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.

North West Telegraph - - Telegraph News -

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.

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