Nome’s Remote-Operated Submersible Gold Mining Dredges

Tramrod was Nome's first remote-operated submersible gold mining dredge.

Tramrod was Nome’s first remote-operated submersible gold mining dredge.

The Tramrod was Nome’s first remote-operated submersible gold mining dredge, operated by the WestGold mining company in 1989 and known locally as the “Underwater Miner”. There have also been several other attempts at diverless or remote-operated submersible gold mining dredges offshore Nome in the decades since. Here I attempt to document the various attempts and their results:

Tramrod; 1989, 1990; WestGold; Very little production, did not pay for fuel. Program cancelled, crawler refurbished and used in another part of the world more suited to it.

JAG Crawler (aka Pac Man); about 2003; Little to no production, did not pay for fuel. Placed in storage until 2012, see Rebel Crawler.

Casa de Paga Crawler; 2004 to present; Casa de Paga; Producing a profit for each of the past 11 years. Decent profit margins on good ground with high gold prices. Can still be out dredged by a diver on a 10″ in certain conditions. Gold mined has paid for fuel and upgrades, as well as modest income for operators. This is the crawler I operate.

Mad Max Crawler; about 2007; J5 Mining; Major design flaws. No mothership, support boat floats sold and reused on the Eroica. Promising trials, but severely mangled in storm, stored then parted out.

Gold Fish; about 2008 to 2011; John Mihelich; Successful remote arm, innovative design features. Poor coverage. Required ground that was both higher grade and shallow. Combination of resource depletion, DNR regulation changes, and lease owner policy changes caused this to be decommissioned and parted out.

A 1 atmosphere mining sub designed for offshore Nome. Never got enough gold to even pay for fuel. Has not moved since 2011.

A 1 atmosphere mining sub designed for offshore Nome. Never got enough gold to even pay for fuel. Has not moved since 2011.

G-Force Submarine; about 2009; One atmosphere submarine with rigid snorkel, designed to drive from the beach into the water and mine in depths up to 90′. Horrible design, but very well built. Never got enough gold to pay for fuel.

Persistence (aka Tiny Feet); about 2009, 2011, 2015; various owners, latest is Pacifica; serious design flaws in both crawler and mothership. Buyback crab boat. Has a few days of production each of the years it’s been tried, then a few years of refurbishment and repairs. Gold mined has not paid for docking fees let alone fuel.

Rebel Cralwer under development and testing offshore Nome, Alaska in 2012. Last seen for sale.

Rebel Cralwer under development and testing offshore Nome, Alaska in 2012. Last seen for sale.

Rebel Crawler; 2012; The pac-man crawler refurbished and rebuilt with a new mothership, a buyback crab boat named the Rebel. Failed to get enough gold to pay for fuel. Last seen offered for sale out of Dutch Harbor.

Kentucky Golden Rod; 2012; Palmerosa Mining; Serious design flaws, built by smart people with zero offshore Nome mining experience. Vessel refurbished as a 10″ diver dredge.

Alaska Golden Rod; 2012; Serious design flaws, expected free flowing sand. Vessel refurbished as a 6″ diver dredge.

“R.O.D.V.”; 2014;  Poor design, too small, no mothership. Has only gotten wet once, has not produced any gold yet. Built with support from a German TV show about Nome gold mining.

Golden Seahorse; 2015; Vern Atkinson and EddyPump; Poor design, too small, can easily be outperformed by a diver with a 4″ dredge. Designer thought gold was in free flowing sand. Used diver to watch crawler and 7 guys on surface to support the dredge. Was portrayed on the TV show Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice as having made half of it’s capital cost in one month of ice dredging. Claim is dubious (the TV show is thought to frequently give false gold counts) and portrayed profit disregards the high operating costs. This EddyPump dredge sat idle for most of the summer 2015 season, and was finally taken out for a few days in September 2015.

