More than 100 years after the first Canadian gold rush, placer gold remains associated with the gold rushes of the late 19th century. That classic image of an old-time prospector knee-deep in a mountain stream panning for gold may no longer accurately portray what gold mining looks like, but the legacy is clear in some of the modern era’s greatest discoveries.
In the 21st century, mining exploration has returned to the sites of the Klondike and other historic gold rushes using cutting edge technology and exploration techniques to locate the sources of the riverbed gold that brought hopeful prospects to the Canadian Klondike.
Modern exploration techniques have worked wonders in Yukon and British Columbia, and now they are being put to work in Quebec. By tracing the placer gold deposits of the Beauce gold rush, modern miners are hoping to find hard rock deposits that dwarf anything those 19th-century prospectors could possibly have imagined.
Placer gold and the motherlode
A placer deposit is the accumulation of valuable minerals that has been separated from a larger source deposit by weathering and gravity. Much of this material tends to get washed away by running water, collecting in either active riverbeds or buried at the sites of ancient rivers. The mineralization found in placer deposits has to come from somewhere, and in many cases, the original hard rock deposits that created historical gold rush placers have never been found.
Today, the mining exploration industry has tools that were not available one hundred years ago. For example, prospector Shawn Ryan sparked a modern gold rush in 2011 through the use of his signature “Drones to Drills” program that drastically cut down the amount of labour required. Ryan’s company, White Gold (TSXV:WGO, is currently in pursuit of placer gold deposits identified in Yukon territory thanks to his innovative techniques.
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