Prospecting in the West Australian outback is proving as alluring as it was when the gold price hit record highs - and it's retirees driving the resurgence.
Jamie Line, owner of The Prospectors Patch in Kalgoorlie, says some of the fortune-seekers find kilograms of the precious metal and make their pile while others search for decades and find nothing.
With WA’s unique and fascinating geology, the odds of uncovering a gold nugget are way better than gambling at the casino, he says.
“It used to be a big secret,” Mr Line said on Wednesday.
He said there had been substantial growth in the number of Miner’s Rights issued in recent years and attributed the surge to an aging population, which meant there were more retirees with time on their hands.
Many were fulfilling a life-long goal by picking up a metal detector and taking to the bush.
“It’s a bucket list thing,” Mr Line said.
“A lot of them are beginners and I guess what led them into it were their friends, who had been doing it for years while they were tied up with their business.
“And TV shows exposing the lifestyle is attractive to a lot of people.
“It’s always been man’s great dream – find a nugget.”
Some prospectors reach agreements with mining companies to trawl a patch of their land and in exchange, provide valuable geological information about their finds while keeping an eye on the boundaries for trespassers.
Mr Line, who trades gold as well as selling and hiring prospecting equipment, said he loved his job and had met some real characters.
“You meet some interesting people, people that you’d never meet anywhere else.
“The stories … amazing. Real Aussie folklore stuff.”
The price of the precious metal spiked at an all-time high of more than $US1900 an ounce in 2011 and currently fetches over $US1200/oz.