Surf-Crawler-on-shoreSeveral more have been attempted to be built over the years but never got wet. There have also been several “surf crawlers” which are basically like the Christine Rose, except on giant tracks. All surf crawlers sat idle for most of 2015 due to inherent design limitations and poor grade.

 

Estimating Nome Dredge Gold Production

One of the biggest errors I see with new operations, besides the wrong equipment and a total lack of experience, is their projections when it comes to estimating gold production and revenues.

Here is what the inexperienced newbie often does: We can have a crew of 3 (or 4) and work 8 hour (or 6 hour) shifts each, so that’s round the clock 24-hours a day. And gosh darn it, we are hard workers, so we are going to work 7 days a week. June, July, August, September, and (because we are hard core awesome) October is 26 weeks. So we are going to do 4368 hours of mining per summer. And because I heard a rumor once about a guy getting 1 ounce per hour we figure that will be 4368 ounces per season. And since the price of gold once hit $1800 per ounce that comes out to well over $7.8 million, yee-haw!

Ok, that is an extreme example, and I’ve only seen it that bad a few times, but more often than you might think.

More reasonable, but still way too idealistic is the following example, that I’ve actually heard: We can have a crew of 4 and work 5 hour shifts each, so that’s round the clock 20-hours a day. And gosh darn it, we are hard workers, so we are going to work 6 days a week (only because Sunday is a day of rest). Mid-June, July, August, September, and through mid-October, minus a few weeks for storms is 14 weeks. So we are going to do 1680 hours of mining per summer. And I heard that a skilled crew, when they are on the good stuff can average 1/3 ounce per hour we figure that will be 560 ounces per season. And the price of gold has been around $1200 per ounce that comes out to well over $670,000, yee-haw!

Ok, now we are getting the the realm of possibilities. There have been dredges that have got that much gold in one season. These have been commercial 10″ dredges with a veteran crew of highly experienced divers, on the best leases out there. And even then, they don’t do that every year.

So how should people estimate, what do I recommend based on my 9+ years running dredges offshore Nome with 6″, 8″, 10″, and 18″ dredges of both recreational and commercial scale. There are several factors that go into the estimate, multiply them together to predict the range of revenue you can expect:

Ounces of gold mined per hour: Now we’ve all heard the 1ozt/hr and even the 2 or 4 or 6 troy ounces per hour stories. Ignore them unless you have first hand knowledge of you doing that yourself. These rumors are mostly not true, or are for a very select subset of time. It is true that with an 8″ dredge I have mined over 10ozt in 8 hours, but that was a very hot spot where I was singing in my mask for 8 hours. For estimating purposes, we need to figure on the long term average gold per nozzle hour, including prospecting, moving sand, weak days, and yes, the super hot hours. The more skilled the operator, generally the better the rate. The better the lease, the better the rate. Here are some guides which I would use:
6″ dredge: 0.05 to 0.25 ozt/hr (Typical 0.20 for skilled on good ground)
8″ dredge: 0.10 to 0.33 ozt/hr (Typical 0.33 for skilled on good ground)
10″ dredge: 0.25 to 0.75 ozt/hr (Typical 0.50 for skilled on good ground)
Excavator: 0.10 to .75 ozt/hr (Not enough info for a typical estimate)
18″ dredge: (Secret)

* Hours in a day: This depends on weather, seaworthiness of the vessel, endurance of the divers, number of divers, etc. This is for actual nozzle hours, working, sucking up the gold hours, it can easily take 12 wall hours to get 8 nozzle hours. Here are the numbers I would use:

6″ dredge: 4-8 hours per day, number of divers doesn’t increase this because the day breeze will kick you out, a fit diver can do this by themselves daily or two divers could each do 4 hours daily, 4 divers could each do 4 hours every other day.

8″ dredge: 4-12 hours per day, number of divers doesn’t increase this because the day breeze will kick you out, a fit diver can do 8 to 9 hours by themselves daily or two divers could each do 4-6 hours daily, 4 divers could each do 6 hours every other day.

