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TOPIC: Gold nut eyes bigger prize

Gold nut eyes bigger prize 8 years 1 month ago #3439

ALEX FENSOME
Goldmining is making a comeback across the south as the international gold price soars.
Prices have been rising consistently for a decade, hitting a high of NZ$2224 an ounce in August, with further rises predicted.

Now, the gold surge is reaching Southland.

Edendale man Henry Geerings has spent most of his life as a fossicker, but thinks the price is now high enough to go semi-professional.

When he was seven, his father took him to the Te Aroha mountain in Waikato. They found only fool's gold, but he was hooked.

Working part-time on a farm, he had been able to make plenty of trips into the old goldfields of the South Island, he said.

Now, he and a friend have spent $6000 on a claim at an undisclosed high-country location.
"Until last year I never bothered getting serious," he said.

"This river we're going to claim has a history of big nuggets."

The fossicking scene in the south had been going crazy with the rocketing gold price, he said.
"Every week there's about one or two claims going in ... a few people are quite cagey."
Despite only pursuing gold as a hobby until now, he could still make good money from dredging and panning around the lower South Island.

In 2009, he found a nugget the size of a flattened egg in the Arrow River which he sold for $15,000.
Now, that would be worth about $45,000.

Using a dredger, he could make about $200 a day in the Arrow, he said.

"It'd be triple that now."

Mr Geerings has spent $10,000 on a new dredger from the United States, which is equipped with an air pump to enable him to spend hours in the water.

"When you're out there on a summer's day watching gold go up the hose you lose track of time," he said.

Both his claim and and his new dredger are a big outlay but he felt it would be worth it.
"$10,000 – it's less than five ounces of gold."

With the economy in a slump, he said he could see the appeal of goldmining.

It mirrored what happened during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"People were mining just enough to get by ... there's another depression now (and) there's plenty of gold out there."

The precious metal can be found at Orepuki Beach, in high-country rivers around Queenstown, in the Arrow, in East Otago and even in the Mataura River.

"You could definitely make a living off it if you have the right gear," he said.

In 2009, Crown Minerals (now New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals) opened up 16 areas across the South Island where people can fossick for gold without a permit. Five are in Southland and Otago.

They are Gabriel's Gully, near Lawrence, the Arrow River near Arrowtown, Twelve Mile Creek and Five Mile Creek, both west of Queenstown, and the lower Shotover River near Frankton.

Elsewhere, permits are required. Establishing a big claim such as Mr Geerings', could involve a lot of work. "There's two ways – an easy way and a hard way," he said.

The hard way is going through Crown Minerals and filling out one of their permit applications yourself, which he said was very complicated.

The easier way is to get a land tenancy agent to do it for you.

"They can do it in three days (but) it costs $1000," he said.

It can take up to nine months to process a permit application.

The Southland Times

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