The Australia Expedition
Nugget Hunting in the Land Down Under
As I sat there in the chair I found myself growing more anxious by the minute. After nearly twenty-three hours of flying we were finally on the last leg of our journey. I looked around at the other passengers and then focused on my father next to me who was now comfortably sleeping. I shut my eyes and tried to relax, but immediately my mind was flooded with images of nuggets. I wondered if we would be lucky enough to stumble across any of those enormous pieces you always see in the magazines. After all, it’s no secret that Australia has been home to some of the largest nuggets and richest placer ground ever discovered in the world. I tried to imagine how it would of felt to have been the first prospector into Victoria’s Golden Triangle with a metal detector. Here the ground was literally a bed of large nuggets. The dirt was so rich that early miners simply dug a shovel full of soil and bounced it up and down. If they didn’t hear the clang of gold they simply cast it aside and kept digging. I was just starting to dig out the 2,280 ounce Welcome Stranger when the sudden low rumble of the engines brought me back to reality.
Within a matter of seconds the small twin propeller plane was soaring through the vast blue Australian sky. Beneath us lay a mysterious and uninhabited sea of red stretching for what seemed like eternity. Dry salt lakebeds and clumps of brush were the only things to disrupt the uniformity of this alien landscape. The lightweight craft cruised along for over two hours, then the pilots voice filled the cabin and said, “ Ladies and gentleman we are descending into Leonora, please prepare yourself for landing. ” Looking out the window I was surprised to see that the ground was coming closer and closer. The only problem was that there was no paved runway- just dirt! Too late, the wheels dug into the soil and slowly the plane came to a bumpy halt.
This was the official start of our trip to the land down under. We would be spending the next five weeks camping and nugget hunting in the famous outback of Western Australia and the tropical goldfields of the Northern Territory.
Western Australia ( WA )
The one building airport was smaller than we were used to and our guide; Larry; had no trouble picking us out of the crowd. A middle-aged man wearing dark sunglasses and a bush hat walked over to us and said, “ I thought I heard an American accent, you must be Steve and Chris. ” We talked for a few moments and then began loading our gear into his Toyota Land Cruiser, or “ ute ”. The bush vehicle was equipped with a CB radio, 45 gallon water tank, generator, kangaroo bars, and even a small refrigerator. From there we drove into Leonora to stock up on supplies and purchase our miner’s right.
Our first night was spent in Larry’s mobile home located about two hours outside of the old mining town of Leonora. Larry shared with us some of the many colorful prospecting adventures he has had over the years and we listened intently, hanging on to every word. Finally I asked him if Western Australia still had a lot of potential even though the quality of the detectors and the number of prospectors visiting this region had increased over the years. He grinned and said, “ Hang on a minute mate, I’ll show you something! ” He left the room and then came back holding a large Tupperware container. He smiled as he popped the lid off exposing about 40 ounces of pure Australian gold! There were nuggets of all sizes ranging anywhere from 3 pennyweight (dwt.) to 3 ounces. After seeing that I don’t know how I ever managed to fall asleep.
The next morning I awoke at sunrise and stepped outside to have a look around. A huge yellow sun was slowly creeping up over the horizon spreading rays of orange and gold across the deep red earth. Flocks of pink & gray gallah cockatoos and emerald green parrots flew overhead chattering away as if to welcome the new day. It was truly a beautiful sight. Within fifteen minutes the Toyota’s engine was running, the gear was loaded, and off we set for our first hunt in the outback.
It took us what seemed like several hours to reach our destination because Larry kept backtracking and driving in circles. When I asked why he did this he replied, “ This is a secret patch, and I’d like to keep it that way. ” It seemed a little unnecessary, but after hearing that he pulled over $100,000 out of it I quickly saw his point. Apparently bush prospectors will sometimes follow each other’s tire tracks in hopes that it will lead them to a new discovery.
The ground was a deep shade of red and littered with hundreds of small, black laterite stones. It was only after hunting for a few moments that my father and I realized how bad the soil conditions and hot rocks really are in Australia. The Minelab SD detector with the 11” Monoloop coil was simply too noisy, so we switched over to the DD’s and were pleasantly surprised. The DD virtually cut out all of the background noise and hot rocks making it possible to wade through even the worst of areas. Larry had done a good job, and I wasn’t able to find any targets in the immediate patch, so I spread out further looking for new leads.
I continued searching and finally reached a promising looking area at the base of a tiny rolling hill. It was here that I received my first solid target. I broke up the hard ground with my pick and pinpointed the target. I was amazed to discover that there mixed into the loose material was a round, shiny pennyweight nugget! I yelled to the others and they quickly moved in above and below me. Still excited by the new nugget I carelessly swung the coil off to my side hitting another target. Two hours of gridding brought my total to seven nuggets, not including the six that Larry picked up below me.
Somehow the gold was managing to elude my father; Steve; but he hung in there and kept swinging the coil. We hunted all day, then just as the sun began to sink the 2-way radio crackled and I heard my fathers voice, “ Hey, you might want to come over here and take a look at what I just found! ” I trudged slowly through the brush and eventually found him bent down next to a large hole; at least a foot deep. He peered up at me through his glasses wearing an expression of absolute triumph. “ Open your hand, ” he said. Something very cold and heavy dropped into my waiting palm. I slowly peeled back my fingers revealing a beautiful yellow lump of gold. The nugget weighed over an ounce and the commotion it caused alerted Larry that a new discovery had been made. Despite the overwhelming urge to keep hunting we were forced to leave. It was getting dark and if we didn’t leave soon it would be difficult to find our way back. After some back tracking and a few close encounters with some suicidal kangaroos we managed to find the right track to lead us home.
The first days hunt had been a success; 15 nuggets for a total of 50 dwt! We celebrated that evening and made preparations for our upcoming excursion. In the morning we would be heading out into the bush for two weeks, leaving all the luxuries behind.
The following day was extremely cold and I was relived when Larry took pity on us Arizona boys and cranked up the Toyota’s heater. He wasn’t much on conversation in the mornings, so most of the time I just stared out the windows watching the unusual landscape whiz past. The outback is unbelievably flat and can be a very dangerous place if a person were to become stranded. There are no real landmarks to navigate by, so it would be relatively easy to become disoriented and lost. Water is very scarce and even if you can find it many times it is contaminated with salt. Huge fluctuations in temperature also make life difficult in the bush. In the winter it is freezing cold and in the summer there is little shade to provide protection from the scorching sun. Despite these harsh conditions the outback can be an enjoyable place if you pay attention to what your doing and use some common sense.
We decided to make camp under a thicket of trees. The ground here was not as red, but there was a tremendous amount of quartz lying about. We asked Larry if he had ever tried any detecting in the area. He lit a cigarette and motioned for us to follow him. We walked over to a large hole overgrown with grass, not more than 35 feet behind my tent. “ I chipped fifty ounces of specimen gold out of this hole, ” he said pointing to a narrow quartz vein partially hidden by the grass. What a good feeling to know that we were camped right on top of the gold!
I always enjoyed our peaceful nights in the bush. A huge white moon always glowed against a backdrop of millions of sparkling stars. Everything was quiet except for our warm, crackling campfire. Sometimes Larry would throw in a dead piece of sandalwood and it would fill the camp with a wonderful aroma of incense. Dinner was regarded as the best meal and everyone looked forward to it. Larry usually acted as the head chef preparing some type of meat, baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, and bread. We were usually assigned to firewood collection or dishwashing duty. This was fine with dad and I, since neither one of us are what you would call a “ good cook. ”
One thing that amazed me about Larry was his uncanny ability to find his way through the bush. Everything looked the same to me and I just could not believe that he could remember the exact location of all the patches. Back home I have most all the dirt roads around the goldfields memorized, but most of the time Larry didn’t even use roads. He would say things like, “ Well lets give this spot a try, I found a few nuggets here about five years ago,” and he would drive right to it, even though there were no obvious signs that another human had ever been there.
I remember one day in particular when Larry drove us to an interesting spot situated between two dry washes. The hard packed red dirt was blanketed by a layer of black ironstone and a mixture of sugary white quartz. It looked excellent, especially when he informed us that the area had produced several large nuggets. Dad and I quickly suited up and began scanning the earth with our detectors. Almost immediately I kicked up a nice, smooth 46-grain nugget. I kept hunting for a while but was unable to find another piece, so I got on the radio and reported the nugget. “Good going, but I hope it’s bigger than the three I have already found!” my father replied. This was exciting news and I swung the coil with a renewed enthusiasm.
It was obvious that the gold was shedding from somewhere on the gentle sloping hill between the two washes, so I walked up hoping to run into some larger pieces. Every now and then I would hear a voice on the radio saying that they had found a few more bits. There definitely seemed to be plenty of little gold left, but none of those big lunkers. Then I jammed the coil under a shrub covered with cobwebs and the detector went off like a siren. “ Too loud for a nugget, ” I thought as I bent down to look for the trash causing the signal. Boy was I surprised to see a piece of gold staring me in the face! There on the surface was a partially exposed half-ounce nugget. I didn’t even dig it out until I had gotten a few photos, because I knew nobody back home would believe it.
Of course we didn’t do this well all the time. Some days were good, other days we went without. There is just so much area to hunt and not enough hours in the day. One thing I liked was that we were always on the move, and it was quite common for us to hit 3 to 4 different areas each day.
After spending some time in the bush you start to develop an eye for spotting potential gold bearing areas. Many of the old eluvial and alluvial diggings are covered with dry blow heaps, (or dry-wash tailings as we say in America). Those old-timers left a lot of gold behind, but they also left a lot of metallic trash. This can be rather frustrating for the electronic prospector. The best method for dealing with areas like this is to simply ignore the really loud sounds and only listen for those signals that whisper. Of course this may cost you a big nugget, but it has been my experience that nine times out of ten the really loud targets are trash (i.e., rusted cans, pipe, nails, etc.). However, if the area is known for large gold you may want to investigate all targets, regardless of their signal strength.
The more recent nugget patches discovered by modern detectorists are generally easy to identify, especially the rich ones. For instance, once a prospector finds a nugget he or she will spend some time carefully gridding and chaining the entire surface picking up the shallow pieces. Then equipment will be brought in; usually a road grader or a truck equipped with a homemade push bar. They then proceed to scrape away the first 2-4 inches of material, thereby exposing more virgin ground for the detector. This
“scrape-and-go” method leaves distinct rows of dirt or berms. The Aussies call these dirt berms “ windrows ” and they are excellent places to investigate with a detector. Even the pushed areas between the windrows are worth checking out. We found a sizable amount of gold in these places including a shiny 11 pennyweighter that had been overlooked.
Of course you can always find a few nuggets here and there in the old patches, but if you ever want to strike it really big you will have to look for new ground. This is easier said than done. It requires a tremendous amount of patience and motivation. You have to sacrifice precious hunting time while everyone else is finding gold in the known areas. Those fabulously rich patches are still out there waiting to be found, and you may just stumble across one if you are willing to take the gamble.
The two weeks spent in Western Australia was a real adventure. By working alongside Larry we were able to learn first hand the techniques needed to be successful in the outback. We saw some gorgeous country, met some great people, and found about four ounces of gold.
Summary of Western Australia
The key here is to cover as much ground as possible. “Keep the coil moving” is the motto. It is a fast paced method of swinging the coil; my father dubbed it “ speed detecting. ” In certain places with little trash you can almost run with the detector. There is no point in hunting slowly because the area to search is vast. This method is mainly used in the location of new patches, not for hunting them. Another benefit is that it helps to decrease or minimize the effects of mineralization. This technique may cost you some small bits, but the pros outweigh the cons when searching for really large nuggets or new patches.
Gold shows up in some very unusual and surprising places. Some of the places we hunted didn’t even look like they should have contained gold. Don’t limit yourself to the
“obvious areas.” Remember looks can be deceiving! Most of the patches here seemed to be more widely distributed than those I have encountered in the southwestern United States. Perhaps this can be attributed to the geological age of Western Australia and the sheer amount of erosion and weathering that has taken place. Desirable areas seem to be the flats and slopes near hills or outcroppings of rock. A majority of the patches I saw had ground that was covered with a large amount of laterite beads, and or a good mix of quartz and ironstone (also called salt & pepper). Ironstone is a loose term that describes any rock which is iron rich and rusty brown or blackish in color. The most common ironstones are limonite and hematite.
Other indicators of potential auriferous ground are workings done by both the old-timers and modern prospectors. Such as detector digs, dry-blow heaps, chain marks, mines, and mullock piles. Any of the creeks draining from gold bearing areas should always be thoroughly detected. Areas of granite are usually not regarded as the best places to hunt. Although outcroppings of limonite and contact zones of schist and greenstone are generally more favorable.
The ground is soft the first 1-2 inches, but underneath it changes dramatically to a hard packed type of caliche. To give you an example, Larry showed us a hole that once contained a 33-ounce specimen. It took him a whole day to dig it out with a hammer and chisel! Strangely enough, most of the gold we found was near the surface. Perhaps due to the hardness of the ground and the lack of water much of the gold is unable to penetrate the soil matrix, and is consequently found near the surface. Much of the gold is attached to a red clay or some other form of host rock. The purity is generally around 95%. As mentioned before, the real key to success is to cover as much ground as possible.