10″ dredge: 4-20 hours per day, a fit diver can do 5 to 6 hours by themselves daily. You better be a skilled and fit diver to do this every day.

Excavator: 16 to 18 hours per day, time is lost due to maneuvering, anchor management, maintenance.

18″ dredge: (Secret)

* Days in a season: This depends on weather, equipment, fatigue, ice/seasons, endurance. In general, you can count on sea ice to leave by June 15th, but if your stuff is on the barge, don’t plan on being ready until early to mid July, because of final assembly and troubleshooting. Things start freezing overnight at the end of September, Sometimes October can be wonderful, sometimes the opposite. Count on about 4 total weeks of storms/turbidity during the season. If you are here in Nome from May 21 through October 10th, with working equipment, and able crew, then these are the typical numbers you will see, sometimes more, sometimes fewer:
6″ dredge, 30 to 45 days/year
8″ dredge, 35 to 55 days/year
10″ dredge, 35 to 65 days/year
Excavator, 65 to 80 days/year (depends on size/type of platform)
18″ dredge, 65 to 80 days/year (depends on size/type of platform)

* Cost of the lease: If you are small enough to work in the Rec areas, this is 3% to Alaska for anything above $40k. If you are on a lease held by someone else, then also first take 20% off the top for the typical deal.

* Net Smelter Return (NSR), this is often overlooked by newbies. The gold that you mine is not pure, it’s a natural alloy. Plus, depending on how skilled you are at cleanup, it may be dirty which will increase your melt loss from your raw dry weight. I discuss this in more detail in another post. Question About Selling Gold. Basically, take your clean dry weight and take off 15% to 20% to get your pure gold equivalent.

* Price of gold: Gold buyers typically use the London PM Fix, it is generally safe to use the lowest price that gold has been in the past 5 years. If gold goes higher, great a bonus, but this will give you a good margin of safety.

So lets put it all together:
(Gross Revenue) = (Gold per hour) * (Nozzle hours per day) * (Days per season) * (1-Cost of lease) * (Net Smelter Return) * (Price of gold)

Example 6″ dredge with 2 fit operators in their second year on the rec area: (0.10ozt/hr)*(8hr/day)*(45day/season)*(.97 after State tax)*(.85 NSR)*($1100) = $32,650 per season. Subtract expenses and split two ways. Assuming fuel, moorage, and incidentals were $7,650, that’s $12,500 each for 6 months of time.

Example 8″ dredge with 2 fit skilled operators in their fourth year on a good lease: (0.33ozt/hr)*(12hr/day)*(55day/season)*(.97 after State tax)*(0.80 after lease fee)*(.85 NSR)*($1100) = $158,000 per season. Subtract expenses and split two ways. Assuming fuel, moorage, and incidentals were $18,000, that’s $70,000 each for 6 months of time. Sounds pretty good, but of course this assumes skilled operators and that the equipment is operator owned and paid off, and doesn’t count the high cost of living in Nome.

Example Excavator with low-paid operators, run by unqualified managers, who raised money by paying 10% of capital raised to professional money raisers, who have never successfully mined before, despite years of trying, and are mining on low grade leases very far from harbor that they own: (0.10ozt/hr)*(12hr/day)*(65day/season)*(.97 after State tax)*(.85 NSR)*($1100) = $70,750 per season. Subtract expenses and multiply by 70% for the investor’s share. Assuming fuel, moorage, crew, management, and incidentals were $430,000, that comes out to a loss of $360,000 per year. In this example, they would need to find ground that could produce an average of 7.3 ozt per day, or 0.60ozt/hr just to break even; or for a mere 10% return would need 1,200ozt/yr which would need a sustained very high average of 1.50ozt/hr for this type of operation. (You may think that I’m talking about Blue Water Gold, or their new company called Blue Water Mining, but I will not confirm nor deny this. Investors should always be leery of companies like Blue Water Mining are trying to raise yet another round of several million dollars, and using projections that they will be able to mine more every day than their past performance has been able to do in a month.)

