Selecting the Right Highbanker
Doc, The GOLDHOG ®
This is a tough article to write being a designer, inventor, and manufacturer of highbankers, but I think having some insight into MY mind, will help you decide on the right highbanker regardless of the manufacturer or even self-made. However, it’s not often the CUSTOMER… gets a chance to go inside the brain of the person that actually designed the product they are considering buying. I thought it might be a fun read for many.
My #1 rule when designing equipment is that we DON’T MAKE TOYS. Period… end of discussion. We have designed several units that never made it to market because… they felt like toys and worked like toys. I refuse to sell and put my name on any highbanker that feels and works like a toy. A highbanker, regardless of size, should be able to run large amounts of unclassified pay / dirt and do so efficiently.
Next I apply my “mining math” rule. Mining math is pretty simple. Look at a pile of dirt and understand a simple fact. There is X… amount of gold in every bucket / yard / ton of material. That’s it. That is a FACT or KNOWN factor that cannot change.
If the dirt is really good, say $30 – $40 / yard pay, then you know you need to run X… amount of material to recover X… amount of gold. So the next factor is… how fast can I run this dirt EFFICIENTLY and capture the majority of the gold. (Let’s say at least 98% capture rate.)
Also we need to apply the HUMP factor. (From my days as a Marine) It’s great to have the finest equipment in the world, but you need to HUMP all that stuff / gear to your location of operation.
Finally the cost and not just the cost of the highbanker, but the other gear needed to run it.
Let’s start backwards and address these.
WHY START BACKWARDS?
Most people don’t realize that a substantial part of the “mining cost” is your pump. That’s why when designing our newest series of highbankers I started with the pumps FIRST. Find a CHEAP, reliable, pump and you reduce the cost of the equipment greatly. That’s why ALL of our units can run on a $250 or less expensive water pump. Most of these pumps come with intakes and hoses so to get started… it saves a great deal. Keep in mind, WE DON’T SELL PUMPS or HOSES. With all the options out there and quick and easy ordering, it doesn’t make sense. You can jump on Amazon and have your pump in 3 – 6 days. The “average person” is running a highbanker 10 – 20 times a year and these pumps work perfect for them. (Champion 2″ shown below) A great pump FOR THE MONEY… we own 5 of these pumps, some years old, and no failures as of yet.
THE HUMP FACTOR?
Buying a MASSIVE piece of equipment seems like a great idea. “I’m going to run HUGE amounts of material and get lots of gold.” That is until you get half way in to your journey and say… I quit. I just can’t haul all this gear by myself. That’s why I designed three sizes of highbankers. The Mini Piglet, The Raptor Flare, and the SuperHog. (Raptor Flare broken down below)
For the average person the Raptor Flare or Raptor Flare with the extension is the ONLY highbanker they will ever need. It’s that SWEET SPOT of size and performance. But if you have to haul equipment miles and miles, are older, or simply want something very portable then consider a Mini. (I like the mini with the extension) 20 pounds vs. 50 pounds might not SEEM like a lot, but 4 miles in… it’s a huge difference. If the hump is not an issue… want to run a huge amount of pay? Then obviously the world’s largest highbanker, the SUPERHOG might be an option. At 13 feet long it will eat more pay than you and 8 people can give it. It can easily run a bucket of unclassified material every 20 – 30 seconds.
(SuperHog highbanker in FULL production mode below)
MINING MATH ? MY AREA? MY GOLD?
I get these questions every day from potential customers. Will the unit work in MY area? I only have super fine gold? We have LOTS of clay, will it work? HONESTY… INTEGRITY… and the ability to say NO to a customer will always serve a company well. I wish more companies would do this. If something (a product) is NOT going to perform well for a customer… JUST TELL THEM. Nothing is worse than “BS” and an unhappy customer.
A LOT of my time is spent working with commercial operations in 25 different countries. A lot of this time is spent shaking my head saying… how are these idiots actually catching GOLD in that sluice? Believe it or not most PROSPECTORS have a better understanding of gold recovery. TRUE STATEMENT. I could send just about any of my CUSTOMERS down there and fix your “plant” within a week. But my point is simple. It DOES NOT MATTER what size of gold you have… what material you are running… or what challenges you face. There IS… a solution.
When we design, build and test our equipment we test it on ALL types of material from all over the US. (and around the world) It’s important. How can I possibly say YES… it will work if I don’t know? Because of the varying flows, widths, exchange, and matting configurations, our units will work well in ALL areas except running beach sands. Beach sands are a TOUGH material to run and I’d rather say “use caution”.
I know our mats work well on them… but the unit design needs to be slightly different with different matting and slower feed rates. Proven by ONE MAN… recovering over 20 ounces of SUPER FINE beach gold, 100 – 300 mesh, by himself in only 2 months using our matting. For everyone else we have a 98% capture rate guarantee. The confidence to KNOW you are running efficiently is vital to mining.
HOW MANY PEOPLE, HOW MUCH DIRT?
Believe it or not I actually DOWN SELL a lot of customers. Many will be looking at a SUPERHOG then I ask the important questions. 1- How many people will you have to run the unit? 2- How much dirt can you realistically move in one hour? Often this is the form of BUCKETS. Let’s face it… it’s EASY to RUN buckets, but someone has to dig and fill them. Someone has to hump them to the dumper. So… I encourage customers to think in terms of BUCKETS realistically.
