Prospector Finds Huge Ancient Sputtering Target Buried in the Mohave Desert

Wheeler McClintock, a solitary 78-year-old prospector, noticed something funny while he was riding his Burro Molly across the Mohave Desert in central California last October.

This prospector in this photo may not have struck it rich, but you can turn your used platinum sputtering targets into gold at Specialty Metals.

This prospector in this photo may not have struck it rich, but you can turn your used platinum sputtering targets into gold at Specialty Metals.

“It was just weird,” McClintock told us in a recent call. “I looked down at Molly and thought I saw that all the brass rivets on her collar were shining brighter than usual. I jumped off to get a closer look and was pretty doggone sure that they were coated with platinum. Didn’t they used to be brass? Then I pulled out my tin cup and canteen to wet my parched whistle and golly day, they were coated with platinum too. Same with my glasses, my pickaxe and spade, my beer can opener, my earring and even the fillings in my teeth. I thought I was going crazy or about meet my maker in the great beyond.”

McClintock rushed to the county Assay Office to stake his claim. “They wouldn’t let me, even if I used one of the `Other’ forms that they use for UFO stuff,” McClintock recalls. “They wanted more info.”

Under the cover of a dark moonless night, McClintock rode Molly out into the desert again, armed with a $79 metal detector and a long metal spike. Returning to the site of his first plating, he stuck the spike into the ground, hit a metal object buried about a foot underground, then continued out in wider and wider circles while probing and testing at every stage. “I was trying to get the measurements of this thing, whatever it is,” he explained.

Finally, he had his answer. He had found a huge disk, about 100 yards in diameter, buried underground. “The Assay Office let me stake my claim, based on that information,” McClintock explains. “But since I had no idea what I had really found or what to do with it, I called the best precious metals refiners in the US, Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344, to ask what I had on my hands. This real nice feller was happy to help me.”

“We’re not yet absolutely sure yet what Mr. McClintock has discovered,” states one of the precious metals recycling experts from Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners. “Whatever it is, it is functioning as a huge platinum sputtering target, probably because of radioactive uranium deposits underneath. That’s why any metal objects that pass over it get quickly plated with platinum.”

Where did this thing come from? It could have been created millions of years ago by a meteorite hitting the earth. Or maybe even it was left behind, or created, by a UFO when it landed. We’ll get to the bottom of it. How much is Mr. McClintock’s find worth? Nothing, sad to say, because there is really no Mr. McClintock and this story is all made up.

But weird things happen on April Fool’s Day, right? Best wishes for recycling success from all of us at Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners.

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Plating Primer: How Do Sputtering Targets Work?

A Brief – and Useful – History of Fool’s Gold

You’ve probably heard the term “fool’s gold.”  But what is it? Since we’re gold refiners, we can offer this explanation . . .

Why Is It Called Fool’s Gold?

Shown: Fools Gold (pyrite), which, unlike real gold-bearing scrap, can not be recycled and refined by Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners.

Shown: Fools Gold (pyrite), which, unlike real gold-bearing scrap, can not be recycled and refined by Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners.

It got that name because it fools people. Wherever prospectors have searched for gold through the centuries, some of them have also found quantities of fool’s gold, a shiny mineral that is often found near gold in mineral deposits, but which is worth far less. According to legend, some of those prospectors “foolishly” believed they had found gold and struck it rich. 

What Is It Exactly?

It is really called pyrite. Unlike gold, which is an element, pyrite is an iron sulfide with the formula FeS2. It’s found in coal beds, quartz veins, and sedimentary rock. It has also been found as a replacement mineral in various fossils. In other words, it has flowed in to fill the cavities in snails, shells, and other ancient fossils. Some pyrite-filled fossils can be quite beautiful.

What Can Pyrite Be Used For?

It is used as commercial source of sulphur dioxide, which is used in paper manufacturing and other industries. It has also been used to make iron sulfate, and in the manufacturing of rechargeable lithium batteries. In earlier times, it was used as a “flint” to produce sparks in guns and cannons; when it is struck against steel, sparks fly.

Can It Be Used to Make Fake Gold Jewelry?

No, it cannot. It is not malleable enough to be formed into jewelry. Also, it is not chemically stable and would degrade quickly if allowed to remain in contact with the human skin. However – and interestingly – pyrite has been extensively used to form the small, shiny jewels in marcasite jewelry, which was quite popular in Victorian times.

Can You Still be Fooled by Fool’s Gold Today?

Maybe you could be if you happen to find some while you are hiking in an area where there are a lot of mineral deposits. But could you be fooled by a quantity of fool’s gold that you have on hand among your recyclable precious metals? The chances of that are very slim, since pyrite can’t be used in cellphones, microprocessors, or the many other applications where real gold has found so many uses today.

Don’t Be Foolish and Ignore the Real Gold Hiding in Your Scrap

You may be sitting on a treasure trove of real gold at this very moment, in gold-bearing scrap like used computer circuit boards, sputtering targets, eyeglass frames and more. As one of America’s best gold refiners, Specialty Metals can recycle your gold-bearing scrap and turn it into real gold – and real profits – for your company. Contact us at 800-426-2344 to learn more today.

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