INSTANT WEALTH: New Qld gold rush
All that glitters is not always gold, yet the magical metal is adding to the sheen of the old mining town of Charters Towers this year as it fuels dreams of instant wealth.
From the corporate mining executive to the hopeful battler with a second-hand, $2000 metal detector, the gold fever that peaked in Charter Towers in 1899 when locals pulled more than 300,000 ounces out of the ground is back.
The price of gold has stunned global markets this year as it roared through $US1600 at the start of the year then went into a short decline before punching through $2000 in July to settle back around $1900 today.
Charters Towers Mayor Frank Beveridge says mining companies who have maintained leases in and around the district are pushing full steam ahead in a market which is predicted to rise further next year, especially if the US dollar declines in value.
Charters Towers man Clyde Doxford has been prospecting for half a century after he started sinking shafts as a young bloke in northern NSW when all he needed was pick, shovel and a mining permit.
By the early 1970s Mr Doxford was looking for sapphires in central Queensland, then graduated to working over old gold diggings around Clermont before arriving in Pentland in 1979.
While insisting he is nothing more than a "busted-arse old miner'' the 73-year-old's talent at his potentially lucrative trade is evident from his handsome home and property outside Charters Towers.
"I suppose I can look over old diggings and make a reasonable guess where there might still be a bit of alluvial gold,'' he concedes.
"There were some areas where they (the old-timers) did not get as much as they could have because, I suppose, they did not have the technology we have today.''
Mining for a small-time prospector such as himself has become a nightmare of bureaucracy, he says, though he still gets a thrill if he comes across a five- or 10-ounce nugget, even though he no longer hoards them but sells them off as soon as he finds them.
Mr Doxford dampens any romantic notion that miners yell out "eureka'' when they find gold, suggesting the language accompanying a gold strike is a bit more robust.
"They might say a few other words, but I never heard them saying eureka.''