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 Post subject: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:15 pm 
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GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING:



SAFETY RULES:

Whenever you wanna go and explore some wild isolated area (mine, mountain, desert...) there are two big rules:

-Don't go alone, and always tell someone who is not coming with you about where you're going exactly and when you think you should be back at the latest (so that person will call for help if you're not coming back in the expected period of time).

-Always check the weather forecast (bad weather can be very dangerous when trekking high up in the mountains, cliff-climbing or spelunking!)



EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT:

A complete first-aid kit (including trauma stuff) is required for any big trek (but even for a short walk it's always a good idea to bring at least some small first aid kit, and notably stuff for treating a large deep cut from some sharp rock edge, which isn't unusual).
By the way, also be careful to venomous snakes (check rock fractures with a stick before putting your hands inside the hole).

Also bring a pocket knife, a lighter, a rescue whistle (helps the rescue squad to locate you), your identity card and national insurance card (useful in case of hospitalization), and a cell phone to call for help if needed (however you will get no signal in underground mines, and it often happens you get no signal when you are trekking high up in the mountains).



WATER AND FOOD:

At least two liters of water, but I usually bring 3 liters (sufficient water supply is vital!). Also bring water purification tablets.
Let's note that a 'water bag' (3L capacity, with straw) is quite a practical mean of carrying water (you just stuff it inside your rucksack, with the flexible straw hanging out of the rucksack).

A big sandwich (digging the ground and breaking rocks in the sun is quite exhausting). A few cereal bars is also a good idea to fight exhaustion (just don't throw the packaging in nature, respect the place and the people, don't leave the place in a mess!). Bring a bin bag for carrying your trashes back home.

At the other end of the digestion process, you might want some toilet paper.



APPROPRIATE CLOTHING:

Bring a cap to protect your head from the sun (you don't want to risk a sunstroke in an isolated area!), and don't forget to apply sunscreen, by the way.

Wear trekking shoes (ankle protecting), trekking socks, and long legged trekking pant.

For mountain trekking you also need a warm waterproof jacket with hood (indeed, high up in the mountain, weather can change very fast, and bad weather is a threat that shouldn't be underestimated)



SAFETY EQUIPMENT:


-map and compass so not to get lost when you're trekking in vast wild areas such as deserts, mountains, jungles...the compass is also useful when exploring vast underground mazes.


-a LED head lamp, and replacement batteries.
It is used when spelunking, but it can also be useful when excavating some deep crystal pocket. Some LED head lamps can last for more than 120 hours when set on economic mode (Petzl is a good brand for instance).
When spelunking, you also need an additional spare head lamp just in case your main one would fail (as you definitely do not want to find yourself out of light down the mine!).


-optional: trekking rope, 8mm diameter 30meters long. Such a rope is not meant for climbing or rappel, but once carefully hooked to a tree trunk it might help with a slippery slope (just be careful that the rope doesn't rub against some rock edge or it might suddenly break!)


-protective plastic glasses (these are essential, so to protect your eyes from bad rock splinters). Don't ever strike the rock without wearing these.


-some gloves to protect your hands when searching inside rock cracks and crystal pockets


-a safety helmet (recommended when you plan to be working at the foot of some cliff or inside a mine)

By the way, let's note that there's an increased risk of rockfall in the spring thaw period, and also after heavy rainfall.
Of course, don't start any digging if there are menacing unstable rocks above your head: these should be knocked down first, so you can work safely then.
Also, when visiting mines, watch where you put your foot: there can be deep shafts in the middle of the way (both inside and outside the mine), sometimes hidden under a few rotten wood boards covered with some mud and gravels, or hidden by thick vegetation.


