There’s still gold waiting to be found around Gladstone and Central Queensland, if you know where to look.
Gold prospector Donnie Pascoe said a 30-ounce nugget was found in the region a few years ago.
“I know the bloke who found it,” he said.
“I also know the bloke who found a patch of eight ounces in the Boyne Valley a month ago.
“It’s still around, you just got to have the time to go looking or be lucky enough to swing your detector over it.”
Donnie is a native of Tamworth currently working in the Gladstone region.
“I came here for a month,” he said.
“That was a year ago.”
In his spare time, he researches the old diggings around the area and does a bit of fossicking, panning and metal detecting on places he’s been permitted to enter.
He’s finding gold too.
Donnie also runs the Facebook page QLD GOLD PROSPECTING & DETECTING EVENTS ⛏⛏⚒, and recently organised a tour of the old gold fields around Gladstone which would include some advice on the basics of fossicking, crevicing and panning for the rare mineral.
After meeting at Mount Larcom our convoy of 12 vehicles headed to Raglan, 20 km to the north.
Duke of Brittany Claim
Just before the Raglan Tavern we turn into Beaufort St. which leads up a hill to a phone tower. Near the top we veer off onto a dirt track and park. The view over Raglan and the surrounding country is quite pleasant and we can clearly hear the sound of shots being fired at the nearby gun range at the base of the hill.
“This is the site of the Duke of Brittany claim,” Donnie tells us.
“The prospector would have panned in the creek below and found a bit of gold, then worked his way up this hill, digging loaming holes.”
(Note: click on the link for more on the ancient skill of loaming , or, if you don’t like reading, the story about the old prospector in the movie ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ is also an excellent example of how to loam)
Donnie points to the rocks at our feet.
“There’s lots of quartz scattered about, but that doesn’t mean there’s gold,” he says.
“The prospector would have chased the quartz up the hill and found out where it was coming from.
“It would have been mineral ore with gold hanging off it, poking out of the side of the hill.”
We venture into the scrub which is thick with lantana.
“Lantana is another indicator of potential old diggings in the area,” Donnie says.
“It seems to thrive in places where the ground has been disturbed or loosened up, like old diggings.”
The ground here had definitely been loosened up as, according to the records, over 300 miners were frantically digging the place up in its’ heyday back in the 1860’s.
Many of the shallow holes they created have long since been filled in, but Donnie has bought us here to search for another piece of history; an old tree with markings on it from the period.
Severe storms have swept through the area recently and it’s possible the tree may have been blown down. Fortunately, a member of the group finds it and we can clearly see where a sign has been carved into the trunk; the number ‘146’ above which is an arrow pointing roughly southwards.
“Mystery surrounds the sign,” Donnie says.
“It could be a 146 mile marker?”
Note: 146 miles is 234 klm. Raglan to Bundaberg is 230 k’s away, so it could potentially be a link.
Except gold was found in Raglan in 1867 and Bundaberg wasn’t officially named, or the streets laid out, until 1870, so it’s unlikely.
Donnie says it’s also possible the number could be 14.6 which is 23kms. That’s fairly close to the distance of nearby Mount Larcom township which is 19klm, just shy of 12 miles, away. The arrow is more or less pointing in the direction of the distant peak.
Returning to our cars we wind our way back down the hill, and head north again, just past the Raglan Tavern, then turn down Hourigan Creek Road.
Port Alma Mine
We pass the sporting shooters range and the old Raglan Cemetery before turning right into Port Alma Lane. Just after the Black Powder shooting range we park near the third gun club next to a creek crossing.
Donnie points at the creek.
“Someone found gold there,” he says.
“Again, they would have followed the creek back up the hill.”
He leads us into a paddock, and we follow a grassy ridge to the top of the hill.
“This track was where the carts would have travelled to and from the mine to the big crusher down at the creek,” Donnie says.
There is plenty of quartz scattered alongside the track.
“The quartz would have been sitting where it had dropped off the carts over 150 years ago,” he tells us.
I pick up a piece and Donnie points out the red iron pigment in it.
“That’s another good sign,” he says.
“When you start finding shale, sandstone and quartz with a bit of ironstone, go a little further, there’ll be granite and some limestone.”
Near the top of the hill the rough track leads to a deep grass covered gully and Donnie announces that we have arrived at the entrance to the Port Alma gold mine.
We file into the gully, and Donnie points to a small hole in the side of the hill.
“That’s the Port Alma Mine,” he says.
“They would have followed the gold trail up the creek to here, then chased the vein down underneath this rock and started tunneling into the hill.”
Lumps of quartz are strewn from the mouth of the mine along the entrance trench, down into the gully which leads to the creek below where our cars are parked.
“They would have pulled that quartz out of the mine,” Donnie says.
Some of the group are picking up quartz and examining it, others are stuffing the rocks into their pockets.
We inspect the mouth of the mine. For some reason, none of us thought to bring a torch and, oddly for a group of keen fossickers, no one has bought their metal detectors with them either.
Using the lights on our phones we peer into the darkness, but there’s not much to see.
According to the records the mine yielded approximately half an ounce per half tonne of quartz. That’s a lot of rock for very little gold.
Donnie tells us the best way to find gold hidden in the quartz is to pulverise it then place the dust into a pan and swirl it in a pan of water to separate the gold from the quartz.
Looking at the large chunks of quartz lying around us I wonder how long it would take to pulverise a lump of rock the size of your fist using a hammer. Quite a while I gather.
Lying on his back Donnie scrambles into the entrance hole and is enveloped in a cloud of mosquitoes.
“Just one of the pests that hang around old mines,” he mutters.
“Along with the snakes and other creepy crawlies,” he adds.
We wait to see what else comes scurrying out as he crawls in; or bites him.
Happily, he’s not attacked by anything else, but after he takes a couple of photos he crawls back out and gives us some excellent safety tips:
1. Let people know where you’re going and how long you expect to be, especially if you’re fossicking alone.
2. Be aware of loose rocks above you.
3. Carry a satellite phone if you’re going out of mobile range.
4. Wear leggings to deflect snake bites.
5. Always carry plenty of water with you.
Some mossie spray would be quite handy too.
The view from the mine is quite good. Mount Larcom is clearly visible in the south and to the north we can see the gleaming white piles of salt which has been extracted from the man-made lakes on the tidal flats at the salt works in Bajool.
As shots ring out from the nearby gun range, we return to our cars and drive south to Calliope, the site of Queensland’s first official gold strike.
(Check out the photos then click on the link to Part 2 of our tour)