If someone is trying to get your money to invest, they will typically have outrageous numbers, which are fairly easy to spot if you know what to look for. Be wary if they project the price of gold going up significantly into the future, especially if they need the price to double within 3 years to make their investment sound appealing. Be aware of large numbers of ounces projected to be mined every day. Be aware of large numbers of days projected to be mined. Be aware of idealistically low projected expenses. Be aware if they omit Net Smelter Return, especially when they project a large number of ounces mined each day.

If you are experienced with offshore dredging in Nome, you know what you can make or lose. If you are not, then I would suggest you use as an upper limit, the estimates I give in this post. Never estimate more gold than you got last year doubled plus 100ozt. For a newbie this would be no more than 100ozt even if the formula above shows something higher. For a new crew or new dredge, increasing the number of workers typically only adds more expense, not more production.

If you are a small operation, under 25 acres mined per year, and have a hired geologist on the staff, whose main role with the operation is to do geology work, then you will likely fail, divide these estimates by 10. The geology around Nome is already well studied and well understood, sampled, researched, and published. It has been for well over 20 years. Sure it’s fun to understand what rocks are what, but that does not help with gold recovery in this area. If you are not familiar enough with gold mining offshore Nome to understand how a geologist is no longer needed for a dredging operation here, then you likely have other serious flaws in your plans and designs.

A several pound sample of placer gold mined from the floor of the Bering Sea near Nome, Alaska.

A several pound sample of placer gold mined from the floor of the Bering Sea near Nome, Alaska.

Andrew C. Lee with a few pounds of gold he mined off the Bering Sea floor near Nome, AK

Andrew C. Lee with a few pounds of gold he mined off the Bering Sea floor near Nome, AK

Question About Ice Dredging

Question from “topdogintampa”

The Pomrenkes sound like they didn’t do so well over the winter season

Basically no one does well over the winter season. It’s twice as hard, takes twice as many man hours per nozzle hour, and the gold per hour is less than half as good as it is in the summer.

I did through the ice one year in 2011, it was horrible. There was us and one other gold mining operation on all of the Bering Sea. I lost money on that venture. Even if I didn’t have any capital costs, and with gold at $1700/ozt like it was then, I made less than minimum wage.

The Discovery production company wanted us to do it again in 2012 when they filmed the first season under the ice; and we would have if they paid enough and had given us enough warning so we could have staged our equipment differently, as it was our gear was under a 15 foot snowdrift.

My ice hut did end up on one season, the green shelter on skis that they portrayed as Zeke’s. That turned out to be about $12.50/hr for the guys working on it; and they were by far the most successful.

The only reason anyone does through the ice a second year is for the TV show, or they live in Nome year round and have nothing else to do. They would do better working as a checker at a grocery store.

Construction of my ice dredging hut

Construction of my ice dredging hut

Using 48" chainsaw to cut hole in the ice.

Using 48″ chainsaw to cut hole in the ice.

The main pieces of equipment. Mini-ex, tracked ATV, and my ice hut design.

The main pieces of equipment. Mini-ex, tracked ATV, and my ice hut design.

View from inside ice hut though tailings hole.

View from inside ice hut though tailings hole.

Free Cars for All My Employees

Lets say that I own a company and that I feel safe and reliable transportation for my employees is so important that I choose to give each employee a car. I’m paying for the car, so I get to decide what type of car they get and what features it has. This is a gift for being an employee, or in other words it is an employee benefit. A benefit is just a gift with strings attached.

Lets say an employee smokes and demands that the car I give him has a built in lighter and ashtray, or an employee drives in from out of town and demands that the car I give him has satellite internet. They can demand and I can refuse; this is called a free market. I can also fire, and get less whiny employees; this is called free market. They can quit and go try to find another employer that will give them the type of car they want; this is called free market.

