A highbanker is essentially a modern sluice box that is set up above streams or creeks and uses a water pump to pull the water up into the box so that a proper sluicing operation can take place. A highbanker is really a small-scale version of larger gold mining production machinery that is used throughout the goldfields of the world. They are designed to be portable and relatively easy to set up and use.
While an ordinary sluice box can be easily hauled in a backpack, a highbanker is generally bigger, heavier and requires more planning to set up and operate properly. In fact, unless you have some additional transportation, you can count on making at least two trips to gather everything needed to set up your highbanker. Ideally, you will have vehicle access to an area so you donít have to pack heavy equipment for too far. Of course, this isnít always the case so be prepared for the weight.
While smaller, backpack-size highbankers exist that can be carried by one person, they generally are not nearly as efficient as their larger brethren when it comes to filtering out the materials in order to find gold. The ones I have seen are kind of ďcheesyĒ, although Iím sure they will work, it is recommended that you get a good sized one that has good reviews and can handle a lot of use. You want a piece of equipment that can stand up to the rigors of gold mining.
Setting up the highbanker is generally no problem, all that needs to be remembered is that the sluice box should pitch downward about one inch for every three feet in length that it happens to be. Once you get it running, you can look it over and determine what adjustments need to be made to ensure good gold retention. You can either bring a level or just eyeball the area to ensure that the gradual slope is maintained.
The next step is adjusting the amount of water that is needed to properly operate your highbanker. If you donít use enough, then you will not get enough materials through the sluicing area. Too much and you can be putting gold right back into the creek or stream from whence it came. The proper amount will have you seeing ripples when it is half full and seeing the materials vibrate under the ripples as well. Ideally, you will find that gold particles get caught in the first few riffles. If you notice that a significant amount of gold is getting toward the bottom of the sluice box, then you will need to make some adjustments.
Once the operation is going, you will have to make periodic adjustments and sometime remove larger rocks that are not being moved through. Keeping an eye on the materials flowing through is very important to your sluicing operation with a highbanker.
You should feed the highbanker slowly so that more materials can get through the sluice without getting bogged down. This is a very common mistake that a lot of prospectors make. Slow down and make sure that material is running through the sluice properly.
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Use shorter hoses instead of one longer one to bring water up from the surface. The further you have to move water, the harder you pump will have to work (and the more fuel you will burn).
Clay is tricky because it can actually pick up small pieces of gold that otherwise might be discovered in your highbanker. Be sure to break up clay deposits before they go through the process. This can be said for any placer mining.
Overall, working with a highbanker can save you time and effort in sorting through materials. Plus, highbankers are very efficient at what they do as long as long as they are set up properly. If you take care of them, you will get many years of use out of them.