It doesn’t take much to dig up some fun – and income – in Princeton in the spring.
Anyone with a shovel and a gold pan can be a hobby miner and prospect the Similkameen River.
“There’s absolutely no reason for anyone in Princeton to be unemployed,” according to Gino Del-Ciotto, professional prospector and founder of the Princeton and District Placer Miners’ Club. “We literally have a pay cheque flowing through our town.”
The newly formed miner’s club held its first public gold panning demonstration Sunday on the shores of the Similkameen, just east of the Highway 3 bridge.
About a dozen people turned out to learn the ABCs of gold panning and have an opportunity to try their skills and luck. Beginners and seasoned prospectors dug holes, tested samples, panned and came away with gold flakes, small nuggets and even tiny rubies and garnets.
It was the first of many planned group events, said Del-Ciotto. “The ultimate goal of the club is to spread placer miner knowledge.”
Matthew Duguay, a mining professional from near Ashcroft, spent Sunday at the river and it didn’t take him long to “find color.”
Holding up a pan with black dirt and golden sparkles he said” “When I see stuff like this that just tells me to keep going….I come here all the time on my days off to do this as a hobby.”
Duguay said panning in the Similkameen “absolutely” turns a profit.
Del-Ciotto believes gold panning is an un-mined recreational opportunity in the Princeton area. “It’s a very high quality family hobby that people can take up together. It’s far better than watching your kids sit and play on their iPhones.”
The Similkameen River – between A and W and the former Tourist Centre – is one of about 11 public panning reserves in British Columbia. That means no one needs a claim or a license as long as they are prospecting only with hand pans and shovels.
Additionally, the Similkameen and Tulameen areas represent one of only two places in the world where platinum, in addition to gold, can be found the river.
Del-Ciotto, who also owns Eureka Gold Sands, said hobby mining presents a fourteen-karat tourism opportunity for the Town of Princeton. “There’s nothing like this close to Vancouver,” he said, “It would be a really good way to put Princeton on the map.”