Economic woes spark new US gold rush

Soaring precious metal prices, accompanied by a national economy that is suddenly on the skids, is spurring a modern-day gold rush across northern California, and other sections of the western United States and Canada, that veterans of panning and sluicing have not seen in many a decade.

It is not quite the stampede of 1849, the year that marked the beginning of the original Gold Rush, when some 300,000 adventurers rushed to California in covered wagons and by sea. Where the "49ers" were rugged and wild, the "08ers" generally turn up on weekends with metal detectors in minivans.

But, as gold prices reach historic highs – passing $1,000 an ounce earlier this month, and with the spring thaw just beginning, the traffic in these areas is expected to be heavy.

Just ask the Gold Prospectors' Association of America, which has seen its membership multiply by three as gold prices have surged. The Mojave Prospectors' Association organises special events for gold-panning enthusiasts, including an outing to a stretch of the Mojave Desert in Arizona yesterday where president Al Adams buried 300 tokens with the letter "g" for gold in the gritty soil. "More people are looking for a hobby, and the price of gold being nearly $1,000 an ounce is why attendance is so high," Mr Adams said.

Commercial claims for gold prospecting are rising too. The Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for federal land in the west, recently revealed that claims had risen to 2,274 in the first quarter of this year, compared to 132 claims in the same quarter of 2005.

Amateur gold-seekers are likely to head first to the "Mother Lode" located in the Sierra Nevada mountains in northern California and along Route 49. Most experts believe that the longtime popularity of the area notwithstanding, there should be plenty of gold left.

But it is not just California where the glitter of gold is drawing new crowds. "Every dang fool with nothing to do is gonna be up in the woods getting flat tyres and getting lost," grumbled Bill Dobell, 59, of Granite in northwestern Oregon.

"Theoretically, if a guy was a good panner, he could probably go out and make a couple of hundred bucks a day," said veteran miner Ed Hardt, 74, who is president of the Eastern Oregon Mining Association.

For those not thrilled about roughed-up knuckles and hours of scanning the soil with a metal detector, there is another way to cash in on gold's soaring value: trading in all those unwanted baubles. Jewellery makers and pawn shops across the nation have reported a surge of customers in recent weeks.

"I haven't seen anything like this in nearly 30 years," says Klaus Degler, president of Rocky Mountain Coin and Jewelry in Denver.

But some of his more intrepid patrons are hearing the siren call of them thar hills. "Metal detectors and gold pans are flying out the door too," Mr Degler adds.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
fashion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher- Manchester

£19200 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Secondary Japanese Teacher, January 2015 - China

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Position: Secondary Japanese TeacherRequ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes