For some, the dream is a white picket fence, for others it’s a house by the beach, but if you’re looking for something a little bit more earthy, the perfect opportunity might have just opened up.
- The hobby mine on Tasmania’s west coast is for sale for $300,000
- The owners have been mining a crystal formation known as crocoite and selling it to local shops
- The mine includes a rail cart, camp facilities and even a barbeque
A small hobby mine on the outskirts of the ghost town of Dundas on Tasmania’s west coast is for sale and could be all yours for just $300,000.
The Dundas Extended Mine has been mined by Mike and Eleanor Phelan since the mid-1980s — but its origins date back to 1892, when it was used as a prospecting tunnel to look for silver lead.
The couple has been mining the crystal formations known as crocoite from the hobby mine.
Crocoite is the mineral emblem of Tasmania — and the Dundas area is one of a handful of places in the world where it is found.
For years the Phelans have been supplying crystals to local shops as well as tourists and researchers.
“I’ve been chiselling away in there for quite a few decades now and I’ve got to retirement age,” Mr Phelan said.
The mine includes a 130-metre tunnel, a rail cart and camp facilities — they have even thrown in a toilet and barbecue.
“There’s not many in the scale that an individual can buy these days, although a syndicate can still work something more intensely with a few silent partners,” Mr Phelan said.
“I think a new team could find some really marvellous material there.”
‘A great place to mine’
Richard Wolfe, a fellow west coast hobby miner and Zeehan Rock Shop owner, said owning a small mine is a pastime, but comes with risks.
“It’s a great adventure, it’s in the wilderness. It’s a beautiful area,” he said.
“It’s a lifestyle choice. Most of the people involved are mineral collectors, and we do it because we love doing it and it’s a very unique area.”
Lease fees, public liability insurance and an environmental bonds mean owners need to make some decent discoveries to cover costs.
Despite that, Mr Wolfe said it was a great place to mine.
“Tasmania’s west coast is world famous. It’s a very diverse and complex mineral province,” he said.
“We produce very rare crystals and minerals like stichtite and crocoite and other things that a lot of people haven’t heard of.”
There are about six small mines in the area that are owned by locals.
Phil Vickers, West Coast Council Mayor, said a similar-sized mine to the Phelans sold more than 10 years ago, and has been thriving.
“That was bought by a syndicate of fellas, and I think they do quite well out of that and import their stuff mostly around the world,” he said.
“They don’t come up for sale very often — certainly not the little mining leases — so it’s an opportunity for someone.”
Not leaving just yet
The Phelans are currently the only residents of the once thriving town that — at its peak — had 1,000 residents.
But the sale of the mine won’t mean they’ll leave just yet.
“I expect we’ll stay here as long as we’re able, but realistically — at some stage — lots of people have to move closer to medical facilities,” Mr Phelan said.
“Hopefully we’re OK for quite some time.
The couple worked as employees and contractors for most of the major mines on the west coast before taking on their own hobby leases at Dundas.
Upon selling the Dundas mine, they’ll continue to operate the even more remote Stichtite Hill mine.
“We’re quarrying on the surface for the material called stichtite which is really rare and is used now for jewellery and decorating purposes,” Mr Phelan said.
“I’m enjoying working because I can use machinery there if I want to move heavy things around.”