It doesn’t cost much to get into, and the price of what you go home with has risen to great heights recently, but gold panners say it still isn’t likely to pay too many bills.
However, it is a lot of fun, along with some hard work, says Jerry Stainer, with the Vernon Placer Miner’s Club.
This year, the club recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its B.C. Open Gold Panning Championships and family day at the Gold Panner Campground in Cherryville—with much more than just gold panning.
The recent meteoric rise in the price per ounce of gold—currently at about $1,500 a Troy ounce—may be the reason there’s been an increase in the number of members in the club, Stainer admits, but he says, “We just do it for recreation.
“You can’t make much money the way we pan for gold. You don’t even make enough to pay for your gas.”
The gold panning championship activities include pancake breakfasts, metal detecting, barbecues, bannock baking, a gold pan toss, dirt toss and claim staking competitions. But, it’s all about the gold and most of the events and contests revolve around successful gold panning.
The event draws about 250 people to the campground on the Victoria Day long weekend each year, says Stainer.
They enter competitions where each rushes to fill their gold pan from a tub of water to see who can find a nugget; and where they fling their pans for prizes; or bake bannock in a contest.
Many dress the part, with suspenders over plaid shirts, slouch hats and beards, or with long dresses from decades ago, when that’s what every woman wore—a time when pioneers were drawn to new areas by the discovery of gold.
In any case, he said most people don’t sell the flakes of colour they find in local creeks, although some make jewelry from it.
Much of it is in really small flakes, and panning for it by hand is really hard on the back and legs, noted Stainer.
He’s been gold panning for 15 years.
On the other hand, Fred Lubberts of Fred’s Gold Panning and Mining Supplies in Kelowna, says he’s been gold panning for 25 or 30 years and he has found a few decent-sized nuggets on his claim in the Revelstoke area.
With the rising price of gold, he has seen more interest in recent years and he figures with the right equipment you could make a living, if you’re in the right spot.
But, that’s the key.
“I always advise people to see it as a hobby—but you could find just the right spot,” he commented.
It is pretty exciting to find a nugget when you’re panning. The largest he’s found is seven grams, although he’s also found quite a few in the one to three-gram range. Those are worth more as jewelry items than for their gold content.
However, getting into the hobby doesn’t cost a lot. A simple gold pan can be purchased for $10 and you need a classifier or sieve of some sort to get rid of the larger stones; a shovel and some gumboots.
It’s a hobby nearly anyone can enjoy.