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The Australian gold rush that never ended

Fossicking for the next 'flash in the pan' as the pandemic pushes up prices

Panning for gold in a fast-running stream in Nundle, Australia. (Geoff Hiscock)

NUNDLE, Australia -- Mount Misery is not a name to inspire confidence in a budding treasure hunter. But 160 years ago, European and Chinese prospectors dragged thousands of grams of alluvial gold from the area, and with the international gold price soaring above $2,000 a troy ounce (31.1 grams) in recent weeks, who's to say that I can't make my fortune here too?

I have followed one of Australia's many "gold trails" to Nundle, a quiet village at the foot of the Great Dividing Range, about 400 km northwest of Sydney in the state of New South Wales. Armed with a shallow dish and fossicking tools, I am about to pan for gold in one of the mountain-fed streams that flow through the area. It could be a fool's mission -- or it could make me wealthy beyond my dreams. Therein lies the lure of fossicking.

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