Gold Panning and Mines

In order for the diamonds to be kept secured and worn, a proper setting of the stone is required. For this commodity chain, we will use gold as the metal that hold the jewelry together. The first step in this process is the mining of gold from the earth. The most common form of gold acquisition is placer deposits but large quantities of gold are found in gold mines. A map of some large placer deposits and mines is shown in figure 3.1(Gold Map, 2015)

Figure 3.1 Gold Map

Figure 3.1 Gold Map

Placer Deposits

Like diamond placer deposits, gold placer deposits form the same way. Erosion causes large gold deposits to be broken up and carried into rivers and streams. Since gold is a relatively heavy element, it sinks to the bottom and must be sorted out from the other rocks and minerals. A common technique of processing this ore is panning

Gold Panning

Most people think of gold panning as a bunch of old prospectors in California searching the rivers to find the one big find that makes them rich. In fact, this method is a very old method and has been used by humans since ancient Rome. This method involves sifting through the bottom of the river bed to get some gold containing gravel. Once the gravel is obtained, a planner must wash away the lighter materials with a gold pan as shown in Figure 3.2(Gold Panning, 2015)

Figure 3.1 Gold Panning

Figure 3.2 Gold Panning

As one can see, the materials left in the pan are the heavier minerals and rocks. This gravel then undergoes further processing by a rocker box, like the ones used in artisanal diamond mining. The yield on this type of gold acquisition is rather small, typically just gold flakes. Sometimes a gold nugget might be found, but this is rather rare. This method is typically used to find gold veins that can be mined out.

Gold Mining

Gold is typically mined from the earth using open pit mining or hard rock mining. Open pit mining is useful when the gold is located near the surface, like in Alaska or Nevada and is shown in figure 3.3(Gold Mine, 2015)

Figure 3.3 Nevada Gold Open Pit Mining

Figure 3.3 Nevada Gold Open Pit Mining

The other form of gold mining is hard rock mining. This is useful when the gold is deeper in the earth and requires a lot of specialized equipment to extract the gold. The deposits are mixed in with other metals and must be sorted out.  Tunnels and shafts must also be cut out to access the mines and they can be very deep. The work is very hard and requires the miners to be underground for an extended period of time. In South Africa, the deepest gold mine is about 2.5 miles below the surface. The mine is shown in figure 3.4

Figure 3.4 South African Hard Rock Mine

Figure 3.4 South African Hard Rock Mine

(Deep Gold Mine, 2015)

As shown in the above pictures, gold mining is a very earth-intensive process. It requires large amounts of land to be used and shifted through. When companies do not do restore the land used in open pit mining to a usable state, the environment suffers. Hard rock mining can also harm the environment because one the mine is “mined out” the space is unusable for future endeavors.

Once the gold ore is extracted, it must be purified and refined to get pure gold. This will be shown in the smelting part of the commodity chain

Sources:,. (2015). Prospecting for Gold in the United States. Retrieved 9 December 2015, from,. (2015). 7. – Gold and gold mining – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 9 December 2015, from

One thought on “Gold Panning and Mines

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *