Metal Detecting for Gold Nuggets - A getting started guide
In Australia, over 150 million dollars worth of gold is being found annually with metal detectors. If you follow some guidelines, you will find at least some gold as a beginner, so your hobby will also be financially rewarding. However, I know of many beginners who have found really big nuggets.
Buy a Good Detector
Unless you have a very thin wallet, forget about buying a cheap second-hand, outdated unit. Detector technology has increased dramatically in the last few years. If you have a bit of the treasure hunterís blood, you will surely have an enjoyable time and find gold - with patience. Buy a machine that is specifically made for finding gold nuggets, rather than a coin and relic detector. At present Minelab is leading the field with its GP and SD Series detectors (great depth). The Minelab Eureka Gold (versatile with auto-ground balance), or the XT 18000, which is an earlier version, are the best of the VLF detectors, however they are much inferior to the SDís and GPís.
Where to Go
Donít trust solely to luck, do a little research. You need to locate the nearest field that has previously produced gold nuggets. Find the old timerís diggings and start from there. If you are really fortunate, maybe you know an experienced person who can take you to a good area.
1. Tap the brains of the dealer who sells you your detector. No one will exactly pinpoint a rich spot, or they would have cleaned it out themselves. Gold-town tourist shops and detector shops usually sell books and maps of the old diggings in their area. There are often historical books on gold finds covering most states of Australia. Research at your library.
2. Do your best to get to know the locals of a gold town or area. Donít ask too many questions, or they will clam up, but listen for the bits of info they may drop from time-to-time.
3. Phone or visit or write to the nearest State Dept. of Minerals and Energy or Dept. of Mines. They will advise or provide maps and explain how you can legally detect in an area. For instance, in N.S.W at present, you donít need a fossickerís licence, but in Queensland you do. Some of the gold-bearing land will be under private lease. If you donít know whether land is under a lease, ask the local miners, graziers, etc. Lease poles always mark the boundaries of leases. If it is leased, some leaseholders may give you permission. Crown land is not uncommon and is an open door with no hassles. Also many farmers will give you permission to detect on their property, so a candid honest approach is best.
4. Perhaps join your nearest prospecting club as some of their members can advise you where to go. To start with, detect areas of ground where previous prospectors have found gold. You will quickly learn the tell-tale signs of old gold diggings. Mullock heaps and uneven ground suggest previous workings. Rocks thrown out of creek beds and gullies are also indicators. Old shafts and quartz heaps are worth investigating. Locals will often point out where previous operators have detected successfully. Usually they will tell you that there is little left, but donít worry, they will have missed some of the smaller or deeper nuggets. The latest high-tech detectors are capable of picking up gold missed by the earlier-model machines. It is far easier for a beginner to find a little gold in a pre-worked area by careful scanning, than it is to find in an untried area. As I said, your new hi-tech machine will beep on tiny or deeper nuggets that older machines werenít capable of locating. Remember that generally there are a dozen match-head size pieces for every pea-size nugget, and a dozen pea-size nuggets for every coin-size nugget.
5. You should find some gold nuggets in the mullock heaps of old diggings, so scan them carefully and thoroughly. Every patch of diggings has the potential to produce at least a few nuggets. There is far more gold left in previously unworked ground and this is where fortunes can be made. But it will take a little more experience to know where to look. After a while you will be able to recognize the type of ground that has potential. In some areas the indicator may be scattered quartz, in others, it may be ironstone or shale. Search in the vicinity of these workings if the ground is still hard or rocky. This unworked ground may have been too poor for the old timers to mine, but may prove productive to you with your detector. If you purchase a Minelab SD series, or the latest GP Extreme, and GP 3000, with their superior-depth capabilities, it may be wiser to commence your search in undisturbed ground closer to the diggings. This detector will penetrate deeply to find any gold that the old timers left behind. The GP series and SD2200v2 have an iron discriminator, which is a huge advantage for areas with iron rubbish. Areas close to worked ground usually have various objects, old nails and other junk scattered about.
6. Donít detect in ground that is deep and soft. Gold, being heavy, sinks down to bedrock. If you look for ground where the bedrock (clay, slate) is less than about 50cm down, (1 metre with SD series) all the better. Any nuggets will be resting on the rock bottom, well within reach of your search coilís ability. After you have experienced some goldfields, you will become familiar with the type of ground that may hold gold. This knowledge will later enable you to do some more ambitious prospecting on the fringes of the goldfields, and even beyond. Years ago, detector operators often used bulldozers to enable them to detect deeper layers of ground. Many gold hunters avoid these worked areas with disgust. Thatís fine because they will leave the gold for you. Usually there are some small fragments of gold left. If you detect carefully you will find them. If you were to start your search in or close to a bulldozed area you would be an intelligent beginner. Please remember to always fill in detector holes or the conservationists may move for a ban on metal detectors. For detailed tuition on detecting, I strongly recommend my four training videos, ďNugget Finding SecretsĒ parts 1 to 4, as they cover a wide range of conditions.
7. Who to Go With If you donít know an experienced person, join a fossickerís club to begin with. Itís a good way of gaining experience and you will learn quickly by tagging along. Read Gold Gem and Treasure magazine, order back issues and read the lot to get knowledge and inspiration. If youíre really serious, spend some money and join a gold safari. This could save you much time and wasted effort, and you will learn quickly.
How to Use Your Detector
1. When you find a promising area (grading, old diggings, shallow ground), do not detect haphazardly. Choose a small patch, and cover every bit of it. Do this by keeping the search coil at about 1 cm from the ground and swing it slowly. Swing the coil no more than about 1 metre from side to side and move forward no more than the length of the search coil for each swing. Long sweeps increase mineralisation noises, (this does not apply to the SD detectors). With some detectors, about one third of a coilís length is more sensitive than the rest, so donít progress forward too rapidly. If you find nothing, keep trying other areas until you eventually locate a nugget. Then be extra careful, because where there is one there are usually more in the vicinity.
2. Ignore any wide, gradual changes in sound, they are simply due to ground mineralisation changes. Dig up any short or sharp signals, no matter how faint. They could be small hot rocks, scrap metal or gold.
3. If you have a manual ground-balance machine, you may have to re-balance every few minutes, depending on the condition of the ground. (not so with the GP or the SD series when using a Double-D coil).
4. When you locate gold and the surface of the ground is littered with leaves, sticks or rocks, then get your garden rake out and clean up the area. If there are small nuggets about, you will double your success by doing this, for your detector will penetrate deeper into the ground.
5. If the signal is tiny, first scrape a little soil from the indicated spot to one side. If the signal has moved out of the hole, then sprinkle the soil from the heap onto the search coil, a handful at a time. It will beep when the metal object touches it.
6. Bury a pea-sized piece of metal at 8-10cm. Pass your coil over it and get used to the faint sound it gives off. Practice out the bush or the beach where the ground has little mineralisation, before you attempt to detect the more difficult gold fields.
7. Do not try to cover a large area by impatiently moving from spot to spot. Most beginners make this very mistake. Iíve seen them charging all over the place looking for the big magic nugget. Concentrate on slow coverage in one spot. If you find nothing after patient and thorough scanning, then try elsewhere.
What Success to Expect
If you follow the outlined steps you should find at least a little gold within a few days, depending of course, on the potential of the area. You may even find large nuggets, although usually that takes more time. However, there are still plenty of big nuggets to be found, even in well-worked (thrashed) areas. You just need to be patient and willing to dig any deep-sounding faint signals. Be prepared to be somewhat disappointed with many of these digs. They could be mineralised charcoal, soil, hot rocks or clay. If you persevere, and experience becomes your friend, you have a chance of finding a small or perhaps a large fortune. Once you gain a little experience you should quickly cover expenses and pay for your detector, and possibly even much more. Meanwhile relax and enjoy your new hobby. Donít try and rush success, for it will come.
Happy hunting, and welcome to the prospecting family.
- Jack article courtesy of: jacksgold.com