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Veins of Gold

You could say he likes doing things the hard way. When most of us think about ways to procure gold, panning for it or buying it come to mind. Clark Sabel of Canyon Country has a different method--hard-rock mining.

Sabel, 48, has been extracting gold and other precious metals from rock for 17 years. The hard-rock mining process--which involves crushing the rock, converting it to a concentrate, then bathing it in a water-based chemical solution that extracts the precious metals--is usually reserved for large mining operations, not one man.

With hands scarred from years of doing battle with Mother Earth, Sabel carries two plastic buckets up a 200-yard trail in the northeastern Angeles National Forest near Palmdale. The hike back down--with buckets full of more than 110 pounds of rock--will be much less forgiving.

An electrical contractor by trade, Sabel used to call mining a hobby of sorts, but has now turned it into a second career.

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This particular mine, which in its heyday in the 1930s made rich men with gold, silver, copper and quartz, is now all but vacant. The miners are gone. Vandals and campers are some of the more recent visitors who walk by the rock-lined walls without realizing their hidden value.

“I take what others walk right by. They just don’t know what they’re looking at,” Sabel says of the gold and other metals in the old mine’s rocks and walls.

Using the chemical process, which can take from five hours to seven days, Sabel extracts gold and other precious metals.

At best, Sabel will harvest a quarter of an ounce of gold for every 55-pound bucket of rock that he mines. He says: “Most people would turn and walk away from it. For me, it’s all the lure of finding gold. It’s taking a piece of Mother Nature and saying, ‘Look what she gave to Clark.’ ”

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