-A lighter can be useful in underground mines/caves to detect lack of oxygen (i.e. a standard type butane lighter, not the windproof ones!). Indeed, in some underground galleries there can be a dangerous level of carbon dioxide (odorless asphyxiant gas) taking the place of oxygen. Try to light the lighter and slowly bring the flame down to floor level (as CO2 is heavier than air and tends to stay down): if the lighter can't be lit, or keeps going off as soon as you light it, or when you bring it down toward the floor, that means oxygen level is quite low, which is most likely associated to high CO2, and you'd better leave now (but don't race). Warning signs of exposure to CO2 can be shortness of breath, headache, sweating, then dizziness, fast heart beat. It also happens that oxygen is not replaced by CO2 but by nitrogen instead, in which case there are few warning signs but the lighter test still works. CO2 tends to accumulate in lower levels of mines/caves. Be careful when evolving in a CO2 contaminated atmosphere, sometimes the concentration might rise suddenly within only a few meters (like a "wall" of CO2), causing loss of conciousness. Of course, do not use any lighter in a coal mine (due to explosion risk). However, keep in mind that the lighter test is only a vague indicator of a potentially dangerous atmosphere, and while it's better than nothing, the use of gas detectors remains a safer alternative. Here's a video of the lighter test:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InYj0uWs6aM

Also, if there's an odour of rotten egg (foul-smelling) in a gallery, which indicates presence of hydrogen sulfide (highly toxic gas), then just leave. This gas is even more pernicious that it soon numbs your sense of smell (so you might think it's gone when there's actually a dangerous increase in concentration). Warning sign of exposure to H2S is itchy/stinging eyes (throat irritation and coughing might also be felt). This gas is slightly heavier than air and tends to accumulate in lower levels of mines/caves, as it is soluble it can also accumulate in stagnant waters which might release the gas when disturbed.

At last, let's add that dangerous gasses can be generated from fires or blasting (CO, CO2, NO2, N2, H2, SO2...), or from the use of diesel/gasoline engines (which must be avoided underground).



PROSPECTING TOOLS (for small work):


-a 1.5kg club hammer (aka crack hammer). About 30cm total length, with fiberglass handle (not wood handle!). It's for striking the rock and for use along with the chisels.


-a pointed tip rock chisel, about 30cm long, body of the chisel being about 2cm diameter (better with plastic hand guard to protect your fingers from the club hammer)


-a flat tip rock chisel, about 30cm long, body of the chisel being about 2cm diameter, and the cutting edge should be about 2 to 2.5cm wide (better with hand guard too)

By the way, better buy good quality sturdy rock chisels (rather than cheap junk that will become blunted after a few strikes on hard rock). Estwing is a good brand for instance.
Also, take good care of your chisels and other metal tools: once back home, immediately apply some rust inhibitor/remover spray.


-a quality flat metal file, with plastic handle, for field sharpening of the chisels whenever required.

Of course, at home, it's much more convenient to use a sharpening grindstone fitting an electrical drill (but beware not to overheat the point of your chisels!).

Please note that when sharpening the point of a chisel, the angle at the point must be about 80 degrees.


-two tiny rock chisels for precision work: one pointed tip, and one flat tip. About 15cm in length, and not exceeding 1cm in diameter.


-optional, but quite useful for working with the harder rocks:
A pointed tip rock chisel with tungsten carbide tip, about 20cm long and 1.5cm diameter. Here's a picture (note that the point actually has a small edge):
https://www.joseph.paris/images/getimag ... 9&ext=.jpg

Additionally, you might also consider a flat tip rock chisel with tungstene carbide tip, about 20cm in length with 2.5cm wide cutting edge:
https://www.joseph.paris/images/getimag ... 9&ext=.jpg

The one I use most being the pointed-tip one. Beware that such carbide tip chisels shouldn't be driven into the rock, these are only meant to strike and fracture it. Usually, such tools are only sold by professional stone cutters suppliers.


-hammer-through screwdriver (these are made to be hit with a hammer just like a chisel) with flat tip, 25cm blade length. It will be useful to dig and scrape inside deep narrow fissures.


