Monday, May 26, 2008

There's gold in them thar California hills...again

Price of gas got you bloated? Running a little short of cash? You might consider visiting or even moving to California where there's a new Gold Rush, 160 years after gold fever struck.

It hit a new high of in excess of US$1000 per ounce earlier in the year and some believe there is money to be made from this precious mineral once more.

"You can pay your bills, if you live meagrely," says John Gurney, who gave up his job six months ago to become a full-time gold prospector.

John is standing in a shallow river in Jamestown, California, in the heart of Gold Country: in 1849, the same dream brought hundreds of thousands of people to towns like this.

He is panning for gold: he shovels rocks and dirt from the river bed into a bucket, sifts out the bigger pieces, transfers what's left into a ridged plastic panning bowl, and then, using a light movement back and forth, shakes the bowl, separating the lighter material from the heavier, including gold.

Each 20-minute session usually turns up a few tiny flecks.

"It's not a lot of money," John says, "but it adds up quite a bit... But you never know - you may hit the jackpot sometime."

This is the simplest way of gold prospecting.

The original 49ers - as they've become known - used this technique, as well as mining. Fortunes were made - and lost - in the wild towns that sprang up almost overnight along 200 miles of central California, an area they called the Motherlode.

Tourism is big business in the former gold-mining areas. Places like Jamestown and Columbia - which, in its heyday, nearly became California's state capital - have been mining tourists ever since. But now these ghost towns are stirring again, as more and more amateur prospectors try their luck.

Read the full story here:

Given the precarious financial situation with people losing homes and no income, perhaps gold fever will strike again.

Writers & Friends

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