The Northern Territory ( NT )
The final day had come and Larry drove us back to the Leonora airport. We talked for a few moments, said our good byes, then the plane door opened signaling that it was time to board. The flight was pleasant and we passed the time talking with a woman from Darwin. We mentioned how cold WA had been and she laughed, “ You won’t have to worry about that in the Northern Territory! ” When the plane door swung open it felt as if I had walked into a furnace. Even though it was winter the sun was blazing and the humidity must have been around 90%! Being from Arizona I was no stranger to the heat, but the incredible humidity took some getting used too. We shuffled through the crowd until we found our tour guide Doug Stone. He smiled and chuckled a little when he noticed we were still wearing our thick fleece jackets and long pants.
Doug is a very interesting fellow. He worked at the Department of Mines for twenty years and is a well-respected author. He has published twenty-four different books, maps, and countless numbers of Center; not to mention he is a formidable prospector. Currently he operates about seven gold tours per year at various locations throughout Australia. The fully catered tours include three meals a day and transportation; plus all the gold you can find!
Later that evening we got the chance to sample fresh baramundi and meet some of the other prospectors going along on the tour. We were the only Americans; the rest of the guys were Australian. Everyone was incredibly friendly and we quickly befriended three of the hunters; Simon, Mark, and Robert.
The following morning we loaded our gear and departed for Adelaide River. Just outside of town we were joined by a group of tag-alongs; Australian prospectors who pay a lesser fee, but must in turn provide their own food and transportation. Our caravan was quite the spectacle to see and the cloud of dust the vehicles kicked up was enormous. Doug’s troop carrier was especially well equipped. Behind the rig he towed a trailer outfitted with water tanks, refrigerators, food, GPS system, and solar panels for charging up the detectors.
After nearly two hours of traveling the bumpy dirt roads the caravan came to a screeching halt somewhere in the lush goldfields of ‘ The Great Northern. ’ We made camp at the base of a quartz strewn hill dotted with old-time workings. Australia is a large country, but unfortunately much of the best ground has been leased to mining companies or ranchers, and consequently is off limits to prospecting. Luckily our group was able to hunt this particular location because prior to the tour Doug had obtained permission from David, the current claim owner. David is a dedicated prospector and has spent the last three years exploring and sampling his claims searching for a lode worthy of a large-scale operation. Some of the reefs he’s discovered have assayed anywhere from 3 to 16 ounces per ton. David had a wealth of knowledge about the area and I learned that the Northern Territory is as rich in gold as it is in history.
Gold was discovered in 1870 while digging the postholes for the Overland Telegraph Line between Adelaide and Port Darwin. Prospectors rushed to the goldfields, but by 1874 the rush had ended. Then in 1878 hundreds of independent Chinese diggers began to show up. This was known as the ‘ Chinaman’s Rush ’ and occurred at the ‘ Twelve Mile ’ near the McKinlay River. There were mixed emotions towards the Chinese or ‘ coolie ’ labor, however it wasn’t long before they outnumbered the European population by as many as ten to one.
Life in the Territory was hard. The early miners were faced with intense heat, violent tropical storms, voracious insects, disease, isolation, and of course hungry salt water crocodiles. Despite all the hardships many of these men willingly sacrificed everything they owned in order to pursue their golden dreams. Most of the old diggings can still be seen today - nearly 120 years later!
After everyone settled in it wasn’t long before the whole camp was buzzing with detectors. My father and I focused our efforts on a series of hand-dug trenches below a quartz outcropping. After digging 15 shards of rusted metal and wire I was rewarded with a golf ball sized piece of float laced with gold. I continued searching the trenches for the rest of the afternoon without luck, however my father uncovered a nice, coarse nugget no smaller than a penny.
That night we all feasted on a wonderful meal prepared by John Fisher (a veteran mining technical officer) and his daughter Patrina. No one else in the group had turned up any gold that first day, but spirits were renewed when we displayed the two pieces we found not more than 100 feet from camp. Almost immediately the gold talk started. If anyone has ever hung around a bunch of prospectors and listened to their conversations you know exactly what I mean by gold talk! Everyone had a story to tell, and some of the men began shuffling through their pockets searching for their pokes. One gentleman named Collin revealed a chunky half-ouncer from Laverton, Bob held out a handful of nuggets from New South Wales, and Doug told us a story about a young man who unearthed a hefty 13-ouncer on the previous years trip. The gold talk carried on until the wee hours of the night, and by the time it was all over everyone was rearing to go.
