Gold rush lures new prospectors

Gold rush lures new prospectors


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Yalgoo has a strong history with the gold industry and more people are visiting the area to be part of the gold rush.

Yalgoo has a strong history with the gold industry and more people are visiting the area to be part of the gold rush.

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In the heart of prime station country, Yalgoo was used as grazing land before being settled in the early 1890s when gold was discovered there.

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IT's that sense of anticipation.

The thrill of the chase.

That thought in the back of your mind that at any second, the serenity of the outback could be pierced by the victorious beeping of the metal detector you're so carefully sweeping the ground with locating something of interest.

A piece of gold!

It is the enticing nature of prospecting, which could be likened to an adult version of treasure hunting, that draws many hopefuls into outback WA, where the State has a rich history for making many their fortune from the precious metal.

One place where many have turned their hand is Yalgoo, located in the Murchison region 499 kilometres north-north east of Perth, and 219km east north-east of Geraldton.

In the heart of prime station country, the town was used as grazing land before being settled in the early 1890s when gold was discovered there.

Even now, more than 100 years later, there is still gold to be found in the region.

But despite what people may think, prospecting is not simply a matter of buying a metal detector, heading to the goldfields and beginning their search.

There are in fact many rules and regulations that govern prospecting, which requires a licence at the very least.

A piece of gold found near Yalgoo.

A piece of gold found near Yalgoo.

With that in mind, the Shire of Yalgoo has moved to simplify the process for tourists and set aside a plot of land close to the town for tourists to come and explore and try their luck on a Shire-owned lease.

Shire chief executive officer Silvio Brenzi said Yalgoo was the closest goldfields town to Perth, but they were keen for people to come and stay there, rather than using it as a thoroughfare.

It was hoped the plot would provide an incentive to do that.

"Once they have their licence and metal detector, they can't just go anywhere and start looking," Mr Brenzi said.

"The whole State is covered in leases and mining tenements.

"Areas like Yalgoo are popular because of its rich gold history, and so there are a lot of leases for mining and exploration that have to be navigated.

"For people who may want to go prospecting, they want to find gold, but may not know where to go to find it."

It was hoped that by having a lease available to tourists held by the Shire, it would be an easy transition step for people to come and learn how to prospect, while adhering to the rules and regulations that governed the practice, and also seeing whether it was actually something they enjoyed doing.

Prospecting could be a bit like fishing - someone could have all of the right gear, but they also needed to use the correct technique in order to be successful.

While Yalgoo is renowned for its gold, it is also popular in the spring for its spectacular wildflowers.

While Yalgoo is renowned for its gold, it is also popular in the spring for its spectacular wildflowers.

"There can be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using a metal detector," Mr Brenzi said.

The Shire had lodged an application with the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety to lease a 600 hectare plot of land which had recently become available in a well-known gold area.

The application is currently pending and could take a few months to finalise, during which time no one else can peg the land, but it is also classified as free ground for anyone to visit.

"All things being well, once approval is granted the Shire will control the lease and be able to monitor its use, for example making sure that it isn't used as a dumping ground or unlawful camping," Mr Brenzi said.

"It will be under the Shire's care, and maps have been produced with copies available at the local caravan park and shire office."

Mr Brenzi said the plot could provide a good introduction to prospecting, complete with the excitement of potentially finding some gold.

"It's not as if it's pouring out of the ground, but there is gold there," he said.

Just the day before talking to Ripe, Mr Brenzi said someone had found two pieces of gold out at the plot.

A keen prospector himself, Shire of Yalgoo works foreman Ray Pratt said he had been out to the plot four times so far, but was yet to find anything.

"But I've seen others find some - there was one group from Busselton and they all found a bit of gold," Mr Pratt said.

 The Yalgoo Caravan Park is a popular space to stay for visitors who have gold fever.

The Yalgoo Caravan Park is a popular space to stay for visitors who have gold fever.

Mr Brenzi said prospecting was popular among retirees or 'grey nomads' as they were often referred to, and the Shire hoped setting aside some land may encourage more of them to stop off in Yalgoo on their travels and even maybe extend their stay beyond one or two nights.

According to Yalgoo Caravan Park manager Helen Pratt, of the occupants of nine vans parked at the caravan park recently, six had headed out prospecting.

"On average, about a third of the caravans that pass through Yalgoo go prospecting, it is quite a big industry," Ms Pratt said.

"One lady booked to stay for four nights recently, but she went out prospecting and on her second day she found a piece of gold - she ended up staying for four weeks, and is booked to come back next week to do some more."

Mr Brenzi said such an initiative had the potential to help the small town, with its population of around 150 people, and local businesses if people stayed around for a bit longer.

And for those who may not necessarily be drawn to the search for the precious metal, the region had plenty more to offer.

"Yalgoo isn't just a town on the road, it has a very rich history as a sheep station and goldfields town," Mr Brenzi said.

"Traditionally it is a gold area, and its history of being founded because of gold is very important, but it also has a lot to offer."

A renowned wildflower area, Yalgoo's landscape springs to life in late winter and spring, while visitors can also tour local stations.

Although for many visitors, prospecting was a unique experience that was hard to top.

The quiet out amongst the bush was one of the biggest incentives for most to go prospecting, along with the thrill of potentially finding something.

The sun sets on another picture-perfect day at Yalgoo where plenty of people are now going to find their own piece of gold.

The sun sets on another picture-perfect day at Yalgoo where plenty of people are now going to find their own piece of gold.

Mr Brenzi said recent prospectors had told him there was nothing like getting a signal from the metal detector and then digging out a three or four gram nugget, knowing they could be the only person who had ever handled it.

"Of course there is a monetary value, with every gram selling for around $60, but a lot of people don't look at that - they just enjoy looking for and hopefully finding the gold," he said.

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