Modern gold boom for Otago
Mon, 02 Jul 2012 6:34p.m.
By Dave Goosselink
It is over 150 years since gold was first discovered in Otago.
The precious metal is now worth over $2000 an ounce, making it worthwhile mining even the smallest flecks of gold.
Bernie O’Leary, manager of Oceanagold Macraes gold mine, says that new technology has contributed to the boom.
“The technology's advanced rapidly since the old timers because they were using mainly hand-held techniques and on a much smaller scale,” he says.
The surface mine at Macraes is 1.5km long and 250m deep.
A second mine was opened underground four years ago, after exploration revealed more gold reserves.
“Oceanagold has produced around 3.3 million ounces of gold since mining began at the Macraes site, and plans to stay for at least another eight years.
Meanwhile inland in central Otago, they are doing things the old fashioned way.
Glass Earth Gold runs an alluvial mining operation, where large amounts of earth are mined to and panned to extract small flakes of gold.
Chief executive Simon Henderson says the process means that very fine gold can be recovered in small quantities.
“We're treating a particular 1m gravel layer that contains the fine gold in quite small quantities and we're washing it out like a washing machine, and recovering the fine gold for sale,” he says.
The company leases the land from farmers like Tom Moran, who says his great-grandfather was a gold miner.
“He didn't make a fortune, but he made enough to buy this block of dirt. But looks like he probably didn't know there was a little bit of gold underneath it all,” says Mr Moran.
Glass Earth's three plants produce around 80 ounces or $160,000 worth of gold a week.
But their long-term goal is to truly strike gold by discovering the country's next major mine.
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