THE SEARCH FOR GOLD
High gold content found in local soil samples
Marshall Helmberger

REGIONAL - A geological services contractor hired by the Department of Natural Resources has found significant concentrations of gold in soil samples taken from DNR-administered lands located near Tower.

The company, Overburden Drilling, Ltd., gathered 105 samples of glacial till last fall from a roughly 200 square mile area stretching from just south of Tower to near Cook, much of it located within the Superior National Forest.

The sampling effort was part of an ongoing DNR program to assess the mineral potential of several historic gold districts in northern Minnesota. Previously, the DNR conducted till sampling in the Mud Creek area between Tower and Ely as well as parts of Itasca County.

The latest survey found higher-than-normal concentrations of gold grains in five distinct areas, including two located in Vermilion Lake Township, one in Kugler Township, and a fourth in Embarrass Township.

The findings don’t indicate a gold strike is imminent, but Don Elsenheimer, with the Department of Natural Resources, said this initial survey will help the DNR identify areas where further field work may be justified. “We weren’t looking for the needle in the haystack, we were looking for areas to start searching for the haystack,” said Elsenheimer. “Finding these anomalous zones gives us places to focus further work.”

According to Elsenheimer, the presence of higher-than-normal concentrations of gold grains in glacial till can indicate the existence of more significant gold deposits in the vicinity. He said the very small gold grains detected in these latest samples likely originated locally, probably within a mile or so. “Once you find these higher concentrations, it’s a matter of walking backwards to see if we can get closer to the source sample,” said Elsenheimer. “It’s certainly possible that some of these could lead to deposits of interest,” he said.

Other areas have shown higher concentrations

While the latest survey some areas with potential for further gold exploration, the concentrations were significantly lower than some other zones previously sampled by the DNR. The highest concentrations found in the latest sampling ranged from 15-20 gold grains per 20-pound sample. By contrast, at least one of the samples taken from the Mud Creek area, two years ago, contained over 1,000 grains of gold.

But Elsenheimer noted that initial till sampling is prettymuch hit and miss, and that future, more focused survey work could still yield much higher concentrations in the Tower-Cook zone that have been found so far. “From a technical standpoint, the results in these three or four areas were encouraging enough to do more sampling,” said Elsenheimer. “We didn’t see the fire, but maybe there’s enough smoke to justify another look.”

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