Definition of fossicking

The Mining Act 1971 defines fossicking to be the gathering of minerals as a recreation and without the intention to sell the minerals or to utilise them for any commercial or industrial purpose. Fossicking does not include the gathering of minerals by any means involving disturbance of land or water by machinery or explosives. A metal detector is acceptable, as are a pick and shovel and a gold pan. No machinery operated by mechanical means is allowed.

All minerals are the property of the Crown in South Australia. For prospecting and mining purposes, access to land is obtained through the provisions of the Mining Act, as amended, and the regulations under the Act (Mining Regulations 2020). All minerals collected through fossicking are not to be sold or utilised for any commercial or industrial purpose. They may be collected for your own personal collection.

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Permission to fossick

Authorisation to enter onto a property must be obtained from the landowner prior to entry to fossick.

Crown land is generally the responsibility of the Department for Environment and Water. As the excavation, damage or interference of Crown land without lawful authority is an offence under the Crown Lands Management Act 2009, consent must be obtained from the Department for Environment and Water to fossick.

The Department for Energy and Mining only has responsibility for the sites at Jupiter Creek and Chapel Hill.

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Fossicking areas

Fossicking areas have been established on part of the Echunga and Gumeracha goldfields near Adelaide.

Euchunga goldfields

The diggings near Echunga are located on Historic Reserves under the responsibility of the Department for Energy and Mining. These sites are heritage listed and so covered by the Heritage Places Act 1993. The removal of geological, paleontological or archeological specimens or artefacts is not permitted under the Act.

Fossicking is permitted on the Jupiter Creek diggings near Echunga.

Public access to the Chapel Hill diggings is currently not permitted for safety reasons.

Gumeracha goldfields

Fossicking is permitted only in designated fossicking areas of the Mount Crawford Forest. This land is the responsibility of Forestry SA, and permits for fossicking at the Watts Gully Diggings in the Mount Crawford Forest Reserve must be purchased online before fossicking in that area. Purchase an annual (valid for 12 months from date of purchase) or daily permit via the ForestrySA website.

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No fossicking allowed areas

Fossicking and prospecting are not permitted within National Parks, Conservation Parks and Forest Reserves.

You are not allowed to enter areas held under current mineral claims, mining leases for minerals or extractive minerals, retention leases, miscellaneous purposes licences or private mines to prospect or fossick unless you have obtained prior approval from the holder. Although such activities are permissible on exploration licences, it is not possible to peg a mineral claim without approval of the licensee.

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Gold occurrences near Adelaide

Download map showing principal gold occurrences near Adelaide

Download map showing gold occurrences near Adelaide (JPG)

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Chapel Hill Diggings site

The Chapel Hill Diggings reserve has been declared unsafe for public access by Safework SA under the provisions of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) and Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA).

The considerable hazards to public safety include large numbers of deep unfenced shafts and depressions, often hidden by dense vegetation. There are also considerable amounts of asbestos. The Department for Energy and Mining has been required to close the site to public access and to install barrier fencing and signage to prevent access.

The site will remain closed for the foreseeable future while the options for the site are assessed. Any remediation will be subject to formal assessment by Safework SA and will have to meet legislative obligations.

Update - August 2021

Public safety remains of the highest concern and the Department is assessing the options for safety and access. Significant and costly works will be required to address the public safety risks before the site can be reopened. This includes extensive asbestos removal and consideration of the issue of large numbers of hidden mineshafts. As a result, the site will remain closed for the foreseeable future while the options are assessed.

The Department is continuing to monitor the site, its vegetation and wildlife habitats. Damage to the barrier fence has been observed, as well as tampering with locks and chains. Please do not enter the premises or damage the fence line. The risk of personal injury and harm are considerable.

For any enquiries contact DEM.customerservices@sa.gov.au

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Jupiter Creek Diggings site

Fossicking is permitted at the Jupiter Creek Diggings site near Echunga. Please park in the designated area and observe the safety signage.

There is no entry to Jupiter Creek on total fire ban days, no camping, no horse riding or motorcycles and no fires. There are no facilities at Jupiter Creek.

If you are fossicking:

  • Fossicking is not permitted in restricted access areas
  • Plants, animals and man-made or natural features must not be disturbed
  • Do not dam, divert or pollute waterways
  • Only non-mechanical tools, such pans, hand sluices and metal detectors are permitted
  • All holes must be kept to a minimum and must be backfilled immediately
  • Do not disturb any historic place, object or archaeological site/relic
  • Keep away from old mineshafts and take care when walking in the area
  • Children and dogs must be supervised at all times
  • Take you rubbish with you and keep the area clean
  • Report any hazards, damage or unacceptable activities to the Department for Energy and Mining

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Fossicking equipment

Basic fossicking equipment includes geological and topographic maps, a geological hammer, pick, shovel, sieve, gold pan, and magnifying glass. More sophisticated equipment may include a metal detector, manual cradle rocker or sluice box.

Fossicking may only be undertaken using hand operated equipment. Mechanically operated equipment cannot be used.

Lack of surface water in South Australia severely limits the use of devices based on the availability of water. Such equipment is not permitted in SA Water Watershed Reserves in the Mount Lofty Ranges.

Mechanised devises are banned in the fossicking areas at Watts Gully, Chapel Hill and Jupiter Creek. The use of power-operated machinery and equipment is classed as mining and can only be undertaken on an appropriately registered mineral claim or mining lease.

Gold pan

This is the simplest of gold-saving appliances but, because of limited capacity, is used more for testing materials suspected of being gold bearing than for actual recovery of the metal. Special pans of various sizes are available, although any dish-like object can be used. Any utensil used for gold washing must be entirely free of grease or oil, as contaminated gold will tend to float off and be lost.

