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AIPG Georgia Section

Georgia Section Looking for Gold Field Trip

In September members from the Atlanta metro area and Savannah each drove approximately three hours to meet up at our destination: The Magruder Mine.  Our host was William Bell, a true gold prospector with over 40 years of gold exploration all along the east coast.  Bill explained the history of the mine with gold found initially in Mine Branch Creek prior to 1850.  A gold vein called the Magruder vein, was discovered on the surface and worked prior to the Civil War.  A 125-foot shaft was dug in the 1870s and a drainage tunnel was started at the creek and continued for 600 feet.  Several mineralized zones were discovered and lead, copper, and gold was shipped from the mine.  Around 1900 a 3-compartment shaft was dug to 200 feet.  Ore was discovered at different depth levels and additional veins were mined and processed through a 40-ton concentrating mill.  The concentrates were processed through a combined roasting and smelting furnace and a 15-ton blast furnace.  Ore minerals included gold, pyrite, chalcopyrite, galena, and sphalerite, but the mine was best known as a copper producer.

Ownership of the mine changed a number of times and deeper shafts were dug and the plant expanded.  There were a number of periods of active mining and five mineralized veins were recognized in the 1930s. Mining activities finally ceased in 1954.  The U.S. Bureau of Mines drilled some test holes in 1948-1949, followed by additional test holes in 1955-1956 by Tennessee Copper and in 1974 by CONOCO.

The geology of this area of Georgia falls within the Caroline Terrane or the Slate Belt.  The Slate Belt is predominantly volcanic originating in an island arc located in the proto-Atlantic and have been accreted to the North American craton.    The location is approximately four miles from Graves Mountain, a world class location known for its rutile crystals.

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Bill Bell stands behind his mule Agnas on the right while discussing the history of the mine.

After the introductions and short lecture we explored the property and dug around some of the old trenches.  We then walked down to the creek to get our first introduction to suction dredging.  Two men were working their lease and showed us their technique.  We then walked a short distance to Bill’s dredge and had a short safety talk.  Most of us took turns on the suction dredge and it turned out to be hard work.  A few were more interested in panning for gold and after a short demonstration on how to work the pan they were off down stream looking for their fortune. 

 

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Earl Titcomb working the handle on the suction nozzle of the five inch triple sluice dredge with assistance from John Tew and David Remick.

 

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David Watkins and John Tew showing how to pan concentrates for the gold after it was recovered and washed from the miner’s moss and carpet of the dredge riffle trays.

At the end of the day we collected all the fine material from the dredge and panned it down to a manageable amount of silt size grains.  You could see the small flecks of gold in the pan.  We divided our loot between us all.  Most of us will probably keep our day jobs.  It was a very enjoyable day and we were able to learn something about the general geology of Georgia and gold mining in the southeast.  We hope to have this field trip again in the future.  Bill has offered to let us camp out on his property and we would like to make arrangements to visit Graves Mountain on the same field trip.   We truly appreciate Bill for giving us permission to visit his mine and leading this trip.

 

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Gold collected by James Dukes from the Magruder Mine Branch and other prospect areas of Georgia and South Carolina.

The American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) was founded in 1963 to certify the credentials
of practicing geologists and to advocate on behalf of the profession.

AIPG represents the professional interests of all practicing geoscientists in every discipline.
It's advocacy & efforts are focused on the promotion of the role of geology and geologists in society.