In the back room of a Midwest City home seemingly filled with more buckets of dirt than furniture, Mike Pung stands over a water trough demonstrating the basics of gold panning.
Holding a Frisbee-sized green pan, he sloshes water and dirt around to separate the heavy pieces — the gold — from the soil and other metals.
After repeating the rhythmic process of sloshing and draining, he raps the bowl with his hand, and small flecks of gold snap into formation at the edge.
“Now, here’s the fun part. Do you know where this sand came from?” he asks.
“No,” comes the response.
“Ace Hardware in the concrete section,” he says as he points to the edge of the pan. “And that’s where that gold came from.”
As the saying goes, gold really is where you find it. So, while Oklahoma isn’t known for its gold deposits like California or Colorado, Pung, president of Gold Prospectors of Oklahoma City Chapter 21, and members of his group are finding gold in the state in places such as rivers but also Ace Hardware, Lowe’s and Home Depot. All they had to do was look.
At one time, gold was evenly spread around the world, meaning each location should theoretically have a similar amount of gold. Some places, such as Colorado and California, experienced a geologic episode that produced heat, such as shifting tectonic plates. This heat caused gold and other metals to liquefy. During this process, like materials collected together, creating large deposits or veins underground. This didn’t happen to such a large extent in Oklahoma.
About 90 percent of the world’s gold is small enough to fit through the holes in a window screen, and that’s the gold Pung and other Oklahoma gold miners are trying to find.
To find gold, you must think like gold — or a lazy fish, since both prefer to linger in quiet areas of a river where the current isn’t as strong, such as behind a rock or submerged log, Pung said.
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