All that glitters

By BELINDA SCOTT

GOLD, gold, gold!

Coffs Harbour is known for its golden beaches, but the fabled golden metal is still to be found in the hills and rivers around Coffs Harbour.

More than 120 years after gold was discovered at Nana Creek and the Orara Goldfield proclaimed in 1881, miners may not be striking it rich, but they are still finding gold.

In fact there is a small army of prospectors quietly panning creeks and rivers in the Orara Valley and chipping away at gold-bearing reefs on the Eastern Dorrigo.

"There's just enough to torment you all the time," said one prospector, who did not want to be identified.

The miners' torment provides a profitable sideline for at least one Coffs Coast craftsman as well as adornment for some lucky women.

Manufacturing jeweller and goldsmith Grant Tozer said people trickled in to his Coffs Harbour workshop all the time with small quantities of gold they had found in the district and wanted made into gold jewellery.

He said the gold was generally alluvial gold panned from creeks and rivers and quantities were generally small, often just enough to make a ring or two.

But he recently made a beautiful hand-wrought necklace from 65 grams of local gold.

Mr Tozer said he believed this gold had been collected over a long period by a local family of prospectors.

The owner of Coffs Harbour Disposals, Ken Mitchell, said his two stores sold quite a lot of prospecting equipment, including gold pans, sieves, geologists' picks and portable shovels.

"I always say when you get a few nuggets, bring one back," he said.

So far he has not scored any nuggets.

The owner of George's Gold Mine, George Robb, who has spent a lifetime farming and prospecting in the area once known as the Orara Goldfields, said he believed there was still gold to be found, perhaps even in commercial quantities.

Mr Robb said the last good 'strike' he had heard of was 10 years ago when miners found some good nuggets in a gully near

Nymboida, but he said miners often kept their finds to themselves.

"The old geologists always said we weren't going deep enough, but we didn't have the equipment,' he said.

"Maybe it's further down."

He nominated the area around Bucca Creek as the most likely site for a commercial find.

The Little Nymboida and Little Bobo rivers have also yielded alluvial gold.

Mr Robb himself prospects in the area around his popular tourist attraction at Lowanna.

He also crushes gold-bearing quartz for reef-gold prospectors, using George's Gold Mine's historic stamper battery.

Metal detectors are the modern way to prospect for gold and Grant Tozer said many new prospectors were using these to look for gold on previously-worked claims, to detect gold which had been missed by the initial miners.

Park Beach beachgoers this week saw one prospector looking for treasure a different way ? sweeping his metal detector over the sand to look for coins and jewellery dropped by visitors to the beach.

The assistant manager of Dick Smith Electronics in Coffs Harbour, Dan Mamone, said the store was currently out of stock of metal detectors suitable for gold prospecting, but expected to have more within a week.

He said the detectors, which sell for under $100, could find gold or other metals up to 30cm deep.



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