Experimental abrasion of detrital gold

Journal of Research of the U.S. Geological Survey



The physical breakdown and abrasion rates of gold were studied using a tumbler to simulate natural high-energy environments. The gold fragments were tumbled for periods ranging from 30 to 240 h with different combinations of sand, cobbles, and water at velocities of 0.5 and 2.0 mi/h (0.85 and 3.22 km/h). With sand and gravel, the common bedload of the rivers that deposited the gold-bearing Tertiary sedimentary rocks of the Sierra Nevada, gold is abraded at rates of 0.015 to 0.007 percent (by weight) per hour of travel (at 0.5 mi/h or 0.845 km/h). Cobbles, rather than sand, are responsible for most of the physical changes and abrasion of the gold. Ten gold fragments tumbled for 120 h with cobbles and water (no sand) were broken down to 68 recoverable fragments and lost about 25 percent of their weight to particles smaller than could be recovered using conventional panning techniques. Gold tumbled for 120 h with sand and water lost less than 1 percent of its weight. Gold was abraded faster by wet sand than by dry sand. Velocity appears to be more important as a factor in abrasion of gold than travel distance a fourfold increase in velocity produced a tenfold increase in hourly abrasion rates of gold. Scanning electron microscope examination of the gold fragments after the tumbling experiments revealed differences in surface texture between fragments tumbled with (1) sand, (2) sand and cobbles, and (3) cobbles only.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Experimental abrasion of detrital gold
Series title Journal of Research of the U.S. Geological Survey
Volume 3
Issue 2
Year Published 1975
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Description 10 p.
First page 203
Last page 212
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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