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Luck can play a very big part in successful nugget hunting and should be taken into account when considering your options on where to look and your decisions on why you’re looking there, however from my view point I always consider ‘Lady Luck’ to be a wild card that is both welcomed but at the same time to be avoided as much as possible. This blog is about highlighting some of the decisions I make when out patch hunting and why.
First and foremost I make sure the area of interest is in a mineralised belt, this can be done by checking old records to see if nuggety gold has been found in the area, then through the study of geological maps confirm that the mineralisation continues beyond the known historical nugget bearing zones. Basically, you need to confirm that the rock types present in the known gold mineralisation zones continue into your area of interest.
Once I’ve chosen the location it then comes down to setting up a base camp that is central to the area to allow ready access, or if commuting every day, becoming familiar with available tracks etc. Please keep in mind; it is your responsibility to make sure you have the correct local permissions in place to legally access the ground.
Because I’ve been in this game a long time I have a history of nugget finding behind me, covering a very large portion of the Australian mainland. I mention this because a very big part of my strategy is to work off known nugget producing patches/areas, or more precisely use known nugget patches as crumbing grounds to supplement the search for a new patch. You can do the same simply by having discussions with other prospectors who are willing to talk about areas that have traditionally been productive for them - you would be amazed to see the plethora of information available out there through clubs and internet forums. Obtaining information is a very big part of the research process.
Knowing you can locate a piece of gold often helps immensely in the psychological battle of dealing with finding nothing day after day. Having an area you can fall back on for an hour or two that has a high potential of at least one small bit aids immensely in maintaining a positive attitude. My usual routine involves making a decision the night before on the area I’m going to hunt first thing; next morning sees me arriving on the ground bright and early looking for likely signs of potential nugget producing ground. Simply put, I’m making decisions on where to detect based on what the ground looks like, both visually based on past experiences and also geologically based on data collated from maps etc.
The sorts of things I look for are: colour changes, outcroppings, alterations in the country rock when it contacts quartz or ironstone reef structure, granite contacts with sedimentary rocks, compression of the sedimentary rocks forming schist’s, fracturing in the country rock when in association with the previously mentioned structures, cross faulting intrusions that go against the general trend and lastly depth of soil. The depth of the localised soils has a two fold bearing on the likelihood of gold being present. Firstly, there’s no point detecting in ground that is too deep for the detector so I like to keep bedrock in sight at all times. Secondly, when gold bearing reefs break down they tend to weather differently to the surrounding rocks, quite often there will be more clays and residual soils associated with the deposit compared to the immediate area. I’ve tracked gullies that are carrying gold purely because of the clays laying in the bottom of the creeks that are not present in the surrounding gullies. The same goes for slope and hill deposits in the flatter terrains such as in the Yilgarn of WA where the gold has weathered out almost in situ, in these cases you can see where the ground is less boney than other areas once you recognize the signs.
Lastly and most importantly I listen to what my metal detector is telling me, in the case of the GPX 5000 I don’t always choose a Soil/Timing that totally ignores hot rocks and mineralisation especially in virgin untried areas. Mineralisation is your best friend when looking for a patch, listening for when the back ground mineralisation levels rise and the occurrence of hot rocks becoming more common place can indicate a virgin patch missed by others who might have chosen timings that ironed out all the ground noise. Get into the habit of making comparisons to the localised ground response, a change in the trend can subtly inform you that there is the potential of gold dropping out in the system. Once you get the whiff of gold, sometimes it’s OK to let Lady Luck direct you to that first sunbaker nugget sitting there waiting to be picked up. Lady luck can be your best friend just so long as you show her who’s boss!
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