Good prospect of success, out fossicking in Beechworth this summer, says Darren Sutton

PERFECT SPOT: Darren Sutton says Woolshed Valley in Beechworth will become busy with families fossicking for gold during the Summer holidays. Picture: MARK JESSER
PERFECT SPOT: Darren Sutton says Woolshed Valley in Beechworth will become busy with families fossicking for gold during the Summer holidays. Picture: MARK JESSER

A Miner's Right is a "historically-important document" that originated from the Eureka Stockade and should be respected, in Darren Sutton's opinion.

"It gives the legal right to own what you find ... and was fought for," he said.

"The minerals in the ground belong to the Crown, but if you have a Miner's Right and remove that gold or gemstone, the ownership transfers to you."

The Beechworth prospector is heartened to know people are respecting the process - Earth Resources Regulation Inspectors visiting the area during the Melbourne Cup weekend found everyone had a valid Miner's Right.

"The Miner's Right is cheap as chips and by having it, you're legal," Mr Sutton said.

SUCCESS: Gemstones are often found at popular spots.

SUCCESS: Gemstones are often found at popular spots.

"Through until about May, there's lots of people at Woolshed having fun - it's all about people getting out into the bush.

"Unfortunately, we don't have big [gold] nuggets like they have in Bendigo, but there's a consistent amount of gold being found, and some really nice gemstones."

Mr Sutton has recently turned his focus to the discovery of diamonds.

"With a reasonable degree of success at this stage - but I'm still working on that," he said.

"I've been fairly busy working on a project based in PNG, teaching small-scale miners in remote villages.

"The project was first mooted in 2015 and then last year, we really got some substance to it and formed an organisation.

"It's helping them climb out of poverty - they might make $50 a week, but they're happy."

As co-founding director of Sustainable Alluvial Mining Services, Mr Sutton said it was not just about ethical mining, but teaching business principles.

"It's not about us making money, it's about teaching and empowering people to mine their own resources," he said.

"Rather than going in with big equipment and all of the gold's gone, 100 years from now they'll be doing the same thing.

"The equipment they use is pretty much the same as what people are using in the Woolshed Valley - they're digging with a shovel, using a sluice box, and maybe a water pump."

In between visits to Papua New Guinea, you'll still find Mr Sutton in the valleys - and said the idea of a Beechworth Prospecting Group was still in the mix.

"There's still an an enormous amount of interest out there in starting a group and that may happen next year," he said.

"I'm still out there digging for gold and looking for gemstones; I'll be doing that until I turn my toes up."

Non-negotiable

Fossicking is permitted in some national parks, waterways, and private property (with consent), provided you hold a Miner's Right.

Fossicking is low-impact and may involve metal detectors, picks, shovels, sieves and pans.

Fossickers are expected to backfill any holes they create, keep their vehicles on tracks, not litter and are not permitted to use mechanical equipment or explosives to excavate.

Penalties for not adhering to the conditions of a Miner's Right can result in fines of up to $16,000 and conducting mining activities without a licence may lead to a fine of up to $32,000.

In August, Victoria's mining regulator issued official warnings to two men who were illegally fossicking for gold in the Ovens River at Bright.

A Miner's Right costs $25.20 and is valid for 10 years.

For more information about Miner's Rights visit earthresources.vic.gov.au.

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This story Good prospect of success, out fossicking this summer first appeared on The Border Mail.