Thursday, November 14, 2019

Gold Nuggets Can Be Found With Metal Detectors

A few years ago, I thought I lost a ring around my barn. I searched and searched and couldn't find it. While I knew that a very good metal detector can run a person anywhere from $600 to $800, some detectors come with all sorts of extras, including portable metal labs, and can reach into the thousands of dollars. Since I couldn't afford to spend that kind of money on a metal detector, I bought one for a couple of hundred dollars.

The Butte Nugget
No, I never did find my ring. But, all in all, I found a lot of nails, screws, nuts, bolts, and even an old watch. I also found that I didn't have the patients required to use a metal detector.

For those who do, big gold can be found with metal detectors. No kidding, big nuggets can be found. 

A beautiful gold nugget which weighed in at over 5 pounds was found with a metal detector. Imagine that. A solid gold nugget believed to be one of the largest gold discoveries in California in the past century was found in the summer of 2014 by an prospector using a metal detector.

Known as "The Butte Nugget," the confirmed weight of the solid gold nugget was 75 troy ounces. The nugget has no quartz inclusions and gold from this area is generally very high purity. What's amazing is that the guy who found is said to have been expecting to dig up a piece of iron when his detector went off. Instead, he turned up a find of a lifetime.

No one was dumb enough to say the exact location of the find, but it's believed that the monster nugget was found somewhere in Butte County, California. And if Butte County, California, sounds familiar, it should. From November 8th to the 25th of 2018, a major wildfire which became known as the "Camp Fire" destroyed most of the town of Paradise. That fire killed more than eighty people, and over 50,000 people in that county were displaced. That fire also wiped out 150,000 acres, and destroyed nearly 20,000 buildings. Today, the "Camp Fire" is known as California's most destructive and deadliest fire on record.

As for gold in Butte County, it was one of the original 19 counties that made up the State of California in 1850 for a reason. Since its beginning, it was a major producer of gold in the state. In fact, many millions of ounces of gold have been found there since the early days of the California Gold Rush.

For those who think all of the gold in California is gone, think again. It's said the state still has excellent potential for gold prospecting. Of course, huge discoveries like "The Butte Nugget" is proof that there are still some really big nuggets out there just waiting to be dug up. As for the worth of "The Butte Nugget," supposedly it was sold for $400,000.

So now you're thinking, what's the chances of that happening? Well, though rare, it's certainly not impossible to make such a find with a metal detector. Take for example the solid gold nugget known as "The Boot of Cortez."

The Boot of Cortez
"The Boot of Cortez" is another example of a prospector heading out to search for gold with a metal detector. In fact, it is said that the guy who found it was using an inexpensive metal detector that he bought from Radio Shack.

The story goes that he was from Senora, Mexico, about 70 miles south of the Arizona border. In 1989, he went to a Radio Shack and bought a cheap metal detector. Then, he simply went out seeing what he could find.

Though not an expensive detector, and what it was able to find was questionable at first, he started finding nails, a few shell casings, and the basic discarded nuts and bolts. Of course none of that stopped him from continuing his hunt. In fact, he actually kept going because he was finding all sorts of things that most would describe as junk.

His persistence paid off one morning when he got a big hit on an object. The large signal from his detector was unusual to say the least. Some say he thought it was a horseshoe. Others say he thought he found a buried metal box because it was so large. To his surprise, he found and dug up a huge solid gold nugget.

Appropriately, due to its shape resembling the boot of a Spanish conquistador, it's been named the Boot of Cortez. And yes, it was found using a cheap metal detector. Of course such huge nuggets like the Boot of Cortez are exceptionally rare. In fact, it is the largest existing gold nugget found in the western hemisphere -- actually taking that title form a solid gold nugget found in Alaska.

So now you're asking, How can that be the largest gold nugget if it was only found in 1989? Well, that's a legitimate question. The answer to that has to do with the fact that there have been larger nuggets found during the early California Gold Rush -- but they have all been melted down and sold for their gold content. The Boot of Cortez is the largest existing gold nugget.

One reason that the Boot of Cortez wasn't found earlier is because Mexico hasn't been prospected as much as other areas. Mexico is actually rich in gold and other valuable minerals. While there are some very large gold mining operations in Mexico that are in operation today, and there are currently mining operations that are producing considerable amounts of gold, fact is that the harsh desert climate limits searching for gold.

Because of the lack of water, the only realistic mining methods for prospectors looking for gold on a small-scale are metal detectors and dry washers. Dry washers use a mechanical apparatus to separate  free particles of placer gold from dry sediments.

Gold nuggets like the Boot of Cortez are highly collectable, if for no other reason than the fact that they are exceedingly rare. At 389 troy ounces, the prospector sold it to his boss for $30,000. It has changed hands over the years, and the last recorded public sale of the Boot of Cortez was in January of 2008 where it sold at auction for over $1.5 million. Many experts consider the Boot of Cortez to be finest solid gold nugget of its king in existence today. That is especially true due to its high purity gold.

I find it interesting that these nuggets remained in place for millions of years, up until the day that someone with a metal detector came along to find them. While I've read stories of prospectors with metal detectors finding all sorts of small nuggets here and there, this all makes me wonder if there are other gold nuggets out there, even bigger, just waiting to be found. It's a safe bet that there are. 

Tom Correa

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