Region in grip of gold fever
Taylar Amonini explored the world of gold mining in the Pilbara to find out just why the industry is becoming so popular again.
While a bit of gold prospecting on the weekend has never been new or unusual for Pilbara locals, companies have bypassed gold for iron ore — until now.
In the past three months gold discoveries have permeated the news every week and the hype is growing.
But why is this happening and what should you know about it? The North West Telegraph went to find out.
Despite gold being searched for in the Pilbara for more than 100 years, the recent rush was sparked when Canada’s Novo Resources began finding small watermelon seed-shaped gold nuggets at Artemis Resources’ Purdy’s Reward prospect.
Over four days in early August Artemis Resources, in partnership with Karratha prospector Will Scott, discovered 547g of nuggets worth more than $25,000.
Since then, a host of explorers with neighbouring tenements have begun scouring their land for similar finds while others have rushed to peg ground in the vicinity.
What makes these nuggets special over those found by your average Joe Blog on the long weekend is they are indicative of conglomerate-style gold mineralisation embedded in sedimentary rock — meaning the nuggets are embedded in rock similar to fossils.
This type of gold nugget has been found in the massive Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa — the world’s biggest known gold reserve producing 50 per cent of all the gold ever mined on earth.
The discovery has sparked two theories: that the North West region of WA was either once connected to or is of a similar structure to South Africa’s Witwatersrand Basin and that the conglomerate of gold wraps around the area’s Hamersley Range.
“There’s potentially gold right down to the Ashburton River, coming all the way up to Karratha and Whim Creek and going out to Marble Bar and Nullagine and wrapping right around the Hamersley Range,” Karratha prospector Will Scott said.
“Even if it’s not too deep, it runs hundreds of kilometres and that’s a lot of gold and if it does prove real it would make Kalgoorlie look like a pinprick. There’s a lot of hype, but I think there’s a chance the hype could turn into reality.”
While this modern-day Pilbara gold rush may seem like an overnight thing, prospectors have been searching for well over a decade.
Long-time Pilbara prospector, Dennis O’Mara, partnered with Kalamazoo Resources more than 10 years ago.
Kalamazoo chairman Luke Reinehr said finding this type of nugget could mean a focus on the Pilbara as big as the iron ore industry had brought.
“It’s fantastic for a couple of reasons,” he said.
“For one, the world’s exploration focus for gold is on the Pilbara now and this in turn could mean a fantastic jobs boost for the region.
“We saw examples in Victoria and the Goldfields of economic booms happening with gold rushes, even simply down to stores selling wheelbarrows and metal detectors to bring in money and jobs.”
Kalamazoo Resources was the latest exploration company to acquire equity in the region’s Pilbara gold projects including The Sisters and Marble Bar projects and DOM’s Hill.
Port Hedland Chamber of Commerce president Jim Henneberry echoed Mr Reinehr’s predictions of an economic boom saying it could be better than the iron ore boom — if the right steps are taken now.
“We heard about these discoveries at the New Pilbara conference earlier this year but I don’t think anyone expected it to get so big so quickly,” he said. “And like we said there: we’re open for business.”
However, Mr Henneberry said there was still a lot to do to get towns ready for the economic boost the rush would surely bring.
“Last time (Port Hedland) was caught with its pants down during the iron ore boom — there was no accommodation for the workforce that came to town,” he said. “That will be the key to it, accommodate people and they will come (to Hedland) otherwise they will go elsewhere like Karratha and Newman.”
Mr Henneberry also looked to Government and said they needed to get Lumsden Point under way to facilitate the potential boom.
“Of course it would facilitate jobs and exports,” he said.
“So we need to start getting Lumsden Point prepared for all the equipment that has to come in and exports out — you can’t build a mine without bringing in the equipment.
“We are the closest point to these gold fields with the infrastructure already there on the cards.
“If we start acting now and taking advantage of it we will surely see the Pilbara rise up again.”
Kalamazoo Resources chairman Luke Reinehr.