Don’t be a tool and break fossicking rules

Earth Resources Regulation’s Inspectors around the state frequently conduct spot checks to ensure recreational fossicking is conducted properly, safely and without harm to the environment.

After receiving information from the North East Catchment Management Authority (NECMA), Earth Resources Regulation identified two men with Miner’s Rights who were illegally sluicing the Ovens River at Bright.

Both offenders admitted their actions, claiming a lack of understanding of what a Miner’s Right permitted. The offenders cooperated with the regulator, were receptive to learning about how to fossick correctly and, as a result, have received an official caution rather than a financial penalty.

Importantly, the area impacted by their activities has been restored to its previous condition.

Fossicking is a low impact way of looking for gems or minerals in the Victorian bush that combines opportunities to exercise with occasional Eureka moments. It is permitted in some national parks, state parks and waterways, as well as on private property, provided you have permission.

While fossicking may involve the use of metal detectors, picks, shovels, sieves and pans, all you really need to get started is a permit known as a Miner’s Right and an ounce of common sense.

To minimise their footprint, fossickers are not permitted to use mechanical equipment or explosives to excavate and must not remove or damage vegetation or Aboriginal objects. Fossickers are expected to backfill any holes, keep their vehicles on tracks and take their rubbish home.

Fossicking can result in some big Eureka moments. In May a family discovered a $35,000 gold nugget while walking their dog north of Bendigo. Earlier this year a gold nugget worth about $150,000 was discovered near Dunolly.

Minerals like gold are owned by the Crown on behalf of all Victorians, and recreational fossickers must hold a Miner’s Right to keep any gold they find. These recent finds are timely reminders of the need to purchase a Miner’s Right, use the appropriate tools and explore in the right places.

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.

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