At DriveWA, we understand that the best places to fossick, or prospect for gemstones, are in areas where mountain formation has taken place.
The rocks of such areas are often formed under conditions that are ideal for the development of large crystals. Most important of these are the pegmatites, and similarly areas of limestone that have metamorphosed. You might be fortunate enough to come across the ruby, aquamarine, garnet, epidote, sphene and zircon.
About 30% of Australia’s land area consists of basins that have been filled with sediments. However, with the exception of opal, these areas contain few gemstones.
The most popular areas are likely to be written about in the various fossicking guides, available from the Mines Department and bookshops. State-produced geological maps (the larger their scale the better) are essential. Such maps show the types of surface rock, thus giving hints of the gems and minerals you may find there. They also show roads, homesteads, watercourses, and the locations of various and interesting areas where mineralising occurs.
- A small spalling hammer or sledge hammer ·
- A pick and shovel
- A nest of aluminium sieves
- A prospecting dish large basin to wash gravel in
- A small crowbar
- A pry bar and a selection of rock chisels
- A magnifying glass
- A gardening trowel
- A book on mineral identification is essential
Prospecting dishes come in a range of sizes and can be either metal or plastic. The better quality dishes have a groove around the edge, designed to catch heavy particles such as gold, as material is washed out of the pan.
1. First submerge it in water to concentrate the heavier particles on the bottom. Then grasp the rim of the dish in both hands (one hand on either side) and tilt it sideways
2. Then agitate the contents by gently shaking the dish back and forth, so that the backwash carries the lighter material over the edge. Don't be too vigorous or you'll lose the gold!
3. As you progress, sweep the larger stones out with your hand.
4. Eventually the theory is that all that remains will be heavy particles; which you concentrate by slowly rotating the dish so that the gold forms a tail.
5. To remove the gold, simply moisten the end of a finger and press it on the specks, which you then transfer them to a jar of water. Just dip your finger in the water and the gold will drop off.
There are some outstanding areas of gem-yielding pegmatite in the outback, including the Pilbara region near Marble Bar.
Mine dumps that date from last century, or at least no later than the 1930s, are good sources of all kinds of secondary minerals, including gemstones. High costs and inefficient methods, used during the early days, often meant that only high-grade ore was worth mining. Due to this fact, valuable material was left behind. A good example is the Harts Range mica field; where magnificent gems were tossed away because they had no monetary value at the time.
Abandoned mine sites are very dangerous, and sometimes they were abandoned for that reason. You must always approach them with very considerable caution. DriveWA recommends that you avoid such areas.
In the late 1920s, Dr Gerhard Fisher, a German immigrant who studied electronics at the University of Dresden, obtained the first patent ever issued on aircraft radio direction finders.
When using such direction finders during those early years, aircraft pilots found that errors would occur in their bearings. This happened when metal objects came between the transmitter and receiver, or whenever they passed over certain areas.
Different pilots flying different planes always observed the same errors in the same places.
When Dr. Fisher investigated this phenomenon; he found these errors to be the result of highly conductive, mineralised areas. Dr. Fisher concluded that a portable electronic prospecting instrument could be developed; that used the same principle to detect the presence of small buried objects and ore deposits.
He continued his research into this issue, and began producing the "Metallascope" a rugged, easy-to-use metal detector. The “Metallascope” was soon nicknamed the “M-Scope”. It became an accepted standard for all types of electronic metal detection: geologists located ore; treasure hunters found treasure; utility companies located buried pipes; lumber mills located metal inclusions in sawn logs; and law enforcement agencies used it to locate abandoned or hidden weapons.
With the increasing popularity of the M-Scope, and with Fisher’s patent rights expiring, numerous competitors began producing similar equipment. For this reason, good quality mineral detectors can be hired from the following places:
- The Prospectors Patch: 08 9279 8848
- Reeds Prospecting Supplies Pty Ltd: (08) 9454 7575 ·
Mining Law – Fossicking
A fossicker must have a miner's right or fossicking permit to search for gems and minerals on crown (public) land. Permission to fossick on freehold land and mineral leases must be obtained from the owner or leaseholder. A miner's right may allow access to pastoral leases, but this should be checked with the relevant authority.
For information Contact the Department of Industry and Resources on: (08) 9222 3333 or visit www.doir.wa.gov.au/mineralsandpetroleum/ or visi them in person at: 100 Plain Street East Perth WA 6004
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