At sunrise the camp started to stir and detectorists began to pour out into the hills like a swarm of bees. Dad, Simon, and I decided to team up and rework the trenches. Right away my father located a 2 dwt. nugget amongst a thicket of spear grass. I quickly moved down into one of the deeper trenches and began scanning the banks hoping I would pass the search coil over a piece of the shiny, yellow metal. Then Simon yelled out, “ I got one! ” I poked my head up out of the trench and saw him holding a jagged chunk of quartz with a lovely blob of gold about the size of a thumbnail in the center.
Now things were getting exciting, but somehow I was managing to walk around the nuggets. Losing confidence in my trench I decided to venture further up the hill. It was a long hike, but the view from the top was spectacular. I detected my way down until I reached a flattened area that looked as if it had been worked with machinery. Maybe it had been a patch at one time, or perhaps it was merely an old campsite. I zigzagged back and fourth picking out small bits of rubbish and sweating up a storm. I was just about to call it quits when all of a sudden I hit the first nugget. Imagine how surprised I was when I rechecked the hole and detected another nugget! I quickly whipped through the area picking up another three nuggets; the biggest of which was a 6 dwt. ball. Despite my enthusiasm to continue hunting it was really warming up, and besides I wanted to share my new finds with Simon and Dad.
When I reached camp I was greeted by a group of happy prospectors lounging in the shade drinking cold cans of soda pop. Most everyone had turned up a few bits. Mark and Robert (AKA. The Bendigo Boys) had done especially well. Apparently they had found a small run of gold which they appropriately dubbed the ‘Bendigo Lead’. Their discovery had landed them a handful of shiny nuggets.
The guys were excited by the five nuggets and after a short rest the three of us returned back to the patch. Once again Simon shocked us by quickly hitting three nuggets; earning him the nickname ‘sharp shooter.’ Dad and I managed to find a few more tiny pieces, but we encountered a thick wall of grass which prevented us from working the outskirts of the patch. This problem was remedied by David and a hand torch. Within a matter of minutes the grass barrier was reduced to a pile of black ash. Removing the grass opened up an entirely new section of the patch and we began hitting gold left and right. It seemed as if every other sweep of the coil produced a nugget. After it was all said and done, the three of us had plucked approximately 50 bits from the earth.
The next day we went on a road trip seeking new ground; little did we know that luck was about to strike again. My first impression of the area was not so good. There were none of the obvious gold indicators and essentially no sign of placer mining activity anywhere. I concentrated on one of the main washes hoping that if there was any gold in the vicinity a few nuggets might have eroded down into its belly. However, my father headed straight for the steepest mountain around and climbed right to the top. Much to my dismay the wash was absolutely loaded with junk, and after digging my fortieth piece of trash I decided to join the others for a lunch break. I hadn’t taken three steps before my father radioed down that he had located a nugget atop the pink colored bedrock hill.
The beautiful pennyweight specimen definitely had not traveled very far from the source. Just for the heck of it I swung my coil over his hole and received a signal which turned out to be another quartz studded nugget. Once more I rechecked the hole and mentioned that I thought I heard a faint signal. This time my father really laid into the ground with his pick. The hard bedrock didn’t give up very easily, but after a series of blows he finally uncovered a two-foot wide section. As I passed the coil across the hole it sounded as if someone had tossed in a handful of buckshot. We had dug right into a gold vein!
Together we gathered about 2.5 ounces of crystalline gold; some pieces as large as 8 dwt. Busting up the bedrock by hand was slow going, even with Simon and Marks help. It was indeed a rich pocket, but in the end we returned back to camp reluctantly abandoning our little vein. It was one of the last places any of us would have looked, but then again my father has always been partial to the long shots.
During the course of the tour we were able to visit and hunt many of the Northern Territory’s historic placer cites; such as Pine Creek, Spring Hill, Grove Hill, and Wanndi. Most of the original buildings (like many ghost towns) found it impossible to survive the constant onslaught of the elements, and have slowly vanished back into the earth without a trace. Except for the diggings that line the creeks, little else remains of these once rich boom towns. However, with a little imagination it wasn’t hard for me to visualize how it must have looked back in the 1880’s when the goldfields were alive with thousands of people trying to reap their fortune from the land.
