A prospect of riches in a timeless land
‘‘We could make a lot of money, but lose a lot of money just as quickly.’’
Ever wanted to step back in time and live the pioneering lifestyle? Why not buy a Central Otago gold claim?
A 118 hectare site in the Nevis Valley between Garston and Bannockburn is up for sale for a miserly $80,000, a fraction of what you could get if you sluiced, dredged and panned the area for its riches, says claim owner Mark Thomas, of Queenstown.
It’s a block near Soper Creek on the flat under the Hector Mountains.
Thomas reckons he could get seven or eight ounces of alluvial gold from his nearby Drummond Creek claim ‘‘ on a good day’’, which at up to $1800 an ounce, could be pretty lucrative.
He and business partner Ray Finn once pulled a tennis-ballsized gold nugget worth about $100,000 out of the Drummond site, he says.
But the gold mining game is fickle, Thomas says.
‘‘We could make a lot of money, but lose a lot of money [on replacing equipment] just as quickly.’’
The Soper Creek block is a ‘‘virgin’’ claim dissected by the Nevis River about 5km from Drummond Creek. It’s been sitting, untouched and unmined since Thomas and Finn bought it from the Stoney Creek Mining Company about 10 years ago.
Thomas, reluctantly, doesn’t have time for mining anymore.
‘‘I think it would probably suit someone who was keen on engineering and geology.’’
It isn’t just the prospect of riches that captures people’s imagination, but the allure of the land, Thomas says.
‘‘It’s absolutely beautiful. Sometimes I’d stay up there in the winter for a couple of weeks at a time and get snowed in.
‘‘It’s a beautiful place. Very quiet.’’
The sale is for a 10 year lease of the area, and anyone that mines it would need to restore the land to its original state or better to meet a clause in the permit, he says.
Apart from the mystique of both gold and the land that encases it, Thomas reckons ‘‘working in a world where you work by yourself out in the wilderness and away from basically everybody else’’ and being your own boss is pretty good too.
Even though Thomas is selling up his claim, he’s not opposed to giving gold mining one more shot ... someday.
‘‘I might take my grandkids out for a bit of a look,’’ he says.
The Old Woman Range looking down into the Nevis Valley, Central Otago.
Former miner Mark Thomas.