TIPS FOR GOLD HUNTING IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Part 1 of 3
So, you spent thousands of buck$ on all your prospecting gear, including your vehicle/s and camping equipment - so continue to do the right thing and get a Western Australian ‘Miner’s Right’.
The current penalty for a person prospecting without a Miner’s Right in W.A. is about 150 GRAND!
Trust me, I know from recent personal experience that ….. the W.A. Police “Gold Squad Detectives” (who are also based in Kalgoorlie, and some of which are prospectors too) actively patrol the bush & regularly/successfully prosecute offenders.
Furthermore, many leaseholders also use drones and hidden cameras (I know from personal experiences) to record trespassers and poachers.
So, Trespassers BEWARE.
Similar to Queensland, a W.A. Miner’s Right can be obtained Online. It only costs about $30, and even better, it lasts FOR LIFE – as long as you do the right thing (much cheaper than Qld where an individual pays about $58 PER YEAR for a Qld Fossicking Licence). There is also PLENTY MORE ground available for lawful gold prospecting in W.A. compared to Qld.
It is also wise to not only obtain verbal permission from a leaseholder/s to prospect on their lease/s, but to also get such permission in writing too (whether it be a hard copy, an e-mail or a text message) with the leaseholder/s contact details included in the “permission letter”.
It is also a requirement (and also wise for personal safety, as well as decency) that all Miner’s Right holders take all reasonable and practicable steps to notify pastoralists of their intentions prior to entering onto pastoral leases which often co-exist with prospecting & mining leases.
It is always wise to carry a copy of your Miner’s Right, and any written permission letters, either in hard copy and/or electronically on your phone.
The Western Australian Mines Department has a free online mapping system named ‘TENGRAPH’. It shows the position and status (and other details) of land under mining tenure (including lease applications – which are commonly referred to as “PENDING ground”). Pending ground is marked as a blue colour on the Tengraph database. When a lease application has been submitted on some ground (due the land becoming available for some reason), the Mines Dept. designate that land as “PENDING” ground – which means the application is in the process of being assessed by the Mines Dept. During that time, which in some cases can take up to about 12 months, a person holding a W.A. Miner’s Right can use metal detectors and hand tools (machinery is prohibited) to prospect for gold, and other minerals, on that Pending ground. With a Miner’s Right it is also lawful to fossick for rocks and gemstones, and also camp on that Pending ground for the purposes of prospecting.
Another useful, free online database is ‘MINERAL TITLES ONLINE’. This system contains Title details of exploration and mining tenements throughout Western Australia.
During my recent several years of prospecting in Western Australia I contacted several gold exploration and mining companies, and after voluntarily submitting details of my prospecting experience, vehicle/s, prospecting techniques & gear, and my intentions – I was very fortunate to be granted conditional “Tribute Agreements” with such companies. As a result, I provided details of all my finds of gold nuggets to the mining companies, who then permitted me to explore additional ground held via their leases.
SECTION 40E PERMIT
Holders of a Section 40E Permit can use hand-held tools (including metal detectors) to prospect for a period of up three months on an approved area (of up to about 3,000 Hectares) of Crown land within a granted exploration licence. Although consent from the exploration licence holder/s (e.g. a mining company) is NOT required, the licence holder/s will be notified by the Dept. of Mines of the issue of such a 40E Permit.
A Section 40E permit:
• is issued for three months and is NOT transferable between parties
• is restricted to a maximum of ten (10) nominated “graticular” blocks within one granted Exploration Licence (one block is approximately 310 hectares). The nominated blocks must be in one group and each block must have a common side to another block
• the permit fee applies for each application regardless of the number of blocks being applied for
• may include up to three (3) permit holders who are jointly liable for any activities conducted under the permit
• limits prospecting activities to a depth of two (2) metres from the natural surface
• allows a maximum sample limit weight of 20kg
• enables prospecting activities to commence on the exploration licence 21 days after the permit issue date or when the licence holder has provided a licensee statement to the permit holder
• does NOT allow the use of power or hydraulically driven hand-tools
• is subject to standard protective conditions and notes, which can be varied or added to the permit by the issuing officer.
