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Encyclopedia > Mother Lode

Mother Lode is a term associated with the mining of gold. The typical first finds that start a "gold rush" are in streambeads, typically containing pea sized particles called nuggets. After explotation of this easily found gold, banks are dug out in a process called placer mining. Hand separation of the gold using water (gold "panning") can extract smaller particles called flakes, while finer particles (called flour gold) are attracted to the toxic liquid metal mercury. The gold found in these deposits can be quite fine and sparse and can require industrial-scale processes for economic extraction through dredging or the use of erosion with high pressure water. These sedimentary gravels have been deposited over geologic time by the erosion, transport, and deposition of materials from higher elevations. The gold in these deposits was removed by erosion from relatively small locations in rock containing veins of gold. As the gold is heavy and less rapidly moved by the transport process, the area near the vein can be extremely rich in large gold nuggets. It is these rich sources of placer gold that individually are called mother lodes.



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