A prospect of riches in a time­less land

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - RHYS CHAM­BER­LAIN Full story: stuff.co.nz

‘‘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.

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