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Indonesian GOLD! An Ongoing Saga

Indonesian GOLD! An Ongoing Saga

What is your first thought when you think of Indonesia? Perhaps you remember seeing “made in Indonesia” on something you bought; or maybe you associate it with being a third-world impoverished country. 

If we look at Indonesia on a map, it’s actually a huge cluster of Islands, surrounded by Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea. 

So what’s so special about indonesia? Well, it’s extremely rich in gems and minerals, boasting diamonds, exquisite chalcedony, jaspers, opal, gem silica, gold, copper, iron, nickel, and more. Indonesia actually has some of the largest gold and copper mines in the entire world!

My relationship with Indonesia began when I was dealing gemstones. Indonesia’s culture and economy thrives on gemstone trade. However, the gemstone trade can be dangerous--especially for an outsider. 

“Gambling stones” are stones that have not had the rock crust removed, so they look just like a rock, with only small features present to assist the buyer in deciding what’s inside. 

Similar to the Jade industry in China, buyers will risk thousands of dollars on some gambling stones that show promising hints of valuable gemmy meat inside. Because different stones come from different islands, sometimes the buyer has to rely on videos and photos to determine whether or not to buy a gambling stone. 

This makes the buyers choice even riskier, because with the addition of camera filters and photo/video editing technology, sellers can lure buyers in with photos and videos that have been altered to make the stone look more enticing and valuable than it actually is. 

Then there are just corrupt sellers who take your money and don’t send the stone at all, or send you a dyed stone, or send you something altogether entirely different and of lesser quality than what you bought. There is no Paypal, no buyer protection, just trust and luck.

Since I’m American, Indonesians drool at the thought of ripping me off for astronomical prices, and oh yes, did I pay in those early years for my stupidity. However, after thousands of dollars of losses, I made a friend. 

Guntar, a respectable, and trustworthy Indonesian, came out of the woodwork years ago, and helped me get my money back from a thief by assembling a team of men who actually found the thief, went to his house, and made him sign an official document that he would pay me back or go to prison! 

Over all these long years we have remained the best of friends, and he has always been honest and trustworthy with me like a brother. As you can imagine, once I had Guntar, I had the Indonesian connection, I had a way into the culture that very few outsiders have, and I got the Indonesian prices--not the foreigner prices. 


What Does This Have To Do With Gold and Metal Detecting?

Both Guntar and myself are entrepreneurs. He is constantly trying to get me to invest in lead, iron, nickel, and other resources of Indonesia that are plentiful. 

After Guntar hinted about just how much gold Indonesia had, a thought occurred to me: 

Indonesia is a country that mostly uses extremely crude mining methods. Their sluices are made of wood, they don’t have any metal detectors whatsoever, and they poison their people with the amounts of mercury they use for separating the gold.

I decided I would send a metal detector and equipment to Guntar, and we would do some research to find virgin or poorly mined land to buy up and start an operation on. The metal detector would help Guntar find gold in areas that most people could not access or did have the necessary equipment to look in. 

Many foreigners have tried to execute this exact same plan, so why didn’t it work for them? Because the local Indonesians don’t like outsiders, especially not ones who infringe on their resources. 

Guntar and I have the same exact advantage we did in the gem trading industry: Guntar IS a respected local with hundreds of connections all over the various islands, and nobody has to know who is funding the project.

You might be thinking to yourself, “you are corrupt, that’s dishonest”. But what I haven’t told you yet is that over the past year I have taken zero profit from gem trading and donated all profits to help Guntar and his family survive during the Covid 19 pandemic. Guntar’s family has received little to no money from the government (roughly $30/USD/month!). 

I plan to give back to Guntar and the Indonesian community in a similar way with a mining operation. Currently there are horrible illegal mining operations all over Indonesia, destroying the land, poisoning people, and deforming babies with mercury in the water. 

My plan is to create a stable, sustainable mining operation that will give back to the community and also be environmentally safe and hopefully be able to help heal the areas that have been wrecked someday. 

Here is a list of the equipment I sent: 

Why the Garrett ATX? It's robust, built like a tank, waterproof, and affordable yet powerful in comparison to say the SDC 2300, which is considerably more expensive. 

My friend Guntar lives in Bogor, which is near Jakarta, Indonesia. Our first test site was on a small community mine in rural Bogor. After many hours of instructional videos and one-on-one tutorials with the Garrett ATX, Guntar headed to the first target site. 

Here the miners functioned as a community, they hauled hundreds of bags up a hillside every day. At the base of the hill was a crystal clear creek, feeding the miners' operation. 

Crude mine shaft holes dotted the hill like swiss cheese, where the miners dug and followed gold veins. 

Guntar told me that each bag was worth around $1-million IDR (roughly $70 US dollars) depending on how close to the gold vein they were, and that sometimes it was less. 

He Began showing me photos of their rock crushing operation. The cylinders that crushed the rock hung from a janky cable attached to the roof above. 

