When people ask what we do for a living, prospector is not what they expect. We aren't your historical picture of an old bearded man leading a donkey. Rather the opposite, we are a family mostly comprised of young women with long blonde hair, wearing Gortex jackets and using GPS's and laptops.
Despite modern technology, some things haven't changed like using sledge hammers to obtain rock samples, compasses for accurate sighting, and an appetite for adventure and determination, to weather whatever storm nature might cook up out there.
Mining has been around since the beginning of mankind and mines don't find themselves. Someone has to start looking and a prospector is that niche of exploration; the beginning of the process leading to discovery leading to production. Prospectors are usually inherently curious, hoping for that lucky break and ever optimistic that maybe under the next tree root or over the next hill, will be a new discovery.
A prospector is usually someone who is happy and at home in the bush. You have to be; there are plenty of days full of every bug imaginable swarming you, days of cold rain, hot sun, terrible tangled bush. If you can take all that though, you will see beautiful sunrises, sunsets, rivers and lakes, and grand views from high hills. You will walk the land enjoying all the small intricacies in nature. You will rest well at night having worked a hard day covering rough terrain carrying a pack full of rocks. There is a certain satisfaction in a good day's work outside.
So what exactly is prospecting?
Ruth checking out some visible gold in a sample.
Our prospecting focuses on minerals in bedrock, not panning for gold in rivers (which is still practised in areas such as the Yukon and British Columbia). We plan traverses and hike through the forest uncovering and looking at rock we encounter along the way. Usually we are looking for alteration and mineralization in rocks. Often we look for indicator minerals, such as pyrite, chalcopyrite and other sulphides, to point us to promising rock. Rock samples are collected with their locations recorded and sent to an assay lab which analyzes rocks for mineral content.
The exploration industry is little understood by the general public. Our job is anything but normal. We travel all over Ontario and Canada to work different properties. No two days are the same as we are always covering new ground, seeing new rocks and dealing with changing weather. We meet new people continually whether it be fellow workers or travellers or locals. Being contract work, we don't have regular work weeks or even regular schedules. Some days are long due to unexpected challenges and some days are short if the weather gets ugly. Working outdoors is not for everyone, but for prospectors the adventure is their passion.