Swifts Creek resident, Richard Darby, didn’t have gold on his mind when he purchased a 300-acre bush property at Snowstorm Gully, near Cassilis, more than 30 years ago.
Instead, Mr Darby, who paid $45,000 for the hilly landscape, was more excited about the “good firewood” he had inherited with the property.
Aware that the land had been mined from the 1890s to early 1900s, Mr Darby knew that it might be worth exploring down the track.
Some years ago he and his mate, Bob Lynch, from Sydney, set up a small operation on the property to search for gold deposits.
“We’ve produced quite a few kilos over the years, certainly enough to keep me interested,” Mr Darby told the Advertiser.
It was “a hobby” that eventually spiraled out of control for the two men who were getting on in age.
“I had a buggered shoulder and the project was just getting bigger than two old farts could do,” Mr Darby said.
“It’s a challenging site.”
About six months ago, Mr Darby called in the professionals after meeting a young exploration geologist in Ian Neilson.
Mr Neilson and a team from exploration company, First AU, have been busily mining the site and Mr Darby couldn’t be more pleased.
“For us the key factor is gold is where old gold is. Those old prospectors knew what they were doing.”
The focus is presently on drilling a new site, about 30 metres away from an old gold mining tunnel.
With the Advertiser visited last week, workmen were drilling 200 metres on an incline.
Mr Neilson said that “the current results are encouraging”.
“We’re certainly leaning towards economic grades,” he said.
New improved technology is helping the team uncover hidden sites that prospectors in the early 1900s may have missed.
“We are able to drill deeper, beyond the previous historical workings,” Mr Neilson said.
With the current gold price at $2,385 an ounce, it’s any wonder Mr Darby has a spring in his step.
His grandson, Thomas Darby, is also working onsite and is unloading trays of rock samples on a flat escarpment, just below the drill site.
The trays are stacked neatly on top of one another and contain relevant details regarding their extraction.
Mr Darby examines them with pride as a team of men continue drilling operations further up the hill.
The work is both dirty and meticulous but Mr Neilson is excited to “have boots on the ground” and be working “in a beautiful part of the world”.
“The community and the people attracted us to this area,” he said.
Mr Darby remains hopeful that the exploration will spark a renewed interest in gold mining and draw tourists to Swifts Creek.
“There has been a resurgence in Victoria in gold mining and really this area is the forgotten gold fields,” he said, with a sparkle in his eye.
Mr Nielson says the region’s strong history of alluvial and reef mining is encouraging for future prospecting.
IMAGE: Thomas Darby hands a rock sample, which is believed to contain gold, to his grandfather, Richard Darby. Inset: Mr Darby takes a closer inspection. K119-266/258