The New Gold Diggers

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"'Great Recession' drives 1849-esque prospecting frenzy."

The new gold diggersWhen gold nuggets were found in the foothills of California in 1849, a frenzy of prospecting ensued. Now, thanks to the 'Great Recession', it's happening all over again.

Not long ago, David Basque was a Northern California carpenter. In his early 20s, the work came easy and fast. . .and life was good.

Then came the Great Recession, and unemployment that spiked over 12% in California alone and 10% across the U.S. Construction dried up and even small carpentry jobs went away or paid just half of what they used to. It was, he says, very worrying.

David was sure things would work out, but then his savings dwindled and his optimism soon followed. When things looked darkest, he found he had an ace, the same ace thousands of people have been pulling out of their sleeves in the past two years as jobs dried up all over California and something approaching panic seeped through every county. David turned to gold prospecting.

He'd panned it over the years as a hobby, but with the downturn came an opportunity he had never anticipated. Just as in the recession of the early '80s, the inflation crisis of the mid '70s and even the Great Depression of the '30s, David noticed gold had not only retained its worth—it actually rose in price.

That was more than two years ago, and David hasn't lived in anything resembling suburbia since. Now, every day, David rises from the floor of his yurt—a round tent in an ancient American Indian design—grabs his machinery and hits the Klamath River.

Dredging enabled David Basque to make $1,000 in a good month; but after the state ban, it became harder for him to hit that total with slow, backbreaking methods like panning or sluicing.

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