-a wrecking bar, about 50cm long (note the curved U shape in the picture below). It is used to split fractured rocks (it is doing well when you want to finish the job without striking the rock which could cause the crystals to break).


-optional: a 1kg wood splitting wedge (made of steel). Such wedge can be inserted inside an open crack so to split a boulder.


-optional: an Estwing rock pick (with chisel edge, 672g head weight). Can be used for digging into soft and friable rocks. However, it's pretty much useless for extracting minerals out of hard rock (which is why mine actually rarely leaves home).


-a small scrub brush (with 3cm long hairs). To clean off dirt/clays so to expose underlying crystals.


-some wrapping material to protect specimens for transport (for instance a roll of plastic grocery bags, paper towels, toilet paper, or newspapers).


-geological map of the area (to locate interesting spots)


-optional: a small quality monocular (to visually locate remote interesting spots high up in the mountains)


-A tiny notebook and a pen, so to record the precise locality of each find. Indeed, locality is essential data as it tells us about the story of the specimen and its origins (i.e. in which environment and conditions the mineral occured).


-a sturdy and comfortable trekking rucksack to carry all this equipment (let's note that models with some outer pockets are convenient). 35 Liters capacity should be enough (unless you also need to carry some extra equipment).



MINING TOOLS (for heavy work):

rotary hammer (with drill-bit, pointed chisel, flat chisel), angle grinder or handheld concrete saw (with diamond blade), sledge hammer (5-6kg, unless you can handle heavier) with fiberglass handle, large mining prybar (150cm), wedges & shims (set of 5 or more), shovel and pickaxe, bucket, brush and trowel, telescopic ladder (about 5 meters tall), important water supply (unless there's a clean stream nearby), etc...Don't buy cheap junk, stick to professional quality tools, meant for rock use. Of course such heavy and bulky equipment is not for prospecting trips.



https://www.mindat.org/photo-1013414.html
https://www.mindat.org/photo-1013416.html


Last edited by cascaillou on Fri Dec 20, 2019 2:28 pm, edited 125 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:27 pm 
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In the above last two pictures you can see the minimum equipment I carry for a short prospecting trek.


Last edited by cascaillou on Wed Dec 18, 2019 3:36 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:35 pm 
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Now, it would be interesting if people with professional (or semi-professional) gemstones mining experience would describe the equipment they are using (both primary deposits and alluvial deposits)


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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR PROSPECTING & MINING
PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 1:19 pm 
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So some more hints:

NEVER forget your gloves. You will bleed a lot instead of moving a lot of rock otherwise.
A set of three or four flat weges is very usefull whenever you want to widen a fracture without causing too much percussion .
I always carry a light pickaxe with a flat side that enables me to dig a little, even if the ground is quite stoney/a little frozen.
If more loose ground hast to be moved a spade and/or shovel are a must ( you don´t want to carry those walking around prospecting.. just if you have found a promising spot with a lot of earth to move).

In any case when looking for alpine fissures or pegmatite-pockets you need tools for working fissures/pockets:
For working pockets I either use a screwdriver that I heated up and hammered, so that the flat part is perpendicular to the rest or a piece of rebar steel shaped in a similar form for narrow, deep fissures. If working with these is possible (wide pegmatite pockets filled with clay) I use chopsticks from the asian store or, if below treeline, simply a stick that I sharpened with my pocket knife.

You will need something to wrap those delicate crystals so you get them home in one piece. In my experience the day that you don´t carry a lot of paper, boxes etc. you will strike it big. For smaller material and unwashed pocket clay (that one can get heavy fast!) robust plastic sample bags are the material of choice.

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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR PROSPECTING & MINING
PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 7:08 pm 
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Quote:
NEVER forget your gloves. You will bleed a lot instead of moving a lot of rock otherwise.

couldn't agree more, this is also why I've been insisting on the necessity of a first-aid kit, would you seriously injure yourself in the middle of nowhere.