A Permit under Section 40E costs a bit over a $100.
THE ‘TRILOBITE’ SOLUTIONS APP (for mobile devices)
Many prospectors in W.A. use the ‘TRILOBITE’ Solutions Application on their mobile phone or tablet.
This App provides off-line geology & exploration data covering all of Australia & New Zealand.
All Users of the “Australia Geology Travel Maps” must have the App subscription. Then the additional “WA Prospector” subscription gives access to current tenements, gold deposits, mineral exploration holes, and topographic maps in Western Australia.
The “QLD gold”, “NSW gold” and “VIC gold” subscriptions also give access to the gold maps for the respective States. (All of these subscriptions have a 1-week free trial period).
Some of the many great features of this App include:
• Runs on Android and Apple phones and tablets
• Maps are downloaded to your phone - so there is no dependency on mobile phone reception in the field
• Simplified & detailed geology maps for all of Australia
• Old mine workings, gold, gems & other metal finds
• Gold distribution maps
• Mining & exploration tenement information
• Data is sourced from the State geological surveys & Geoscience Australia
• Aero-magnetic imagery for all States
• Record your trail (Self-Tracking Function), so you can retrace your steps
• Mark & Record notes on important locations – choose a colour for each marker
• PENDING ground in Western Australia is shown on the mapping (also marked as a blue colour)
For the cost of only about $40 per year (for both subscriptions I needed for prospecting in W.A.), I found the ‘TRILOBITE’ App extremely valuable - especially when I lost my 4WD keys in a remote location (with no mobile phone reception) after walking alone & detecting (with my GPX 6000) away from the 4WD for over five hours. Fortunately, I was able to use my pre-activated, trail-record function and after re-tracing my steps for 2 hours I then found my keys just before sunset. PHEWWWWWW.
I also found the WA Prospector App very useful for mapping the location patterns (clusters) of the many nuggets I found on several patches. On one such patch I found about 70-odd nuggets, and I was able to advise the leaseholder (who was very appreciative) – so that he could target future, machine-driven excavations to hunt for much deeper gold (that was beyond the significant detection depths of my GPZ 7000, also my GPX5000 with 19” mono & 25” DD coils).
To greatly extend the battery life of my phone in the field - I would turn my phone onto “Flight Mode”.
You also need the “Location” function on your mobile phone turned on so that the GPS system (and the Self-Tracking function, if required) can work via the App.
Prior to going out solo prospecting for the day/s, I would always take a screenshot of the Trilobite App co-ordinates of my intended (or actual) vehicle parking location in the bush, and provide it/text it to my wife for safety reasons & her peace of mind (I would always carry a PLB/EPIRB in my backpack when prospecting too).
Many prospectors & leaseholders are members of the Amalgamated Prospectors & Leaseholders Association of Western Australia. The Association has been around for over a century.
Two of the main reasons why I joined APLA were:
1. Financial APLA Members are covered by a $20 Million Public Liability Insurance automatically when they are lawfully prospecting as an amateur.
2. APLA fights for its members, including ALL Prospectors and ALL Leaseholders rights by representation to government departments and political bodies.
Other member benefits include free access to the regular online magazine (which often contains very useful articles written by local prospectors), as well as invitations to Association events and training, and regular Branch meetings (including in Kalgoorlie). APLA members are also invited to bush camps and prospecting trips hosted by experienced and professional prospectors.
I met many APLA members (including prospectors each with many decades of local experience) during my several years of full-time gold hunting in W.A. - who were only too happy to provide advice and assistance to me as a new member. That advice & assistance saved me from so much potentially wasted time & money, that far exceeded the cost of my APLA membership. This was a great investment for me indeed.
Currently, annual APLA membership costs are $110 for a Full Member, $150 for a Family, and $110 for a Pensioner Couple.
Other useful tips will be discussed soon in Part 2, and also Part 3 of this article – to be published online soon