The question that sometimes comes to mind in reading this short passage is “how did Nephi know there was gold, and silver, and copper?” After all, he was not a geologist, he had no experience that we know of from the scriptural record that he knew what formations produced gold, or had experience digging in the ground for veins of gold, though he had at a young age dug for buried treasure, which in later years he referred to as frivolous and immaterial. Some have suggested that he used the “seer stone” to find the gold in the Land of Promise, but whether or not that occurred, the point here is that finding gold in undiscovered, virgin territory is not as hard as one might think.
According to prospectors of the early 19th century America, only a few factors needed to be understood. And today, with greater knowledge and prospecting understanding, these early points have borne out to be factual.
Top: A dry ravine where gold is found along the bedrock of the once gushing water creek; Bottom Left: Vertical exposed cliff face, showing signs of gold and other metals; Bottom Right: An exposed gold vein along the surface
Originally, gold comes from hydrothermal vents, and metamorphic rocks with gold comes from reformation of old sedimentary deposits under heat and pressure. As rocks soften, they break down and curate more rapidly, while harder rocks that are more tightly welded curate over longer periods. It doesn’t take long to realize that certain telltale signs show great probability of gold, such as white lines running horizontally, corresponding to gold potentially injected into rock deposits via quartz stringers and cracks caused by hydrothermal venting through vents into the rock anciently showing in a belt of greenstone commonly known as serpentine.
Left Quartz stringers; Right: Serpentine rock with telltale gold deposits; neither are hard to identify once seen, and often on the surface of virgin creek beds and ravines
It is also interesting that there are three types of rocks, igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic, and gold can be found in all of them. The difference among them has to do with how they are formed—igneous rocks are formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava; sedimentary, as an example, are formed from particles of sand, shells, pebbles and other fragments of material and together, all these particles are called sediment; and metamorphic rocks are created by the physical or chemical alteration by heat and pressure of an existing igneous or sedimentary material into a denser form. In fact, leftover gold-veined rocks often sit near the surface of the earth, making it possible to find as Nephi suggests they did.
Left: Quartz stringer—the red earth and black background and white stringer shows the host rock is deteriorating rapidly. Such signs are usually connected to gold deposits; Right: Quartz stringers showing very noticeable gold and silver deposits
Left: trace of (white arrow) gold in rock that could easily be missed without very careful looking; Right: However, overly flecked rock with gold traces is far more obvious, especially for those familiar with gold as Nephi and Sam would have been
Left: Gold and silver-bearing vein. The Gold vein is seen as the white quartz-calcite-adularia vein in the andesite. But also note all of the material to the left of the vein—this is a fault zone with quartz stringers and contains low grade gold values; Right: Note the iron stained (gossan) in the blue
serpentinite. Some serpentinites have gold, some platinum and palladium, some will have nickel
It is also interesting that Nephi writes that they found both gold, and silver, and copper, since these three metals are not that often found together, and in studies of Mesoamerica, not at all, yet in both Chile and Peru, the three metals are found in single ore.
Four samples of gold, silver and copper found in single ore
All of this is located in the area of Chile, which is the world’s largest producer of Copper, almost five times more than second place China, and ten times more than tenth place Mexico, with Peru third; As for gold, Chile ranks 4th (after Australia, South Africa and Russia), Peru ranks 8th with Mexico 13th and about one-third that of Chile (the world’[s biggest gold-mining countries are: Argentina, Brazil and Chile with Mexico 16th); and as for Silver, Mexico is first in production, with Peru a close third and Chile 7th; however in silver reserves, Peru is first and Chile 4th, with Mexico 6th. In the Western Hemisphere, Chile and Peru are at the top of having gold, silver and copper; Mexico is not in the top ten of these three metal ores.
When Nephi says they found gold, silver and copper, and Mormon describes both the Land North and the Land South (Chile and Peru) having an abundance of gold, no other area in all of the Western Hemisphere matches that description.
In addition, it should be obvious that any location claimed to the the Land of Promise would have to have all these points adjacent to Lehi’s landing site covered in these first five posts of this series, and Mesoamerica none at all to speak of.
(See the next post, “Finding Lehi’s Isle of Promise – Part VI,” as to the two additional points Nephi covered besides those he discovered adjacent to his landing site)