Keeping Goldfield Friends
Nugget and Hotrock (pseudonymous of course) had been mates for years and decided to try their luck on the gold fields. They purchased a metal detector each from my shop and went interstate looking for gold. I never heard from them again until Nugget told me about their amazing experience. Later Hotrock told me his side of the story and it tallied with Nuggets account. On arriving at the gold field they decided they would detect an area, which was off the beaten track. It wasn’t long before Nugget picked up a signal. Digging down he found a nice nugget of around 3 ounces weight. With trembling hands he swung his detector again and one step away he got another bigger signal. This time it was a nugget as big as his hand. After two hours of digging up more good sized nuggets, he reckoned he had better rest his overwrought nerves. He walked over to where his unsuspecting mate was detecting, but finding nothing. Nugget generously invited his mate to detect near his golden spot not really thinking that Hotrock would detect in exactly the same spot.
While Nugget had a rest and lunch break near the car, Hotrock found his mates detector holes and immediately started to dig up more gold. When Nugget went down later, he saw to his horror that Hotrock was in his spot, “ What are you doing taking my gold?” he glared at Hotrock. Now Hotrock had no intention of upsetting his mate, it was just a misunderstanding, but faced with the accusation, tempers flared and a long standing friendship was ruined. They had already found enough gold to buy a house with but they had to give up on the unfinished area, as they couldn’t work together. When one of them returned weeks later there were detector holes everywhere. Someone else had found the spot and cleaned it up.
What went wrong? They were both good types and had been lifelong friends. But they didn’t have an agreement made prior to starting. They hadn’t expected to find so much gold and were caught unawares and unprepared. There’s was not an unusual experience. I have seen such unsavoury side effects of gold fever myself, and heard of similar experiences from many customers. An agreement made beforehand is essential. One reason that they are usually not made is that people don’t really expect to find much gold. Another reason is that some people just shrug any suggestion of an agreement off. They feel that their generosity will prevail if they found gold. They don’t realize how quickly a big gold find can change good intentions to one of fierce competition.
Gold fever too often changes people and circumstances. Over the years as technology enables better metal detectors to be developed which can deeper than ever before, I heard how the character of a small goldfield town changed. When people were finding only a few small nuggets they were friendly and exchanged ideas about spots. But then the deep seeking detectors came to town and people started to bring home ounces and even kilos of gold. People became guarded about letting others know where they were going and grew in suspicion of one another. To try to prevent unnecessary conflicts, here are some alternative plans that have worked for others and me.
Equal Share Agreement
Agree to share all the gold equally. The benefit of this plan is that its very simple and it doesn’t matter who finds a big nugget or a patch, the other bloke (or blokes) get just as excited, because they will get their share. There is no big let down. This plan only works if you trust each other. I personally follow this plan with my brother and it’s worked beautifully.
The Finders Keepers Plan
It often happens that an experienced fellow invites a mate out to teach him to detect, perhaps in an area he has spent considerable time researching or exploring. The fairest idea here would probably be for each person to keep what he personally finds. If the beginner or relatively inexperienced operator expects to get half, then he is expecting too much. He should be grateful that someone he can learn a lot from has invited him. He has also been shown some good areas. This plan is generally followed by paying tour groups as well and would be appropriate there because people don’t know each other too well.
On Finding A Patch
If mates are working with the equal share plan and one of them finds a new patch, then there’s no reason, provided the patch is reasonably widespread, that one or more mates can’t join in the fun of gridding and detecting the patch. The operator that found the patch can continue detecting in his original direction, say down the slope carefully and systematically gridding the ground. His mate can start searching out of detector interference range further up the slope and work down the slope towards where the discoverer began gridding. That way they aren’t working toward each other and their machines won’t interfere with each other. On the other hand, if two people are working on a finder’s keeper’s plan, one may find a patch in a new area.
His mate may have found nothing and may be working a long way off. Its not a bad idea for the discoverer to let his mate know that his general area is producing gold and suggest that he detects nearby, perhaps 50 meters away but not in the immediate area of his patch. However suppose the successful operator simply pockets the gold and says nothing to his mate over the hill. His mate continues detecting in an unproductive area totally wasting his time. Later he finds out his mate found gold and didn’t call him over and he feels unhappy because his mate didn’t let him know.
I think it’s a good idea to agree beforehand on some sort of arrangement about what to do if someone finds a patch. If you are unsure of how to decide put yourself in the shoes of the other bloke. There’s a lot of wisdom in the old saying, “Treat others like you would like to be treated yourself.”
Years ago I took a new bloke out with me for a couple of days and we each found a few tiny nuggets. However mine fell out of my pocket while I was detecting near a shaft. He immediately started to help me look for them for which I was grateful until he told me he thought it would be fair if he kept the nuggets if he found them. Fortunately I found them myself. Earlier that morning I had found a 5 gram piece on a dry blow heap and walked half a kilometer to call him over to the good area I had found. Not being satisfied with searching other heaps a stone’s throw away; the same fellow commenced searching literally around my feet where I was detecting. I wasn’t impressed. Needless to say I didn’t invite him again and on my next trip I took my family and was fortunate to find a patch of beautiful quality gold –about 8 ounces.
