Above: Kim demonstrates the Turbopan at North Queensland
Gold Panning Championships, 2007
Turbopan was designed by Kim Hillier, an Australian geologist and prospector with over 20 years experience in mineral exploration and gold prospecting. His first experience with gold pans was using traditional steel "Klondike" pans, as well as plastic gold pans, while doing panned concentrate sampling surveys for alluvial and hard rock gold.
The process of panning down samples was slow and the results highly variable, depending on the skill and enthusiasm of the panner. He found that compaction of black sands often stopped gold getting right to the bottom of the pan, and it could be lost if the panner wasn’t careful.
It was also a slow process!
He saw a need for a pan that would require a lot less technique, was easy for beginners to use, and could reduce a load of dirt quickly – while being cheap enough to be available to all budget sizes. He figured the necessary requirements of a good gold pan would be to:
- Get the gold to the bottom and into a trap as quickly and as effectively as possible
- Get the waste out as quickly as possible while not losing any gold
- Allow concentrates to be cleaned up quickly and effectively
In 2000 Kim entered his first gold panning championship: The Far North Queensland Gold Panning Championship. He won the Men’s Skilled event. He won it again in 2004, as well as winning a Queensland Championship in 2003. Kim went in his first World Gold Panning Championship in 2001, when it was held in Australia.
In 2004 he won the un-official category of Enduro Gold Panning at the World Championships, panning 80kg of dirt in 22 minutes. Kim has been a Grand Finalist at the World level 5 times, putting him in the top 30 gold panners in the World.
Above: The CAD design for Turbopan
After a couple of do-it-yourself attempts at building a gold pan, in 2005 Kim decided to get serious about designing a gold pan that could compete with the super-fast flat Finnish pans. More importantly it needed to be useful to prospectors and artisan miners who were forced to work in less than ideal conditions, often with less than ideal dirt.
He gave the design parameters and some sketches to an engineer who specialised in CAD design for high tech surfboards, and had a computer controlled machining tool that could cut the mould for the complex pan design quickly and easily.
This proved to be a costly but crucial step that turned the idea into a reality.
The first prototype worked and showed the potential of the design, but had limitations. A second prototype was produced to overcome the limitations and it worked very well, but needed a bit of tweaking. Turbopan is the third prototype!
All design parameters came about from rigorous testing in troughs and in the field. Importantly, the anti-clockwise swirling motion allows the full circumference of the pan to be used for waste ejection, which is a major advantage over the traditional "Klondike" pan, which tends to crowd the waste ejection over a small arc.