How about I just want to give them a basic car, purely no frills transportation. No power steering, no power locks, no power windows. Even if 99% of cars have these. I’m upfront with my employees and prospective hires. If they choose to work for me they know what to expect, no secrets there. And if they want those features, they can pay to have them installed. I could even give them cars with no airbags or seat belts, personally I never would omit those features, but the point is I should be allowed to give or not give them whatever I want; it’s my gift.

Facts about how air bags and seat belts save lives and are important features to a safe car are not relevant; no one should be allowed to force me to pay for them if I don’t want. That is called freedom. It’s also called stupid, but that is the great thing about freedom, freedom allows stupidity. Freedom allows choice. Any attempt to remove or limit choice is an assault on freedom. Freedom is choice. Force is authoritarianism.

As a Libertarian I oppose the initiation of force. In the above example, no one is forcing me to give anyone a car, no one is forcing someone to take a car, no one is forcing the car to have certain features. The parties involved in that exchange can use their leverage and power to negotiate a situation more conducive to their desires without initiating force or violence. An outside party (or even a government) can look in on this private situation and baulk at one one side offers and what the other side agrees to, but it is never their place to interfere with free exchange between consenting adults.

If you see a situation that you don’t like and you want to use the force (violence) of government to fix it, ask first if a problem can be solved with more freedom instead of less. If less freedom, then stop, you are out of line.

Back to the car example. To improve the choices for the employer providing the free car to the employees and to improve the choices the employees have to customize the cars to suit their desires, there are several ways for the government to provide more freedom. Equalize tax burdens so a gift of a car and the gift of money equal to what the employer would spend on the car are taxed or not taxed the same. (Gasp, do we dare to remove a crony tax loophole!) Reduce regulations that drive up the cost of cars, yes government should be in charge of defining standards it’s listed right there in the US Constitution, and yes an appropriate level of regulation forcing car makers to reduce the harm their cars might do to people that do not opt in to a fully disclosed risk. But for the most part there are a lot of shenanigans from the mining of the raw materials to the buyer registering the final product that needlessly drive up the cost of a car.

 

Libertarians respond to Hobby Lobby ruling

Once again the Libertarian perspective is the most reasoned and most inline with the basic principles of freedom and liberty. Even for this red herring of an topic. Below is the official statement from the national Libertarian Party. -Andrew C. Lee

In response to yesterday’s Hobby Lobby ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, Libertarian Party Executive Director Wes Benedict made the following statement:

It’s strange that liberals and conservatives are making this ruling out to be a huge deal. All the ruling does is remove a very narrow coverage requirement, in very specific cases; 99.9 percent of Obamacare is upheld.

It’s true that closely held corporate entities should not be forced to pay for this particular contraceptive coverage. But focusing on that narrow issue misses the bigger point: No employer should be forced to provide any health coverage at all.

This ruling just draws the line between freedom and regulation arbitrarily. If these employers are free to ignore this particular mandate, why aren’t other employers free to ignore other Obamacare regulations? They should be.

Obamacare is unjust and unconstitutional from top to bottom. No employer should be forced to provide health coverage to its employees, or penalized by government if it doesn’t…

Read More at www.lp.org/news/press-releases/libertarians-respond-to-hobby-lobby-ruling

No Knock Cop Shot, Killed

A grand jury has refused to indite Henry Magee for the shooting death of an intruder in his Somerville Texas home in December 2013; despite the fact that the home intruder was police sergeant Adam Sowders, who was reportedly acting on official business.  There are several reactions I have to this.

First, I feel bad for the law enforcement officer that was killed and his family. I never want to see the police killed, even in tv and movies I dislike scenes where cops are getting slaughtered. Several of my friends and former co-workers are law enforcement officers; through them I have a small hint of what it means to be in that profession, which is much more of an understanding than most people. I don’t want to see them being ordered into situations that are more dangerous than they need to be.