Samples are puddled thoroughly in the dish to ensure that any clay is broken down and any contained gold set free. By shaking with a circular motion, the separated gold settles to the bottom. The dirt is washed off gradually until the particles of gold and other heavies, such as iron oxide and rutile, are concentrated in the angle of the side with the bottom of the dish. Clean water is added, and with a swirling motion the non-auriferous material is gently washed from the heavier gold particles, leaving the latter exposed as a ‘tail’.

In testing for gold, the same quantity of material should be washed each time to give a measure of the gold content. Flat, flaky particles of gold, which produce a good showing, are apt to be over-estimated by the inexperienced.

Metal detectors

Metal detectors respond to metallic objects buried at shallow depths including bottle tops, coins, rings, ironstone and gold nuggets, but are not generally useful for the detection of fine alluvial gold or reef gold.

The operation of metal detectors is based on the principle of electromagnetic induction. A variable current is supplied to the energising (search) coil, producing a correspondingly varying magnetic field. This induces a current flow in any conducting metallic object within range. The current will in turn have its own magnetic field and the presence of such a magnetic field in a previously balanced (nulled) system makes a response in the detector.

Hidden ‘treasure’ will not be detected at depths much greater than the diameter of the coil, due to the decrease of magnetic field intensity with distance from the energising coil. This will vary somewhat depending on the detection sensitivity of the instrument and the size of the object responding. It must be pointed out, however, that metal detectors are only an aid to prospecting and that for maximum usefulness many hours of practice under different situations will be required.

The gold pan and metal detector are tools used by the fossicker to detect concealed gold. If a gold-bearing deposit of eluvial or alluvial material is to be tested or worked in a small way, there are a number of gold concentrating devices. Pans, sieves, cradles and sluices are suitable where water is available and dry blowers are used where water is scarce. More detailed information can be obtained from retailers.

Sieves

Similar to panning except with a mesh base for the water to drain, helping to separate the gold.

Cradling (Cradle or Rocker)

A technique that utilises a wooden box shaped like a babies cradle. The cradle is rocked in a sideways motion as water is poured in, to help work the rocks and sediments through. The cradle has a grate and sieve at the top, which catches the coarser stones and lets the dirt and sediment pass through to be caught by a series of ‘rifles’ (timber baffles). Only the fine material will get sifted through, leaving any potential gold to be caught in the rifles.

Sluice box (hand operated only)

Modern versions of the sluice box are strong, durable and lightweight, being made of plastic and/or aluminium. A rectangular box flared at the intake end and 1 to 2 m long by 0.25 m wide is lined with removable riffles. Below the riffles, matting seals the riffles to aid in holding fine gold concentrate. The box is sunk into the stream where sufficient fall allows water to flow through with some velocity. Where there is no flowing water, a bucket can be used to pour water over the box. Washdirt is shovelled into the head of the box and heavy fragments are concentrated by water flow.

Dry blower (hand operated only)

Where water is not available, dry blowing may be a suitable method of gold recovery. Winnowing is the simplest form, whereby dry pulverised gold-bearing material is poured from one pan to another. The wind blows away the light particles, to concentrate the gold content for subsequent recovery by wet panning.

The dry blower combines a rocking riffle box and bellows. Coarse rock and gravel are removed from the roughly pulverised material by a screen. The fine material (undersize) is fed across an apron plate to the upper portion of a riffle box, on the top side of the bellows. Air puffed from bellows through the permeable bottom of the riffle box concentrates heavy particles of gold, which settle behind the riffles. Associated light waste is thrown up at each puff, and driven forward to pass over the end of the box.

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Fossicking in states other than South Australia

The requirements with regard to fossicking are different in each state. Contact the relevant department in each state before you fossick to ensure you are aware of the requirements.

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Frequently asked questions about fossicking in South Australia

Fossicking is described as the gathering of minerals as a recreation and which does not disturb the land or water by the use of machinery or explosives, and without the intention to sell the minerals or to utilise them for a commercial or industrial purpose.

Before fossicking within designated fossicking areas within Forest Reserves you must purchase an annual or daily permit online from the ForestrySA website

In other areas of South Australia no permit is required to fossick, however you must obtain prior permission from landowners before entering their property.

All minerals collected through fossicking are not to be sold or utilised for any commercial or industrial purpose. They may be collected for your own personal collection.

All minerals are the property of the Crown in South Australia.

Yes, a metal detector is acceptable as are a pick and shovel and a gold pan. No machinery operated by mechanical means is allowed.

There are a number of historical fossicking sites within South Australia which are open to the public for fossicking.

If you want to fossick on private property, you must obtain the landowner's permission before doing so. Details of land owners can be obtained from the Lands Titles office, phone +61 8 8226 3983.

Each State and Territory within Australia has different rules and regulations in regards to fossicking. It is recommended that you contact the relevant State Government department.

Permission is not required if you only wish to fossick. However, if you peg a mineral claim, written permission will be required from the licence holder prior to pegging the claim.

Details of licensees are available from:

Mineral Tenements
Phone: +61 8 8463 3103
Email: DEM.tenements@sa.gov.au

Yes, but it is recommended that you seek prior approval from the holder of the respective claim, lease or licence as it is an offence under the Act to hinder or obstruct that person in the reasonable exercise of their rights to conduct mining operations on their tenement.

You can obtain details of holders by contacting Mineral Tenements on phone +61 8 8463 3103 and quoting the lease or claim number which is located on the posts marking the area of the lease or claim.