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Placer Gold

Image of a watercolour painting of a waterfall on Black Brook, Oldham, Nova Scotia, one of Nova Scotia’s gold districts.

Placer gold forms when ancient gold-bearing rocks are eroded by the action of water in river beds and then concentrated downstream or along beaches, where the river meets the ocean.

How Placer Gold is Deposited

Placer gold forms when river water erodes an older gold deposit, laying it down elsewhere in the river as flecks and nuggets.

Diagram showing how placer gold is deposited.

The white arrows in this diagram indicate the path of the fastest, highest energy current, which scours the side of the stream bed. The stream bends will migrate in the direction of the red arrows as a result of this erosion. Gold will deposit where the slower parts of the stream allow the gold to sink and settle. This can happen downstream of obstacles which block the current, such as boulders and logs or inside meander bends.

Gold will deposit wherever the flow of the stream is slowest, such as along the inside of meander bends and downstream of obstacles like boulders or logs. Gold nuggets deposit in the sand and gravel, and build up over time. As erosion causes the river to migrate, these concentrated gold deposits migrate with the river and form long, linear "pay shoots". Pay shoots are much sought after by placer gold miners.

Image of a black pan with gravel and gold in it, illustrating how gold is separated from the gravel using the panning method.

The gold in this pan is placer gold from Nova Scotia.

Placer gold can be mined by panning. River sediments are gathered in the pan with water and swished around. Gold is heavier than sediment and sinks to the bottom of the pan.

Geological map of Nova Scotia showing where bedrock gold and placer gold deposits can be found around the province.

This map shows areas where bedrock gold and placer gold deposits can be found throughout the province, as well as the underlying geology.