Focus on "Size" at Your Own Risk

 (The Aussie Outback has long been noted for large nuggets.)

Recent comments sent in by Bedrock Dreams supporter and multi-talented Australian gold prospector and miner GS got me to thinking...risky business even at the best of times. You see, anything can happen once those rusty wheels start grinding away inside my brain.

What's the Ideal?

One of the issues that GS touched on was the difference between gold prospecting and gold mining. To most of you out there (including GS), this difference is not only well defined but old hat as well. Still, there are those of you who are new to small-scale gold endeavors so let me provide my personal definition of this difference yet again:

"Gold prospecting is the art of finding gold and gold mining is the art of recovering gold."

Is there overlap here? Sure there is. That said, there can be quite a difference between the two avocations as well. Over the course of time I've known some very competent gold prospectors who either didn't care for mining much or, concurrently, weren't very good at it. Conversely, I've known some very astute gold miners who were not very good at gold prospecting. And yes, you have those who are pretty decent at both ends of the spectrum. That's the ideal, I guess and one I've striven hard to balance over the years. Anyway, I'm not here to split hairs on this issue...just trying to pass a bit of basic info along to the "newbies."

What Should Concern You

The main intent of GS's comments had to do with metal detecting for gold nuggets, something a large segment of Aussie "fossickers" Down Under focus their attention on...and rightly so. More than any other location in the world, the Australian Outback has proven itself to be the large-chain supermarket when it comes to gold nuggets recovered using metal detectors. Tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of small, medium, and large nuggets have been found in Australia with detectors since 1980. Counted among these was the "Hand of Faith," a once-in-a-lifetime prize that was purchased for a cool million (USD).

OK, the history lesson over, what is nugget shooting or searching for gold using a metal detector? Right you are! It's a form of electronic prospecting. Not mining, but prospecting. Yes, you do recover gold using this method but the recovery efforts have little at all (if anything) to do with gold mining as we know it from both the approach and equipment standpoints. So who cares? As long as you're getting the gold all this semantics mumbo jumbo really doesn't mean much, right?

(I suspect the Outback ain't for wussies or girly men.)

WRONG. Here's why. As GS himself has pointed out, he's working a gold lease in the Outback with the primary focus (notice I said primary, not entire) on electronic least until this point in time anyway. Like many other Aussie fossickers, GS has found his share of nuggets using a metal detector. What concerns him now is the notion that for every nugget he's recovered, couldn't there also be smaller or even fine gold to be had at those nugget recovery locations? Maybe lots of smaller gold in the form of fines and flakes that even the most sensitive detector might miss if it's spread out and about and not concentrated into detectable amounts?

Bingo! Let me go back to my analogy in "Nuggets is Nuggets" where I mentioned I've seen miners get ALL excited over a small nugget weighing a few grams and then barely crack a smile when they filled a one-ounce vial with fine gold. In that statement I was speaking from more of a philosophical standpoint and not a practical one, although that implication was there. And GS is asking the right sort of  question, as should any prospector or miner...electronic or otherwise. Is there more gold where I found this nugget?

Bypassed Gold?

Now I've never been to Australia or the Outback (more's the pity methinks), nor have I ever prospected or mined for gold there. But from my own three and half decades of small-scale mining experience in the United States and Mexico I've never...repeat NEVER...found nuggets without finding a lot more gold in the form of fines and flakes in the same location or nearby. This is true with both wet and dry or desert placer locations. I'm just throwing this out there for all of you to digest and to do with as you see fit.

I will say this, however. GS is using his prospecting and mining brain and unlike many electronic prospectors, he isn't so focused on "size" that he fails to see the $$$ possibilities that "quantity" can bring. God only knows how much small gold has been bypassed by those swinging a metal detector over the years, not only here in the Lower 48 of the United States but perhaps even more so in the goldfields of the Australian Outback.

Think on that...

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2014

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR, another great post here to get folks like me scratching their skull! Why do you think it is that Australia has so many big nuggets laying basically right on top of the ground? I know that compared to other continents, Australia is somewhat new, and it is dry in the part they are finding these, but I don't think it always has been. Regardless of how the gold got there, why is it so close to the surface? Seems like a million years of seasonal rain would cause it to settle deeper down if nothing more. Kind of confusing to me, since gold is so heavy,and these nuggets are big, yet they are on top of the ground or shallowly buried. Sure wish I could try it out! Gary

  2. I know a lot about gold mining and prospecting but I am woefully ignorant on the finer aspects of Aussie gold, particularly shallow nuggets as are often found in the Outback. How that deposition took place I really don't know...I do know much of it eroded out from reefs (as the Aussies call veins). Maybe GS can school us in the finer points of this or someone with better knowledge than mine as it pertains to precious metals in Australia. Best, J.R.

  3. I live in Australia and I can tell you that while you hear a lot about finding nuggets in Australia, I personally have only ever found a small handful - and I go treasure hunting almost every weekend.
    Obviously if you go out to ballarat or kalgoorlie (big gold towns) you will find a lot more, but almost everywhere else seems to be fairly poor for gold prospecting in my experience.

  4. Thanks for providing this info John. Shakes things up a bit doesn't it? By the way, you'll find a link to John's metal detecting website in the Bedrock Dreams links section. Best, J.R.

    1. (Sorry, John's website is


Post a Comment