Gold luck

Prospect­ing in the Pil­bara

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Re­becca Parish

It would be hard to ar­gue any prospec­tor be­lieves in luck more than Daniele Specogna.

Four years ago, aged 62, Mr Specogna said good­bye to the earth as he lay in a creek bed wait­ing for death.

The Mar­ble Bar man had been out prospect­ing for gold when he ran out of water.

Too far from home or his car, Mr Specogna de­cided his only op­tion was to send a sig­nal and to wait for help.

He set fire to the land and bur­rowed down in the creek bed.

He lay in that spot for two days and one long night, say­ing his good­byes to the world, to his two daugh­ters, and to his home coun­try, Italy.

It’s an un­com­fort­able mem­ory for Mr Specogna.

“It’s a strange ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said.

“It was sur­real, I was pre­pared to go.”

Mr Specogna is one of many Mar­ble Bar res­i­dents who reg­u­larly go deep into the Pil­bara out­back, dig­ging into the rich red dirt with a pick-axe in the hope of find­ing gold.

Some come across small nuggets no big­ger than a cou­ple of grams.

Oth­ers make a life-chang­ing find; a spec­i­men as big as your hand could be worth more than $50,000. The finds, and their lo­ca­tion, are among the most closely guarded se­crets in the small town.

For Lang Cop­pin, prospect­ing is no small op­er­a­tion.

He’s not just out there look­ing for nuggets — he has his eyes set on much larger prizes, and he’s will­ing to do what­ever it takes to find them.

It’s with the help of his R44 heli­copter Mr Cop­pin and his as­so­ciates strike gold.

“This town is sit­ting on a bloody gold­mine,” he said.

Mr Cop­pin said at one point ear­lier this year, he be­lieved there were about 200 peo­ple out prospect­ing within a 100km ra­dius of Mar­ble Bar.

A to­tal of 342 prospect­ing li­cences have been is­sued in the Mar­ble Bar area in the past five years and, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Mines and Petroleum, over­all the num­ber of prospect­ing li­cences ap­plied for in the Pil­bara has re­mained fairly con­stant, apart from a slight in­crease in 2014-15.

“You fly around and there’s peo­ple camp­ing ev­ery­where,” Mr Cop­pin said.

Mr Cop­pin is also dip­ping his toes into the lithium market.

To­gether with a pri­vate prospec­tors’ syn­di­cate, Mr Cop­pin re­cently signed an op­tion agree­ment with Blaze In­ter­na­tional to start the first phase of drilling on a de­posit near town.

It’s a market few are yet to en­ter as the world watchesto see how se­ri­ous the com­mod­ity could be­come.

The de­posit, Mr Cop­pin says, is the first out­side of Pil­bara Min­er­als’ Pil­gan­goora Lithium-Tan­ta­lum Project to be drilled and ex­plored.

“Mar­ble Bar is rich in min­er­als,” he said.

Base met­als in­clud­ing cop­per, lead, and zinc sur­round Mar­ble Bar, with the old­est cop­per-lead-zinc de­posits in the world found at Len­non’s Find about 60km south-east of the town.

Barite was also mined some 50km west of Mar­ble Bar, but op­er­a­tions ceased about 20 years ago.

For Mr Specogna, the search for gold is not about the money, but more about the small gifts the earth gives him.

“I’m not a greedy per­son, I don’t work for money any­more,” the prospec­tor and hobby jew­eller said.

“I worked for money enough in life . . . I don’t sell my time any more. I’m lucky, you see . . . and that’s it, more or less.”

And any­one who hears the story of how he was found, so de­hy­drated, that fate­ful day in 2012, would be­lieve him.

“I was pre­pared to go in a way,” he said. “But there was no ten­sion, alarm or des­per­a­tion . . . not at all.”

When asked whether he be­lieved some­one was watch­ing over him, Mr Specogna re­calls that there was.

“I saw in the morn­ing some­body watch­ing me, it was an ea­gle, and quite close,” he said.

“I could see her head cir­cling around look­ing down at me.”

He joked that he promptly gifted the bird to his friend in the sky.

Pic­tures: Re­becca Parish.

The land on the out­skirts of Mar­ble Bar is full of gold de­posits.

Lang Cop­pin likes to get a bird's eye view when search­ing for gold.

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