants and massive quantities of gold, your gold. If this is allowed to happen it will be the biggest illegal takeover of wealth in the history of the world. And all of us will be the losers.
John Putnam is the author of Hangtown Creek, a thrilling saga of the early California gold rush.
Photos by Don Eno. Used by permission.
This article first appeared in Examiner.com