One thing I NEVER do, and don’t allow at my company, is bad mouthing other manufacturers’ equipment. It’s a RULE I imposed from day one of our business. You should be able to sell YOUR product by showing the features and benefits to the consumer and let them decide. That being said… I will point out design flaws of older highbankers and how we improved them or changed them.
Why so many mats?
We vary the matting in our units from section to section. Why? It’s simple… gold varies in both shape and size. Sometimes if varies greatly. Varying the matting is a KEY and ESSENTIAL part of good recovery. I know what many will say… “All we have is fine gold.”… trust me I get it. However, every once in a while, if you mine enough, you WILL find some gold that varies and you need to have a capture system in place that is designed for all the varying shapes and sizes. Our units are designed for ALL sizes of gold with the understanding that the bulk of the gold found by most prospectors is FINE GOLD. However, any size gold will be caught up to large nuggets. If a highbanker only has ONE capture surface all the way down, I would avoid it.
Spray Bars Not Only Spray… But Suck Too…
To me, spray bars are the worst design element still used by many companies. I will NEVER… sell a highbanker with them. Here’s why… spray bars are up high and spray water downward on dirt. When you put dirt in the hopper, that water shoots back up and gets you soaking wet. Next… because the dirt goes BETWEEN the spray bars (water source) and the sluice, it interrupts the water flow causing the sluice flow to vary and the GPH reaching the sluice to change every time you put in a shovel full of dirt. Our designs use destruction chambers. You NEVER have to worry about UPWARD spray and getting wet, unless you have the occasional HUGE rock in the box. Also the water flow is constant 100% of the time. DIRT… never changes the flow rate. (Destruction chamber using a PUSH flow and the clay claw below)
The clay claw…
Having dirt wash a steady rate really helps your gold recovery. I designed the CLAY CLAW not only to deal with clay, but to also slow down the dirt to water mixture ratio. Rocks are held in place until YOU let them go and they are REALLY clean. Dirt is washed a slightly slower steadier rate. While it is an OPTION on our units, I highly recommend them on all.
One Short Sluice…
Your FEED RATE really determines the length of your sluice. If you’re running 200 yards an hour would you rely on a 48” sluice? No… and the same applies to a highbanker. If you want to feed it heavy, you need SPACE… in the form of length and width to handle the extra load of slurry. Our units are long and have varying widths. We also offer extensions on ALL our units. The simple rule is… the heavier you feed the longer the sluice. This is due to INCREMENTAL PROCESSING. (A great video to watch FYI)
Varying Widths, Flows, and Capture Zones…
You’ll notice something different with our highbankers. Our highbankers start off rather narrow then flare out in further sections. In HIGH PRODUCTION runs this is critical to capturing all sizes of gold. It creates VARYING EXCHANGES AND CAPTURE ZONES. Let me explain.
When you vary the WIDTH you vary the GALLONS PER WIDTH INCH running through the unit. So if I’m running 7000 gph into the sluice the upper portion is getting 777 gallons per width inch. (9” divided by 7000) The water is deeper and has more ENERGY. Then we FLARE OUT that slurry to 14” in the Raptor. Now you have 500 gallons per width inch. The water is shallower and much smoother. At this point we change the matting configuration to match that flow. WHY? HAVING A MATTING TO MATCH THE TOTAL ENERGY AND EXCHANGE IS A CRITICAL FACTOR IN CAPTURE OF VARYING SIZE GOLD. Running the same “riffles” all the way down your sluice just won’t cut it. You need to have varying zones. Yes… I think I’ve said this 10 times already.
All our units breakdown into VERY portable sizes. Most will fit into the trunk of a car, nevertheless a small truck bed. I see it all the time. A small car pulls up and out of the trunk comes a Raptor Flare. We also have designed the units to be 100% aluminum. Not an easy task. The legs and even the grizzly bars are made from aluminum reducing the weight greatly.
Building your own equipment can be fun and often save some money. However, before doing it for solely COST SAVINGS… make SURE you plan ALL THE WAY THROUGH the build. It’s often the little items that end up costing more than you think and impacting performance. Example… Legs and leg brackets. If you are going to build a double / extended sluice highbanker, which you should, you will often need 4 SETS of legs and leg brackets. These can easily run $25 – $35 a SET. It’s not unusual to have $150 in just your LEG system. Then you still have to find a shop to make flares, bend metal, grizzly bars, etc, etc, etc.
Self builds are fun projects, but be aware that they can often end up costing the same or more than a quality made highbanker from a manufacturer. If you’re a “metal guy” with all the right tools… have at it. But for the average person I really recommend buying a unit ready to run.
So which on is right for me?
I think a lot of people put BUDGET at the top of the list when selecting. Trust me, I get it. You work HARD for your money and want to spend it WISELY… but keep that word in mind. WISELY. Our top selling unit is our Raptor Flare. It’s extremely high quality and quite portable for most jobs. It’s great for two people or group of 6. We designed it to perform at a HIGH RUN RATE, 100 buckets an hour, but still be cost effective at $897 with everything included except the pumps and hoses. (Which we never sell) When answering emails from customers, it’s the unit we recommend to 90% of them and has all the design features mentioned above.
My last “golden rule”…
If I don’t use it, I don’t sell it. If I could make a BETTER product, I would. PERIOD! The evolution of our highbankers is a fast one, with many changes over the years. This ability to improve is just one of the reasons our products have grown in popularity.