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On the trail of the 49ers

April 24th, 2015

A neophyte meets the miners who still work California’s historic goldfields

by Greg Klein

He’s gotta be the tenderest of tenderfoots, the greenest of greenhorns and the cheekiest of cheechakos—a gold tourist who can’t even handle a shovel tries to relive the 1849 experience after the 2013 price plummet, arriving without equipment, experience or even a reality show film crew. But eventually something else overpowers yellow metal’s allure as a different kind of El Dorado becomes intangibly more important. That’s the story Steve Boggan relates in Gold Fever: One Man’s Adventures on the Trail of the Gold Rush.

A London-based journalist, Boggan rushes into his project chaotically. Completely unequipped, although with money to spend, he shows up in California’s historic gold country to throw himself at the mercy of latter-day Argonauts. Surprisingly they take him in, sometimes without even betraying amusement. As a result he gains the coaching as well as the friendship of some rugged characters.

A neophyte meets the miners who still work California’s historic goldfields

Among them is Dave Mack, self-proclaimed adventure junkie, extreme prospector and “the most aggressive underwater gold miner in the world.” A former U.S. Navy SEAL, he dives into fast-moving water, resisting the torrent with hundreds of pounds of lead around his waist, to vacuum riverbeds for gold. When Boggan asks to accompany him, the big guy laughs.

“The last person who came out with me drowned in three minutes. And he was a scuba instructor.”

“Okay. How about I come out with you for two minutes?”

Some others include Craig, whose first assault conviction came at age seven. Tom, a Scottish arrival via Australia, proves relentlessly determined despite being the “unluckiest man in California.” Mike, suffering from a serious spinal injury, carries a sluice box, pick, shovel, buckets and other gear on his back while hobbling to his claim on crutches.

As for Gene, he’d been panning since he was six or seven. Now 64 and given about two years to live, he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his late 50s.

One cause doctors suggested was “those long expeditions into the wild,” Boggan writes. “Rivers were more polluted back then, he said, so eating fish and drinking water from streams and rivers could have exposed him to dangerous levels of mercury. I asked him if that possibility sullied the memories. No, he replied. He wouldn’t change them for the world.”

Why? Duane offers an explanation. He claims to have gold fever but exalts over the lifestyle. “‘I love this way of life and I wouldn’t be living it if it wasn’t for the gold. Look at it here…’ He let his right arm surf the air outside the window. ‘It’s goddamn beautiful. Imagine all the poor bastards working at a desk in some office or in a factory, watching the hands on the clock go round. What time is it here? Hell, I don’t know!’”

Dave Mack’s explanation cites The Hobbit.

“It’s all about the ring, the ring,” he tells Boggan. “Tolkien had it right about all the traits and the corrosive power of that ring and the deep desire to possess it. It has a simple meaning—even the best of men could not hold that ring for long without being seduced by it. Raw gold is just like that.”

His quest continues even though he’s found enough to retire comfortably.

More modest are Duane’s returns, yet he does alright. About 500 bucks in a good week, three to four hundred in an average week. That’s more than he needs. “I have to pay insurance for my vehicle, I have gas and food for me and the dogs, but that’s about it. If I need something big—like the motor for the boat—I can usually work out some kind of trade. I have no worries, only excitement each time I find gold.”

Boggan touches on aspects of gold through the ages, subjects treated better elsewhere, notably in Matthew Hart’s Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal. And Boggan’s remarks can be careless, giving the impression he’d never before been outside England. Even so, he alternates first-hand historic accounts with his own experiences to add balance and context, the book’s greatest strength.

Eventually the target of his own quest diverts from gold to “the guy,” an unnamed being people refer to when describing big discoveries. He “seemed everywhere and nowhere; rumours of his fantastical finds were enough to send hordes of miners rushing from one speculative camp to another.”

Boggan pretends they’re all referring to the same person.

The guy, I thought, always the guy. Every day someone would tell me about a big gold find, about the guy who found a nugget this big, and their hand would be shaped something like a walnut or a clementine.

‘Heard about the guy on the Bear River …?’

‘… the Yuba …’

‘… the Feather …’

‘… near Mariposa …’

‘… Colfax …’

‘… Grass Valley …’

‘… pulling them out this big …’

‘… this big …’

‘… this big …’

‘… swear to God, the guy is shitting gold nuggets.’”

The author does find the guy who is, as far as Boggan’s concerned, the guy. But the riches associated with him are intangible. And that wraps up this story with a happy/sad ending.

Athabasca Basin and beyond

March 21st, 2015

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere to March 20, 2015

by Greg Klein

Next Page 1 | 2

Step-outs renew Fission’s interest west of PLS resource

The zone’s five previous holes found disappointingly low grades but Fission Uranium’s (TSX:FCU) most recent drilling brings new attention to R600W, 555 metres west of the Triple R deposit that surprised even some of the more optimistic Patterson Lake South-watchers. The most westerly of four PLS zones got five more holes this season, four showing mineralization in basement rock and three suggesting high grades over significant widths, the company announced March 18.

These results, no substitute for the still-pending assays, come from a scintillometer that measures drill core radiation in counts per second.

Hole PLS15-364, 570 metres west of Triple R, hit a composite total of 45.5 metres of mineralization over a 61-metre section starting at 107 metres in downhole depth. A composite 6.44 metres surpassed 10,000 cps, a level sometimes termed “offscale” due to the limitations of earlier scintillometers.

PLS15-352 revealed a continuous 56.5-metre intercept starting at 102.5 metres that included continuous “offscale” readings for 11.77 metres. PLS15-360 showed 25 continuous metres starting at 111 metres, while PLS15-364 gave up 40.5 continuous metres starting at 107 metres.