I also feel bad for the victim of the no-knock police raid, he was forced into a situation where he felt he had to kill someone in order to defend himself and his family. I can easily see myself being in the same situation and doing the same thing. Most people would, and the members of the grand jury also agreed. Just because we have different preferences in houseplants, doesn’t change the situation enough in my mind.

That brings me to these houseplants. When is the last cop going to die and the last father imprisoned over a stupid plant? I hope soon. Too many have died and too many are in prison over differences in gardening preferences.

Perhaps the most concerning part of this situation is that police felt the need to barge into a house at 6am with guns drawn. Was this guy a hermit that never left his residence? Did the police have enough intel to know that he might have some illegal plants but not enough to know when a safer time was to arrest him. This type of raid must be curtailed; invading a house pre-dawn with guns drawn should not be a first resort nor a preferred method. Arrest him as he pulls out of his driveway, or when he gets out of his car at the grocery store. Sure, it takes a little more surveillance work and it’s not as much fun as a night time raid; but correct me if I’m wrong to believe that it has a higher survival rate.

All these police home invasion stories remind me of two formative cases from my early teen years. In one a man who called himself David Koresh, a cult leader who orchestrated the systematic rape of girls and young teens, was sought by police. Despite law enforcement knowing that he went on a run outside his compound every day, and despite having infiltrated his organization with an undercover agent, the BATFE conducted a frontal assault resulting in the death of four agents. A minimal understanding of centuries old tactics says to avoid attacking the fortified castle when the leaders can be captured outside the gates.

The other case that comes to mind is that of Randy Weaver, where an angry neighbor lied to authorities, and federal informants and agents conspired against him, and where  paperwork and communication errors caused a bench warrant to be issued, and where overzealous feds escalated the situation over eight years with targeted harassment, starting as a non-violent misunderstanding to one agent dead and federal agents killing his dog, his son, and his wife. Weaver was acquitted and his surviving family paid $3.1M in a settlement.

We need leaders who understand that the powers of government are derived from the natural rights of the citizens of that government who choose to invest a portion of their individual sovereign rights into the collective powers of the nation. When this happens new powers are not created, nor is the responsibility abnegated by the source individuals to ensure that power is wielded correctly by their proxies.

As Lt. Governor of Alaska, I hope to work with other Alaskan leaders to ensure our law enforcement officers and agencies are provided with all the tools needed to conduct reasonably safe, prompt, and respectful operations. Equipment is only one factor; and I don’t want our police and troopers to look like an occupying military force. Important too are sound engagement practices, being a cop can be very hard we need to allow officers to use the proper tools and tactics to get the job done in as safe a manner as feasible.

Nome update June 6th, 2014

The ice went out May 18th, a few weeks earlier than typical the last few years, but later than 2008. The winter was warm and mild, as it often is when the L-48 has a harsh one.

The first barges have arrived, only a couple new dredges appeared to be on them. There is a distinct lack of activity around the harbor grounds and few dredges in the water. There are many dredges and surf crawlers that have not been touched this year, some were not touched last year either. The 10″ dredge fleet is mostly back in the water and working. The Eroica started mining yesterday, the AuGrabber has splashed in, the Christine Rose is tented in dry dock getting it’s hull painted, I didn’t notice any of the other ones from the TV show but I don’t know all their names.

Us and a couple of the larger commercial dredges are in the water and working, another just got in yesterday but are not working yet. One new one showed up, and word is that perhaps two more are on their way. All the others are diggers. Word is a couple more rov-style crawlers have undergone redesign and will be back this year; I won’t classify them as commercial since they are so small.

It appears that the gold rush is over.

Harbor fees have gone up again; we paid almost $5k for our dredge and two skiffs. Lucas, the new harbor master is very good. One of his workers, a new harbor assistant needs some training in customer relations; like all new people who think they are “authority figures” he will learn that he works for us, or he will be gone.

