Mercury Question

Yukon99669

Jr. Member
Jul 30, 2020
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Alaska and Colorado
Primary Interest:
Prospecting
I’ve been using Mercury and Nitric Acid to recover super-fines from my cons. I’m not looking for a lecture on the dangers...I know what they are and I take extreme precautions.

I don’t have trouble panning most of my +70 material. Below that it gets a bit too tedious for my patience. My -70, -100, -150 cons I use my Blue Bowl and get it to about 80% clean. I then tumble the cons overnight w/ “pure lye” (Sodium Hydroxide). ...then rinse. Then the whole Mercury & Nitric Acid routine.

I’ve come across some gold here and there in the 70 mesh range that never got picked up w/ the mercury. Is there a typical limit to the size of gold that this method is effective with? ...or are there other factors that would allow me to use this method for larger gold? Is Lye as good as anything else for cleaning before Mercury?

I tend to have A LOT of -70 gold and A LOT of pyrite on my claims, making it a PITA to deal with the Super-fines...is there a better overall process for handling this?
 

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Have you tried cleaning your concentrates with nitric acid first before adding mercury, that was the method the old timers I knew used, using lye is a new one for me.
 

Have you tried cleaning your concentrates with nitric acid first before adding mercury, that was the method the old timers I knew used, using lye is a new one for me.

I have not tried Nitric A. for cleaning cons. I have heard of it though. What concentration of N.A. are you supposed to use?

I also have Hydrochloric Acid on hand. Would that work any better or worse for this?
 

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I have not tried Nitric A. for cleaning cons. I have heard of it though. What concentration of N.A. are you supposed to use?

I also have Hydrochloric Acid on hand. Would that work any better or worse for this?

What I have been taught was to put water in the pan with the concentrates and add the nitric acid till it bubbles, old school way.
 

Nitric and Lye are opposites but the goal is to rid the gold of coatings that prevent amalgamation. I think acids are probably more effective than alkalis for this.
Try tumbling your +70 with a good shot of nitric, dump in a dose of HG and let her spin. You will have a lot of flour HG but rinse it in warm water and it should come together
 

Try tumbling your +70 with a good shot of nitric, dump in a dose of HG and let her spin. You will have a lot of flour HG but rinse it in warm water and it should come together

Should the Cons be rinsed clean of the Nitric before Mercury, or are you suggesting to add it with the Nitric?
 

Should the Cons be rinsed clean of the Nitric before Mercury, or are you suggesting to add it with the Nitric?

Nope...add it together. The nitric should be diluted to the point where it does not absorb the HG.
Assuming you are using 70% nitric I would add no less than 60-70% H2o to prevent the nitric from eating the HG. You only want to clean the gold of its impurities and coatings. Add some glass marbles to help the action in the tumble. Rinse in warm water to help heal all the floured HG. You will get all of the gold
Save the first rinse aside and add aluminum foil to it. Any HG that may been eaten by the nitric will drop out when the nitric attacks the lessor metal
 

What do you do with your waste?

I don’t have much, I’d say less than 5gal. or so of anything that’s been associated with Mercury/Nitric. Once I recover my Mercury I Neutralize and dilute Nitric Acid and all associated cons. Those cons end up in the bottom of my 55gal. Burn Barrel. After a few raging yard-debris burns I feel that the cons are safe enough to toss into the kids’ sandbox. They won’t ever make it that far...I just clean out ash down to that level and add to it from time to time.
 

do you charge the mercury? could be impurity's not letting the amalgamation form,
what does lye do to the copper or other impurity's ie. does it oxidase or clean the impurity too.
charging mercury; Link...
 

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Yukon use a sturdy large super clean plastic peanut butter container to shake your cons up in. Abraision from sands will clean gold nicely and let muddy water settle before pouring excess water off. Super fines in that muddy water!
 

I add mercury just a little to my blue bowl to aid in recovery of fines from black sand . Clean up in plastic pan with nitric with the wind at my back . All loaded with gold
 

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I just don't use it so I don't know what to recommend other than Dr. Ken Williams (basement Chemist ) has the best advice on it's use !
 

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Just don't get caught also buying glycerine and :censored:... putting it together will make a BIG BIG bang......
then the Feds show up to take you and any survivors away.

Let there be peace soon,
Mike
 

Thanks for all the tips and direction everyone! I def. have an issue in this dept. and a whole lot more to learn. I really do appreciate everyone's input! I'll report back once I get to the bottom of this and get to a solution that works.
 

OK, I have another quick question...

I picked up a couple of these smallish "Pure Copper" Bowls off of Amazon.

BF173FCF-6775-4F1D-AD1A-A9888E0A6311.jpeg

I coated 1 of the bowls w/ Mercury by wiping on a 50/50 Nitric Acid/Distilled Water solution that contains mercury. So essentially a very thin layer of Mercury on the Copper bowl.

I cleaned some -70 cons with "Muriatic Acid" (Hydrochloric Acid). ....Then rinsed with Distilled Water.

Should I expect any Gold in these cons to simply "stick" to the Mercury in my Copper Bowl at this point?

Also, will Heating up the bowl outside on a Hot Plate be sufficient to get rid of the Mercury and leave me w/ Gold?

I've tried the above scenario w/ material from un-proven ground. ...So the Gold either isn't there, or my process is missing something.

If the process seems legit, I'll try it again using better material.
 

OK, I have another quick question...

I picked up a couple of these smallish "Pure Copper" Bowls off of Amazon.

View attachment 1936784

I coated 1 of the bowls w/ Mercury by wiping on a 50/50 Nitric Acid/Distilled Water solution that contains mercury. So essentially a very thin layer of Mercury on the Copper bowl.

I cleaned some -70 cons with "Muriatic Acid" (Hydrochloric Acid). ....Then rinsed with Distilled Water.

Should I expect any Gold in these cons to simply "stick" to the Mercury in my Copper Bowl at this point?

Also, will Heating up the bowl outside on a Hot Plate be sufficient to get rid of the Mercury and leave me w/ Gold?

I've tried the above scenario w/ material from un-proven ground. ...So the Gold either isn't there, or my process is missing something.

If the process seems legit, I'll try it again using better material.

I have read where, when this method is used, smaller particles of gold will stick to the mercury coated copper and is collected by simply squeegee(ing)it off. The scraped gold will still need to be rid of some attached mercury by what ever means and, back in the day, heating it until the mercury vaporised was the accepted method....but best done in a retort for both personal safety and environmental reasons.
 

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Never seems to be an "old timer' when you need one.
 

Arizau is correct in the use of a retort ! BUT if you heat the bowl outside or anywhere , yes the Mercury will vaporize and go up in the air BUT when it cools off the now small Mercury will drop to the ground and now CONTAMINATE the ground and if caught you could absorb a LARGE FINE ! This kinda makes me wanna think NOT TO DO THIS ! Use the retort and if you dont know about useing one then DONT and have someone else that does know what they are doing do it for you !
 

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