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We have found gold because we are explorers, have an eye for such things and like to go away from civilisation; but if you don't want to travel then you will be better off doing something else like playing poker, the lottery, or simply working hard on a routine job.
Indeed, you can actually find and extract gold by exploring rivers and mountains in the middle of nowhere; we have done that and we have found gold. We know how much it is worth, and why, for extracting it is not as simple as just taking it our of the rock or water and the processes required use in all cases highly toxic, environmentally dangerous and polluting substances. Working with those is not something for an amateur gold panner.
Gold is obtained from primary or secondary sources, depending on whether it is extracted from naked rock or the source is the bottom of a water stream. Gold can be easily distinguished among sand and other minerals by its colour and shine, which is very characteristic and unmistakable. However, golden nuggets are always very small and mechanical extraction using manual tools is an unnerving experience: you will become insane before you extract a reasonable quantity in this way.
Thus, gold prospectors use physical and chemical means to accelerate the process but in all cases, all known methods imply the use of dangerous substances that require extremely careful handling; intoxication with any of those substances is usually fatal. Among them, sodium cyanide and mercury are common; cyanide usually produces a fast death, but mercury, which is a heavy metal, produces long suffering periods of almost impossible recovery. Just touching any of these substances with bare hands may be enough to kill you.
And this is the reason why gold extraction is not for casual adventurers; things doesn't work like in the movies; only dare if you have the spirit of a true explorer. Be very careful when dealing with these substances and indeed, don't try to use them without proper qualifications, equipment and licenses. Consider that if you don't know exactly what you are doing, you might even contaminate the soil and water streams, and cause major environmental damage as well as potentially very serious health problems to other people who might be in the area or downstream.
A true scene of gold panning and nugget extraction.
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