Monday, May 19, 2008

Where you find it

Gold is sometimes where it was found before:
Soaring gold prices, a recession and ingrained American optimism have combined to prompt thousands to head into the hills.

With the discovery of gold there in 1848, the California Gold Rush brought 300,000 people into the state, transforming what was then a backwater into the embodiment of the American Dream.

Fewer in number, "new 49ers" may have swapped picks and covered wagons for suction dredges and mobile homes but many are just as confident they will strike it rich.

....Land claims in the western states have soared and the Gold Prospectors Association of America says its membership has grown by nearly 40 per cent in a few years to 45,000.

.... Improved equipment has enabled prospectors to find gold – currently trading at $900 (£450) an ounce, that was missed before. Sometimes it is as simple as running over the debris left by earlier miners with a metal detector. Two years ago, one of the Scott River prospectors found a crack in the river bedrock which yielded , more than 23 ounces, worth as much as $40,000 at today's prices.

....The pan and sluice brigade are not the only ones eyeing up the old gold claims. Commercial mining companies are starting up in Nevada. In Idaho and Colorado. Another, more professional, gold rush is heading towards Mexico as mainly American and Canadian geologists and engineers are leaving their jobs in the big mining companies to get venture capital backing for gold mining in the Sierra Madre mountains.

As for the '49ers' notoriously rowdy off-duty behaviour, tradition is not completely dead, said Mr LaBox. "The drunken fights in the local saloon – that still happens. But there's less gunplay."

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