Gold prospectors use tools such as gold pans, sluice boxes, drywashers or highbankers to find gold. Modern prospectors may use metal detectors to help locate likely spots, while commercial mining operations use trommels to help crush rocks and separate gold.
Gold is heavier than most rock, so most gold prospecting tools use gravity to help separate it from the surrounding ore. Prospectors choose a likely spot, get a chunk of ore and separate it. The traditional gold pan is used for this, but is slow and ineffective. Sluice boxes and highbankers use water to help separate the gold from other ore, while drywashers use air. Drywashers are less efficient, but are often the only option in desert regions. Trommels use a motor and spin to separate the gold.
Prospectors may also need tools to separate potential veins of gold from surrounding rock. Rock hammers are useful for this on a small scale, while a chisel and sledgehammer is often used for larger rocks. In rivers and streams, some prospectors use suction dredges to pull soil and rock from the bottom of the waterway so it can be sifted. However, suction dredges are prohibited in many prospecting areas.
Although it is not directly used to locate gold, safety equipment is also important. Prospectors use safety goggles to protect their eyes from flying rock chips, and ropes and headlamps to navigate through mines.