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How do you separate gold from other substances

Q. How do you separate gold from other substances?

Blah W.
School - Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

1). One way is by 'panning'; since gold is heavier than most other substances, you can swirl water just fast enough that the gold stays in the pan while the other substances wash out. Or,

2). You can put everything into an acid that dissolves other substances and doesn't dissolve gold. Or,

3). You can put everything into a solvent that dissolves gold without dissolving the other substances, and throw away what isn't dissolved. But this one my be tough or impossible since gold is hard to dissolve and many other materials dissolve easily.

Feel free to follow up if you wish to discuss it more fully.

Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

1. Gold Panning ...

Q. I'm doing an assignment for school and I am confused. When gold panning what are :
- the raw materials
- the wastes
- the products
- chemical or physical properties; the last one I do not understand please help me.

Sophia G
student - Geelong, Victoria, Australia


Gold Panning

A. Hi, Sophia. "Gold panning" is often done in streams or lakes and consists of filling a pan with water and some of the gravel or sediment, and sloshing it until the lighter particles wash over the rim with the water, and only the densest particles remain in the pan. The central idea being that since gold is so heavy, if you execute the maneuver with some skill and experience, any gold that was there will be the last thing left. Look up 'gold panning' on if this wasn't clear.

Now that you know what gold panning is, I think you be able to answer all of the questions you presented. If you can't, then please re-read your textbook where it explains physical vs. chemical properties. But, in general, physical properties are things you measure with physical devices, like weight which is measurable with a scale. Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

sophia your rew materials are what you started with a pan not included but falls under the category the dirt and water your product is the gold and the waste is not the gold anything you would not keep is waste accept the pan that doesnt even get considered but it would be a raw material to me dont read the text book that doesnt help in real life

Danni P.
- Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
May 27, 2009

June 2, 2009

Hi, Danni. Thanks! But I don't agree with advising Sophia to not read her textbook. Textbooks are not only a great source of tutorial learning and specific information, but reading books can be a great aid to learning how to clearly express your thoughts. You may not yet see why being able to clearly express your thoughts is important in real life, but you'll surely find out :-)


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. I am working on a lab for chemistry class and I have to pan out gold from water, but the water has algae and other things in it. What can I do?

Julie Ann
- New York, New York

A. I'm not sure that algae will be a problem unless it is a type that really adheres to gravel instead of washing away. Whether the "other things" would be a problem probably depends on what they are, Julie Ann. Are you sure that you clearly understand the question and you've carefully thought about how gold panning works?

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Why do the minerals separate in hand panning?

Martin Nievera
- Manila, Philippines
March 24, 2013

A. Hi Martin. I already answered that question on this page. If what I said wasn't clear to you, please try to phrase your question in terms of the answers already offered. Thanks.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
March 24, 2013

2). Dissolving the Other Stuff in Acid to Leave Only Gold

Q. Hi sir.

How are you. Hope you will be fine. I have a question, that is:

I want to dissolve other substances that are in the gold. I require only gold. So tell me please which acid I use for this purpose. Nitric acid or something more...? I shall be thankful to you; waiting for your response.

Allama Hejazee
cafe - Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan

A. Hi, Allama

Well, if you want to dissolve those other substances, you need to know what they are before you can choose something that will dissolve them; but yes, nitric acid is both a powerful acid and a powerful oxidizer, so it does dissolve a lot of things including most metal. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Okay, nitric acid dissolves a lot of stuff alright -- but can it dissolve brass? Because I'm having a great deal of difficulties distinguishing between brass and gold?

- zimbabwe
July 27, 2012

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