A surging number of Queensland locals are packing up and heading to the outback in the search for buried treasures.
Lifelong fossicker Robert Kelly is part of a growing contingent of Queenslanders discovering gold, sapphires, emeralds, opals and even some fossil specimens.
“All the time you’re learning, there’s always something new that comes along,” Mr Kelly said.
More than 18,000 fossicking licences have been handed out in the last two years, starting from $12.40 for a family — and with an ounce of gold going for $2500, it’s an inexpensive investment.
“There’s people that make good money out of it,” Brisbane Opal Museum’s Susie Webster told 9News.
One of the rarest stones in gem-mining history, the Stonebridge Green sapphire, was unearthed in the Central Queensland region about 80 years ago. In 2017 the “Pride of Tomahawk” sapphire, the size of a golfball, was found by an amateur at Anakie. And the same year in Charters Towers, a 1.1kg gold nugget, worth more than $63,000, was discovered in a paddock.
“If you’re really lucky you might find something like this,” Ms Webster said.
It’s a potential treasure trove for the back pocket and the state’s economy.
“It’s a great way to get out and see our state,” Queensland Resources Minister Scott Stewart told 9News.
“It’s those local stores that really benefit and keep those small communities alive.”