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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR PROSPECTING & MINING
PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 9:36 am 
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And always bring a gun! preferably a high caliber hunting rifle. I love rock hounding and have come across some nice size cats in the mountains before (Mountain Lyon) they will eat you! so be prepared, I also suggest MRE's (Military meals ready to eat) they are packed with vitamins and 2000 calories each. you will need a high calorie diet for exploring in the wild, the wind , terrain and weather will suck all the nutrients from your body. for water i suggest a camelback container. tools are what ever you can carry in and out! My self i always carry a full compliment of climbing gear, 60m rope, hb offsets, hexcentric's, micro's, slcd's (Spring loaded Caming Devise) and a misc selection of other nuts for placement in rocks. My pack weigh's around 60lbs. be smart, take what you can handle.

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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR PROSPECTING & MINING
PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 12:35 pm 
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Updated.


Last edited by cascaillou on Fri May 05, 2017 2:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 10:57 am 
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You seem to have a pretty good equipment pack there cascaillou, much the same as my own. I always carry some small 300mm diameter sieves of different mesh sizes, one 1/4 inch one and one 1/8 inch one. The fine sieves are useful because although much of what they catch is too small for faceting, tiny stones often outnumber the big ones by hundreds to one, the small sieve can help show you what kind of minerals are present in that spot.

To that end I usually have a 10X loupe in my pocket for close examination.


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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2017 10:55 pm 
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I usually do trips to mine dump piles. I recommend Gel knee pads and a ho-mi (Korean gardening hand hoe). Wear light colored clothing. Most pegmatite places are light colored and you are the meat inside the reflective broiler. Besides a bucket, always carry a big screw top plastic bottle like those big vitamin bottles. ALWAYS put your best non-wrapped finds in the bottle. Buckets tip over and you will lose the good stuff.

I have also been experimenting with Mike's Trommel (google it). Unlike the gold miners, when working dump piles, I want to get rid of the fine material and look at the bigger stuff. Sort of the reverse of the design. But I could use it for gold too. It really beats screens and classifiers in mechanical efficiency.

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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:45 pm 
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Pls I want to mine out the emerald in a rock body roughly the size of a plot of land. It has been confirmed before to contain emerald and we have also seen beryl in the surrounding area.
Don't know if to blast it as dat may destroy the emeralds in case its close to the surface.
Or would dexpan work in this situation maybe safer. Or how can I can go about it to get the emerald safely out of this hard rock without damaging it


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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 3:06 pm 
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Limited options there, you can drill and blast, or you can jackhammer.

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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 5:35 pm 
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Dan&Sally wrote:
Limited options there, you can drill and blast, or you can jackhammer.

Drill and blast would destroy the gemstones. And maybe the vibrations from a jackhammer may cause cracks in the stones or what do you think?
Pls what of Dexpan or expansive agent? Would it work in this case ? Cos that would be ideal of it will


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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:56 pm 
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I don't think we have anyone currently active on the forum who has done this kind of hard rock mining before. The really flat, featureless rock doesn't suggest an easy way of opening it up either. You will probably have more luck asking around locally from people who have worked similar deposits.

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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 2:01 am 
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Stephen Challener wrote:
I don't think we have anyone currently active on the forum who has done this kind of hard rock mining before. The really flat, featureless rock doesn't suggest an easy way of opening it up either. You will probably have more luck asking around locally from people who have worked similar deposits.

Good idea. Thank you


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 Post subject: Re: GUIDELINES AND EQUIPMENT FOR MINERAL PROSPECTING
PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 6:28 pm 
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Yeah, sorry but as Stephen mentioned this is beyond the realm of my experience at least. All of my experience is in working alluvial deposits, I've never attempted mining gemstones out of solid rock and really don't know how you would approach this exactly.

All I can do is wish you good luck!

I suspect that if you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to get the stones out of that rock :)


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