True widths weren’t available.

The angled holes have expanded the zone’s strike to 45 metres, a 50% increase that extends PLS’s potential strike from 2.24 to 2.25 kilometres. R600W’s lateral width extends up to about 30 metres. Results have “substantially increased our understanding of the geometry and tenure of the mineralization,” said Fission COO/chief geologist Ross McElroy.

While delineation continues at Triple R, R600W has more drilling to come.

Read more about the Triple R resource estimate.

See an historical timeline of the PLS discovery.

NexGen continues to find high grades at Rook 1’s Arrow zone

Its first two batches of winter assays once again have NexGen Energy’s (TSXV:NXE) Rook 1 project vying for attention with Fission’s Patterson Lake South. On March 17 NexGen announced the project’s widest high-grade interval yet, hitting 70 metres of 2.2% U3O8. Two days later the company confirmed an 88-metre strike extension from AR-14-30, an outstanding hole released last October. The results come from Rook 1’s Arrow zone, defined last month as three mineralized shears named A1, A2 and A3.

The star hole from the first batch, AR-15-34b, was a 30-metre step-out from October’s AR-14-30, centrepiece of the A2 shear. Although the new hole’s other intercepts fell far short in grade and thickness, these intervals brought redemption, the first from A2, the second from A1:

  • 2.2% U3O8 over 70 metres, starting at 522 metres in downhole depth
  • (including 8.95% over 11 metres)

  • 0.12% over 32 metres, starting at 697 metres

As for some other highlights:


  • 0.26% over 12.5 metres, starting at 548.5 metres


  • 0.33% over 18.5 metres, starting at 394.5 metres

  • 0.49% over 12 metres, starting at 553.5 metres


  • 0.32% over 51 metres, starting at 167 metres

  • 0.1% over 61.5 metres, starting at 248 metres

True widths weren’t available. AR-14-36 was a vertical hole. The others were sunk at a dip of -70 or -75 degrees.

Assays for two angled holes released two days later inspired additional confidence in A2. Highlights show:


  • 2.46% over 16.5 metres, starting at 580.5 metres
  • (including 12.85% over 3 metres)

  • 0.34% over 13.5 metres, starting at 602 metres

  • 2.88% over 40 metres, starting at 621.5 metres
  • (including 4.92% over 22 metres)


  • 0.75% over 6 metres, starting at 664 metres

  • 0.9% over 32 metres, starting at 583.5 metres

Again, true widths weren’t provided. The latter hole confirms an 88-metre strike expansion southwest of AR-14-30, NexGen stated.

The Arrow zone covers about 515 metres by 215 metres with mineralization starting at about 100 metres in depth and now extending to 820 metres. The zone remains open in all directions and at depth.

NexGen has further drilling planned for the A2 shear as well as the newly discovered high-grade area within A3. At last count the season’s program had completed 38 holes, according to the March 19 press release, or 39, according to a February 24 statement. Roughly a third of the 18,000-metre winter agenda has been drilled.

Phase I drilling finds anomalous radioactivity at Lakeland Resources’ Star/Gibbon’s Creek

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere to March 20, 2015

The first round of drilling went radioactive at
Lakeland Resources’ Star/Gibbon’s Creek project.

Lakeland Resources TSXV:LK wrapped up a successful 14-hole, 2,550-metre winter program by reporting anomalous radioactivity at its Star/Gibbon’s Creek project on the Athabasca Basin’s northern rim. While assays are pending, initial results also reveal “alteration suggestive of a proximal basement-hosted or unconformity-hosted uranium occurrence,” said company president Jonathan Armes on March 12.

Six holes along a corridor about 1.5 to two kilometres long struck the unconformity at depths of less than 125 metres, finding either anomalous radioactivity, alteration or both. The results confirm the trend as a high-priority target.

Three other holes along a one-kilometre corridor near the head of the Gibbon’s Creek boulder field found the unconformity at depths of less than 110 metres, again intersecting either anomalous radioactivity, alteration or both and confirming another high-priority target.

The readings come from a downhole scintillometer and are no substitute for assays, which will follow. Lakeland attributes background radioactivity to readings of 10 to 100 cps. Results show these anomalous levels of at least 800 cps over 0.3 metres:

Hole GC15-01

  • An average 1,104 cps over 0.4 metres starting at 81.2 metres in downhole depth. The maximum level hit 1,379 cps.


  • An average 1,204 cps over 0.3 metres starting at 99 metres, with a maximum of 1,589 cps

  • An average 1,072 cps over 0.7 metres starting at 99.6 metres, with a maximum of 1,312 cps


  • An average 2,828 cps over 1 metre starting at 107.1 metres, with a maximum of 7,926 cps


  • An average 1,415 cps over 0.6 metres starting at 102.9 metres, with a maximum of 1,740 cps

True widths weren’t available. Along with the other anomalous results, hole GC15-03 is considered highly anomalous.

To further solidify targets, the project also underwent a 270-station ground gravity survey.

“During the coming weeks we will be in receipt of geochemical results for uranium and pathfinder elements such as boron, nickel, cobalt and arsenic,” Armes stated. “As with other historic uranium discoveries within the Athabasca Basin, each successful drill program helps guide the next towards the discovery of a new uranium occurrence.”

The road-accessible project sits a few kilometres from the town of Stony Rapids, with nearby infrastructure.

Lakeland also holds drill-ready projects at Newnham Lake, east of Star/Gibbon’s, and Lazy Edward Bay on the Basin’s southern rim. Late last month the company expanded its holdings to 32 properties totalling over 300,000 hectares, one of the largest portfolios in the Basin region.

As of March 12 Lakeland’s treasury held close to $3 million.

Read more about the Star/Gibbon’s Creek project.

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