Rock & Gem July 2014 - page 28

28
Rock & Gem
hen you visit the
Bear Creek Placer
operations on Hughes Creek in
Montana, you can clearly see
professionalism and organization
on every level. Run by Rob Towner, Tony Larghi, and Les Towner, this modern gold placer-mining op-
eration consists of a 5-foot by 14-foot, double-deck vibrating screen, a 25-ton Volvo rock truck, a 315
Caterpillar excavator, and a 345Cl Caterpillar excavator, the main workhorse of the operation.
As the sky hints of another day about to end, the big vibrating
screen slowly comes to a stop and the rest of the big Caterpillar
equipment is lined up to be serviced for the next day’s gold-mining
shift. Rob, Tony and Les stroll over to the big sluice box to see what
the day’s take will be. On this property, the cleanup scales could
top 2 pounds of gold when you encounter a nugget patch, and
today was one of those days. A visitor to our operation would be
wide-eyed when the water drained away from the sluice box riffles
to reveal gold—lots of it. I have heard the words, “Whoa! Check
that out” many, many times throughout my mining career.
This is a commercial placer mine. The bulk of our gold is melted
down into bullion and shipped to Winchester, Indiana, for sale. The
remainder is sold for specimens or kept by us. Anytime an unusual
piece of gold is encountered, we try to hold it back for our collection.
On the Hughes Creek placers, we encountered some fabulous,
large wire gold and incredibly beautiful glacial gold specimens.
Wire gold is my favorite type of gold to collect.
The official state Web site,
gives an in-depth
summary of the historic placer-mining activities in the Hughes
Creek area (
mcpx). It appears that the gold in this deposit was dissolved in
the ionic state deep in the earth’s mantle, along with many other
elements, including sulfur, silica and iron. These fluids traveled
through fissures and tectonic fractures as it migrated upward, and
as the mineral-laden water cooled, the gold began to precipitate
out and crystallize. Usually, it is associated with silicon dioxide,
better known as quartz. Ilmanite and other minerals are also pre-
cipitating at this time.
P
LACER
M
INING
ONTANA
Wire Gold
and Glacial
Nuggets on
Hughes Creek
W
The haul of beautiful glacial gold specimens often tops 2 pounds at the end of a long shift.
Story and Photos by Rob Towner
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