How The Most Efficient Gold Mining Placer Dredge Began

Being born with a learning disability isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If it wasn’t for his dyslexia, Shell Dredging founder Richard “R.E.” Shell would never have looked at dredging differently than everyone else. He would have accepted the status quo riffle system he was first introduced to in Idaho in the late 1950s and left it at that.

But R.E. Shell was a bit of a visionary. And his dyslexia helped him create a revolutionary dredging system that has been used in gold mining operations across the U.S., and in Costa Rica, Peru, Canada, and Central and South America.

Shell Dredging has deep roots in placer gold mining, dating back almost 50 years when the company’s first suction dredge was engineered and built. But it was during a vacation in Idaho in 1958 that R.E. Shell’s mining career really began.

He was walking along the Snake River where he noticed a man working a riffle system he had set up in a rocker. The man shoveled gravel into his rocker, rocked it gently, and watched as the tailings flowed back into the river. But his riffles would trap black sand and blind the riffles, and the fine gold was washing right over the black sand-clogged riffles and back into the river. When R.E. asked the man why he was not catching the fine gold as well, the man told him he’d be a very rich man if he could.

Revolutionizing Gold Dredging Equipment

That was enough to convince R.E. he needed to find a way concentrating and classifying fine grain sands with reverse riffles (slots instead of riffles) to catch the fine gold. Unfortunately, his results repeated experiments were less than impressive.

One day, while feeding concentrates through the trays, he became frustrated when the fine gold kept getting hung up. He grabbed a heavy titanium screwdriver his grandfather had given him as a gift—a custom tool he made while working for Allison Engines During the Second World War—and soundly struck the trays. To his amazement, the gold started to fall out through the slots, so he began pounding on the trays with the screwdriver. Every time he struck, the gold would move more freely and fall through the slots. It was then that R.E. realized the vibration from striking the trays was the trick to dislodging the goal. So he created a innovative high frequency vibration system that would shake the gold loose.

Shell Dredging’s first dredge was built in the late 1960s for mining at Grass Valley, California, producing a very large amount of flour gold in just three months. Since then Shell has built many suction dredges with its proprietary technology, using them in gold mining operations all over the world.

Shell Dredging: Still Going Strong

Though Richard retired more than a decade ago, he wasn’t quite ready to make his proprietary technology public. Instead, he’s turned his attention to using it to save lakes and rivers from severe environmental damage by focusing on building dredges for mercury remediation.

In addition to placer mining, Shell Dredging uses its jet suction placer dredges to extract mercury and other sludge and residue safely and cost-effectively to preserve waterways and save the environment. The equipment is 100% environmentally friendly, uses no chemicals, and complies with all environmental standards worldwide. Contact us for more information on how Shell Dredging can help with your mercury clean-up and recovery.