After the rocks had been crushed, Guntar said they used chemicals to separate the gold from the rock dust. 

L: Locals hauling gold-rich ore up the mountain. R: A small waterfall on the nearby creek.

The rock-crushing machines. Rocks are loaded into the rectangular holes. 

L: A mine-shaft. R: Samples of quartz from the tailings piles below the mines. 

A gold-rich specimen that sets the Garrett ATX off. 

Guntar instructs me that the process to separate rock from mineral is as follows: 

Hs04 (Hydrogen Sulfate) + KN03 (Potassium Nitrate) = Hn03 (Nitric Acid) + ks04 (Hn03). 

He sends me photos of boric acid powder, fire tanks, and a fire/heat resistant container. 

When asked if the locals got gold nuggets they responded that they seldom run into them. My morale dropped, how was Guntar going to find any gold with the Garrett ATX if it was just fine gold in this mine? 

Don’t ask me how Guntar had phone service out in those jungle mountains, but somehow he managed to send me video after video of various locations along the river, asking for my approval. 

For instance, I specifically instructed him to look for cracked bedrock, gravel bars with big boulders on the inside bends of the river, river walls packed with larger rounded gravel indicating ancient riverbed, and gravel landslides. 

Unfortunately some of the signals were in the water, and although the ATX is completely waterproof, anyone who detects gold nuggets knows it is very challenging to get gold out of the water unless you have a dredge, or you’re sniping in a wetsuit. 

“Small voice” Guntar would repeat over and over, “small voice under big rock”. Therein lies our second problem: massive boulders. The deeper Guntar dug, the larger the rocks became, and so ultimately, many targets were abandoned. 

I instructed him that it wasn’t worth it to dig in fast moving water, and to find the areas where the water slows and large rocks lay, focusing more toward the banks. At this point I finally went to bed, as we are almost completely on opposite time schedules. 

To my surprise, I awoke the next morning to a photo of a bead of gold in Guntars hand. He sent a grinning emoji and sent several photos and videos of rock samples he had found with the gold in them--all fine gold!

So I ask my readers, how is it that the ATX can detect these rocks with fine gold inside of them? 

Specimens from the area giving off signals. Guntar breaks one to get to the signal.

Quartz veins in the rock.

The gold that the locals processed for Guntar into a small ingot (lighting makes it look silver, this was a terrible photo, see photo of ingot on scale). 

A photo showing a super-magnet sticking to an iron-rich rock.

Guntars second trip was up a stream on a mountainside. The problem was that the stream was very random and small. After dropping onto his GPS coordinates on Google Earth, I told Guntar there was a much larger river on the mountain just north of his location. 

My theory was that the deeper v-shaped canyon had lots of ‘gutters’ coming off the mountain that ran into it. The more water sources drain into a large water source, the more minerals that larger water source collects from all over the mountain. 

After leech bites and rain, Guntar and his crew travelled up the new location, and found some very promising signals. 

Again Guntar ran into larger and larger rocks that could not be moved to retrieve the signal. I was thinking a good fix for this could have been a come-along, but I would love suggestions from readers who have experience hiking long distance for gold and needing to pack boulder-moving equipment. 

Finally however, they came upon a very interesting spot. 

The wall of the river was a deep black color with swirls of yellow, and looked to be a conglomerate of mud and rock, so it was easily chiseled away. I told Guntar it looked like iron stone to me, but the rock had other unique characteristics that made me think there was more to the signal the Garrett ATX detector was giving off on it. 

It’s not obvious in the photos, but there were sparkly gold crystals in the rock, potentially pyrite, as well as a yellow mineral of some sort. 

Leeches!!

Guntar exploring a signal in a deep crevice between boulders:

A good spot to explore, note the conglomerate of larger rocks stuck in hard packed mud dirt & gravel:

I was skeptical of this target, however, my suspicions were cut off when Guntar returned home and found gold in the samples he took! He then took the sample to a professional, who also confirmed the presence of gold. 

However, the professional let Guntar know that his chemistry for separating the rock from the gold was off. The professional wouldn’t give away his secret recipe, but of course he wanted to know the location of where Guntar had found the gold specimens! 

The spot of ground below the wall with the yellow/black specimens: 

Yellow/black specimen close-up: 

Yellow/black specimen wall zoomed out:

Guntar with the Garrett ATX: 

A days meal for four hard workers: 

The crew trying to remove a giant boulder covering up a signal: 

The liquid brew Guntar uses to dissolve the rock. After he was done the pure liquid set a Garrett Pro-Pointer off!

CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO LINK for this Blog Article, you can watch snippets of Guntars travels!

Keep stopping in for updates, Guntars next destination is Sumatra, where he has relatives who own gold country, and there are gold nuggets and generally more gold found!

To contact me with suggestions for our Indonesian adventures, or tips and tricks for navigating the Garrett ATX, Email Keph at: kephns@gmail.com. 

Next article A Guide To Metal Detecting For Gold Nuggets