Being a bit naïve I showed him the gold at his request, when he found out I had been detecting. He became upset and reckoned I had let him down because I didn’t invite him along. He felt I should take him back to that spot so he also could find some nuggets there. What some people fail to realise is that a lot of effort and expense has gone into finding a patch. Maybe you have spent several godless days searching for it. Inviting someone to help clean up a patch once you have found it is like handing out half of your month’s wages to someone who hasn’t worked for it. You would have to have a very good reason to do it!
Following And Being Followed
You don’t need to take a lease out in order to detect gold. And unless you’re detecting gold on your own lease there is nothing to protect your hotspot from other operators. Another operator can legally start detecting right alongside you. It may be unethical but it’s not illegal. For that reason it is wisest to keep quiet about how much gold you’re finding or not finding. If others don’t know they won’t follow you. Most operators have got enough decency not to take over your spot until you have moved on, but occasionally someone will try, so its best if they don’t know you’ve been successful. The classic mistake of beginners is to start showing off their gold back at the caravan park or the pub. Next day they arrive to find someone else in their spot or maybe find a hundred detector holes where someone has cleaned up the rest of the patch during the night.
I recall on one occasion in north QLD I had crossed a river looking for new gold bearing ground. It was very isolated hot country and I kept a sharp lookout for Taipans and also my water bottle. It was really hot and I walked for miles while I swung that detector hoping to hear that tell tale signal. The ground looked pretty good but at the end of the day I had found nothing. So I started to retrace my steps back to the car on the other side of the river. On the way back I followed a dry creek back and to my surprise spotted some fresh boot prints next to mine. Someone had followed me! There was only one other fellow camped in the area so I called into his camp on the way back. After talking to him he freely admitted that he had followed me hoping I would lead him to something.
In other words I could have spent days walking that rough wasteland and if I had found gold the other guy would have “jumped my claim” while I was still detecting. I think that bloke had to be miserable to follow someone’s tracks so that he can sneak in and detect easy gold. On the other hand if I had found gold in that new area and worked it for a week or so, the other guy would have realised that I was getting gold in new country. It would have been OK if he had come over to the general area and tried to find his own patch on the next ridge. There’s a world of difference in following someone to clean up their patch, or being the second detector operator in a new area.
Leases And Exploration Permits
It is illegal to detect on a mineral lease unless you have permission from the leaseholder. In Qld AT LEAST, written permission is required. Sometimes lease boundaries are not clearly marked and it is easy for a prospector to accidentally wander onto a lease. It can pay to get a lease map from the appropriate mining office if you are unsure about the existence of leases. Some operators detect leases hoping they won’t get caught. It must be remembered that someone has gone to a lot of trouble and expense to get mineral rights there and it’s not fair to detect his gold. Sometimes leaseholders will grant permission to detect on their leases, particularly large mining corporations who are only interested in rock mining. However if people sneak onto these leases and are caught, even if they are not prosecuted, permission is much harder to obtain in the future for anyone. This is bad for detecting as large areas of good ground can be closed up.
In most states, permission from a mining company is not required if they only have an exploration permit over an area. . However in W.A as the law presently stands, you’re supposed to get permission to detect. This law doesn’t make sense as mining companies could exclude fossicking from literally thousands of square kilometers Its hard to imagine how detecting can get in the way of their exploration.
Most areas you will want to detect will probably be on private property. Property owners above all people should be respected and always seek permission from them to enter their land. No matter how tempting the diggings look, whatever you do, don’t sneak onto private property. Hundreds of good gold fields have been closed up because property owners have discovered someone has sneaked in through the back gate. How can anyone relax and enjoy detecting, knowing they shouldn’t be there? In most cases permission is granted to an honest candid approach.
I know one property owner who fractured his skull when his horse tripped. He then went on to inform me that it wasn’t a detector hole his horse tripped on, but he was worried that it could be next time, as some operators were not filling in their detector holes. If you come across detector holes others have not filled in, please fill them in to preserve the future of detecting. TV media gave lots of publicity to huge Cape York grass fires last year. The property owner concerned mentioned that detector operators had lighted the fires so they could detect close to the ground. How much chance would you have of gaining permission to detect that area in future? Not much.
Property owners are generally reasonable and friendly people, often isolated and sometimes eager to have company and talk. But they are pretty impatient with a breed that cut fences, leave gates open and don’t backfill holes, or who camp next to waterhole’s during droughts, making it difficult for nervous cattle to drink.
Dredging was banned because of a minority of dredge operators who wrecked riverbanks etc. It would be a sad day if a minority of irresponsible detector operators made the same kind of mistakes. If any detector operators in your party do anything stupid, it would pay you to correct them. I guess most of us have made mistakes on the goldfields in the past, or been a bit careless. I know I have. Times have changed, we are in a much more “green” conscious country and it doesn’t hurt to work with nature and not against her. If you are you will be the winner in the long run.
Go out and have some fun. Hope you have some luck