Treasure hunting television shows such as the Travel Channel’s Cash and Treasures are getting more and more people interested in modern day fee digs and fee mining. These fee mining excursions can be a popular way for the whole family to spend a vacation or even just a day trip, especially if you like the outdoors. However, the terms “fee mining” and “fee dig” can mean a lot of different things to mine operators. Before you make arrangements for such a trip, be sure to check what is offered by the location you wish to visit. These assorted types of fee mining require various degrees of physical activity and can range quite broadly in terms of cost.
Fee Mining in Virgin Ground
Fee mining in virgin rock is the most physically challenging form of this activity, but it can also offer the greatest possible rewards. This type of fee dig generally involves the miner or claim owner using a track hoe or other mining equipment to clear out an area and prepare it to be mined with hand tools such as picks and shovels.
Since you’ll be the first person to mine this area, the rewards could be great. You won’t be picking through anyone else’s castoffs. On the other hand, you might spend an entire day mining in the hot sun and have very little to show for it. Because of the potential for great rewards, this is typically the most expensive form of fee mining and can cost anywhere from $100 to $500 per day, depending on the mine.
Fee Mining in Tailings Piles
Tailings are the leftover rocks and gravel that come from digging or blasting out a new area of the rock to mine. While these are not as rich in potential as virgin ground, you can still find a lot of nice gems when sifting through tailings. It’s also a lot easier to get access to these piles than to a fresh mine.
This form of fee mining is not nearly as physically intensive as chopping at virgin rock, but it can get exhausting after you have been at it for awhile. This is especially true in hot weather or at high altitudes. In general, fee digs at tailings sites are much cheaper than at a fresh mine, and there is still a decent chance that you could find some valuable specimens.
Fee Mining from a Bucket
Other mining operations go a step further and offer buckets of gravel for fee miners to sift through. These buckets usually come from tailings piles and can vary a lot in size. Mines that offer this option tend to have a nicely shaded area where you can wash and sort through the gravel at your leisure.
This is, by far, the least physically-demanding form of fee mining on location. Some mines even have an indoor air-conditioned area where you can sort through the bucket of rocks. Even though prices can vary, this tends to be the cheapest form of fee digging in most locations. These operations may charge a daily or hourly rate, or they may charge by the bucket.
Fee Mining from Home
Nowadays, some mines are offering mail-order fee mining. You can purchase a container of gravel and mining ore and have it shipped directly to your home. In almost all cases, the bag you receive will be “salted.” That is, it will have gems manually added to it. This is done so the buyer won’t feel cheated by purchasing a bag of rocks with no gems.
This form of fee mining is so different from being on location that I am hesitant to call it fee mining at all. Despite that, it can still be a lot of fun, especially if you have children and would like to teach them a little bit about geology.
Remember, no particular definition of fee mining is necessarily “better” than another. You should choose what you believe will be the most fun for you and your family. In the end, having fun is what a vacation should be all about. Everything else is just a bonus.