We also got the opportunity to visit two working operations. The first was a large open pit gold mine owned by the company Acacia. A brief lecture was provided by several geologists and then later a full tour of the facility. The second was the smaller scale operation of North Caledonian Mining, located near Pine Creek. The owner was an ingenious man who had designed and built all his own machinery, including a water reservoir the size of a small lake! The system was self contained, efficient, and it provided him with a decent living. Without going into too much detail I will attempt to explain the entire process. First the material from the old Chinese diggings was dug up with a tractor and loaded onto a truck. Then, the dirt was transported to his camp and screened. From here the material was crushed in a mini ball mill (nuggets included) and mixed with mercury. Once the gold had been removed from the worthless overburden it was ready for the final step. The boiling hot liquid gold was then poured into a twenty-five ounce bar right before our eyes!
Overall, the NT gold expedition had been a success. The group found 203 nuggets for a grand total of approximately 15 ounces (not to mention a sizable amount of coins &
relics). Australia is roughly the same size as the United States, but it only has a population of about 18 million. This means that there are literally hundreds of square miles of gold bearing ground that have never had a search coil passed over them. The thrill of a new adventure and the possibility of hitting a ‘big-one’ is what originally drew my father and I to the land down under. However, for me the real highlight of the trip was the camaraderie and our newly made friendships. Nothing in this world can replace the memories of sitting around those warm, crackling campfires in the bush with my father. The gold was just an added bonus. If the opportunity ever arises I would highly recommend a visit to the goldfields of Australia; it will be one trip that you’ll never forget!
Summary of the Northern Territory
Hunting in the Territory presented many new challenges. The climate is rather hot and humid, which takes its toll both on the detectorist and the equipment. Sunscreen, hats, and drinking water are essentials for anyone exploring the area. The Top End of the Northern Territory is in the monsoonal belt and during the tropical summer season (November to April) dirt roads can flood and be impossible to travel in a 2WD vehicle. The vegetation can also be problematic. The average height of the gum and eucalyptus trees is approximately 8-9’ with a thick undergrowth of sharp spear grass. Frequent burning is practiced, making it possible to walk and swing a coil.
There are many different types of insects, reptiles, fish, birds, and amphibians. Some of the larger animals that can be seen are wild boar, water buffalo, goanna, wallabies, and salt water crocodiles. However, the most noticeable is the “ mozzie ” or mosquito; especially near the waterways or marshes.
The goldfields are part of the Pine Creek Geosyncline; a giant underground wave of minerals that formed about two billion years ago. In 1870 coarse gold was discovered in the telegraph postholes and then later in 1872 on the Priscillia Reefs. Scores of diggers rushed north in what was to be the first in a long line of boom-bust scenarios. Most of the goldfields especially near Pine Creek, have been turned over, sifted, sluiced, and panned. All that remains are hundreds of small tailing heaps and hand dug trenches. Abandoned mining equipment such as drill rigs and rusted steam engines dot the landscape. The Chinese were thorough and didn’t leave a whole lot behind, however the careful detectorist will most certainty be able to turn up a few nuggets. Relics such as coins, tins, buttons, and bells are also quite plentiful and are easily recovered with a metal detector. A word of caution; the area was once completely covered by small diggings, so please be aware of open mine shafts.
Much of the gold found by our group consisted of gold and quartz specimens. The reason for this is not clear, nevertheless the gold is there and because of the relative isolation of the NT it has not been detected as hard as WA. One hill in particular in the ‘Great Northern’ literally had hundreds of small auriferous reefs. Gold was found in every direction and one patch was located that contained approximately fifty nuggets. Most of the quartz detected contained visible gold.
David; from The Great Northern; focused his mining on the reefs which had signs of yellowish arsenic, vug holes, and pyrites. Red dirt is not prevalent here, neither is the abundance of ironstones. One pocket of gold was detected by my father and 2.5 ounces of crystalline gold were recovered from one hole. More than likely this was simply a form of surface enrichment and probably did not extend for any considerable depth.
The area is also rich in gemstones (i.e., diamonds, garnets, rubies, sapphires, etc.) as well as tin and uranium. For the most part the soil here did not seem to be as mineralized as WA. The 11” Monoloop was the coil of choice. The 8” Monoloop also performed well and was used to clean up some of the smaller bits around another gold bearing vein called,“Barney’s Reef.” Although there was one area located near some uranium diggings in which it was impossible to ground balance with the monoloop coils; it was by far the hottest soil I have ever encountered. There is no doubt in my mind that there are hundreds if not thousands of patches and reefs still waiting to be discovered in the Northern Territory. Much of these shallow gold veins (or reefs) would not be of much interest to large mining companies, but they could be highly profitable for the recreational prospector armed with a metal detector.