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Gold prospectors take advantage of drought in California, as river beds reach low levels

Gold panned near Coloma, Calif., is pictured in a April 16, 2009 photo.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rich Pedroncelli

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Gold panned near Coloma, Calif., is pictured in a April 16, 2009 photo.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rich Pedroncelli

AUBURN, Calif. - Gold prospectors are eyeing Northern California riverbeds, hoping to spot something shiny, as water levels dip to historically low levels during the drought,

In Placer County, rivers have dropped to levels that haven't been touched in decades, opening new possibilities for prospectors, the Sacramento Bee reported on Sunday (http://bit.ly/1d4HnOt ).

"Stuff that's normally submerged in water is now available," said James Hutchings, Sacramento chapter president of the Gold Prospectors Association of America.

The exposed cracks and crevices can hold chunks of gold that have washed down from the mountains, Hutchings said.

There are few if any professional miners in the area because of a moratorium on suction dredge mining, the Bee reported.

Last Thursday, truck driver Michael Albin was among a handful of amateur prospectors along the Bear River in Colfaxe. Albin came away with a gold chip in his pan about one-fourth the size of a pea — enough to keep him coming back.

"When you see the black sand, you'll see the gold," he said, reciting a tip from experienced prospectors.

Albin has spent about $100 on prospecting equipment, including buckets and a sifter, and he plans to buy a sluice box for $1,000 for summer, when water levels drop even more. The boxes can process more material than a pan.

Spending like that has been a boon for businesses.

"A lot more people are curious," said Heather Willis, co-owner of Pioneer Mining Supplies in Auburn. Business was up by 10 per cent, she said.

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Information from: The Sacramento Bee, http://www.sacbee.com

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