The weather has been mostly wet and cold. I see a couple tents on the beach, but it’s hard to tell with binos from an anchored boat two miles away.

A few government/retired government busy bodies in Nome complain about the “miners” in the letters to the editor and general whining; as if all the problems of this place were caused by 200 seasonal workers and not the poor policies they have enacted nor the 30 chronic inebriates that account for a huge portion of the city’s budget.

I don’t know where everyone else is, are they coming late or not coming? I’ve only seen a few new people so far.

A Lot of Gas

Forty years! Forty years! Alaskans have been talking about a “gas pipeline” for over four decades. Over one billion dollars has been spent talking about this.

There will be no gas pipeline. Get over it.

I want there to be a gas pipeline. Alaskans would greatly benefit from a gas pipeline. Every Alaskan governor for the past 40 years has wanted a gas pipeline, some more than others. This is not a problem that the office of the Governor or Lt. Governor can solve.

New, cheap, local gas has been discovered all across America, with supplies to last them many decades. It makes no sense to export the gas to or through Canada. It’s extremely expensive to export it to Asia. Fairbanks area communities would greatly benefit from inexpensive gas, but there is a large amount of infrastructure that would need to be put in place to make it happen, and would there be enough usage to justify the capital cost? What is the ROI for a Fairbanks-only plan?

It may prove too hard to relieve ourselves of this stranded gas problem.

As with all things, I am open to being proven wrong. If I were an elected official, I will work really, really hard to make a gas pipeline a reality for all Alaskans. I promise.

Ballot Integrity

xkcd.com Voting Machines
Credit: Randall Munroe xkcd.com

As a computer scientist, I am especially concerned with electronic ballots and electronic voting machines. Electronic votes can be hacked and changed in undetectable ways. While there is no such thing as a 100% secure ballot, electronic ballots are far less secure than paper ballots.

I like machines. I like electronics. Computers are neat, they can make our lives easier. Computers are especially wonderful for Americans with disabilities. Computers have their place, and their limitations.

In my ideal scenario:
Voters would show up to the polling place;
Present positive identification;
Be confirmed as a valid voter that has not yet voted in this election;
Be presented with a paper, fill in the bubble style, ballot;
Choose either a normal voting booth or an electronic assist booth;
For a normal booth they use a pencil or pen and fill in the bubbles to select their votes; OR For electronic assist, the feed the ballot into the machine, select their votes using the machine inputs (touch screen or keyboard, etc). They review and confirm their votes. The machine marks the ballot with their choices and ejects the ballot.
Either method, the voter can now review their paper ballot, if there is an error, exchange the ballot for a new one;
Once finished, they may then cast the ballot into a ballot box, which may or may not have an electronic reader built into it.

Rules for ballots:

Ballots must be standardized, look similar from precinct to precinct and to sample ballots available weeks prior to voting day and posted at the polling place. People should not be surprised or confused by the appearance of the ballot.

Ballot must be clearly legible and human readable without separate cyphers or keys. No hanging chads, confusing look-up tables, codes, or other obfuscation. If a fourth grader cannot look at a ballot for 15 seconds and correctly tell you for whom the vote was cast, then there is a serious flaw in the ballot. If the ballot was cast using assistance from an electronic machine, the machine must mark the same paper ballot in the same way, as would a person not using a machine.

Ballot must be individual, not physically attached other ballots. Electronic storage of ballots are not allowed. Counts and totals may be recorded electronically, but recounts must always be able to examine individual paper ballots.

Ballot must be reasonably permanent, non-volatile, and tamper-resistant. Electronic ballots are not allowed, because the vote can be undetectably changed. The ballot must show evidence of erasing and tampering, whether by the voter or others. The ballot must remain legible in temperatures under 300F, in full submersion in water, or subjected to any normal or extreme condition that may be reasonably expected.