Gates & Fox at Gold Run

by kfrego

In 1980 my employer Gates & Fox transferred us to their home office in Loomis, Ca. Loomis is on the edge of the famed Mother Lode mining districts of the California gold rush days. Kirk Fox, founder of Gates & Fox, was actively seeking gold properties to lease or purchase for mining gold. Gates & Fox had a contract to do the mining for a Chinese funded group on a placer gold property called Gold Run. Gold Run has a rest stop on eastbound Interstate 80 about 50 miles east of Sacramento adjacent to old gravel banks mined hydraulically during the gold rush days. We were mining underground a half mile south of Interstate 80 in an area of cemented tertiary gravels. The gold was deposited with the gravels by ancient rivers. The highest concentrations of gold were right on top of the bedrock under the old river channels.Our tunnels were mined with two feet of bedrock in the bottom and eight feet of cemented tertiary gravels above the bedrock. We widened the original old access tunnels to ten feet to accommodate modern drills and equipment. The low profile mucking machines used to remove the ore were eight feet wide, very long, and powered by twelve cylinder diesel engines. A processing plant to get the gold out of the gravel was built adjacent to the mining area. My crew at Gold Run included Ray and Timmy Atkinson, Randy Gilmet, Nick Walker, and Eddie Van from our hometown area of New York.

When working in a drill and blast tunnel one of the most menial jobs is cleaning the loose muck away from the face of the tunnel prior to drilling the bottom holes. A lot of miners will go out of their way to avoid hand mucking for these lifter holes prior to the start of drilling. This all changes when you’re mining for gold. Most of the crew is right on their knees, gently raking the muck back, to look for nuggets. The entire bottom of the face is spotless. You will never know if they find anything.

I had a friends son-in-law operating a mucking machine on my shift. He was very slow. One night on graveyard shift my patience ran out. I met him at the portal of the access tunnel and stopped him. I told him he was either going to get the job done faster or get fired. I reached across the floor of the open operators cab, lifted his foot, and slammed a twenty pound rock on top of the accelerator pedal. I told him if he removed the rock he was fired. You could hear the machine bouncing and banging off the tunnel walls as he ran in and out with his eyes as big as baseballs. All I heard the rest of the night was “What in hell did you do to light a fire under his butt”.  From then on he did his job efficiently.

Sometimes simple works……….even if it’s a rock sending the message.