The soaring price of gold has inspired a private company to apply for a mining exploration licence covering a large swathe of land east of Murwillumbah.
Gold Belt Pty Ltd has taken out classified advertisements notifying locals that it has applied for an exploration licence covering a 118 square kilometre corridor from Bilambil Heights in the north to Dunbible in the south.
The licence application relates to the exploration of metallic minerals including gold, silver and copper.
Mart Rampe, who is closely involved with Gold Belt, said the area had a ‘history of old [mine] workings going back many decades’.
‘We’re hoping that there’s still gold and silver there’.
‘These things go in cycles. When there’s a drop in the price of commodities, an operation might be abandoned because it’s not profitable. When the price goes up enough, people go back for another look’.
The global price of gold has sky-rocketed in the past two years, increasing from $1,200 an ounce in 2018 to $2,000 an ounce earlier this year.
This has seen an increase in applications for mining exploration licences.
Mr Rampe said he had ‘another four or five applications in at the moment’.
This includes an application to explore a 71km2 area around 30kms south of Coffs Harbour.
Mr Rampe sought to emphasise that, if the exploration licence was granted, the company would still require the permission of the relevant landholder to undertake exploration work.
‘The exploration licence doesn’t give us any right to do any mining,’ he said.
‘If we find something, then we have first rights to apply for a mining licence. That’s a completely different kettle of fish which requires us to meet a whole range of government guidelines.’
He said that the exploration process did not involve extensive digging works, focusing instead on rock and soil surface samples, geophysical surveys, and measurements of magnetic fields and electrical conductivity.
If the experts were encouraged by the results they would then seek to drill narrow holes to explore further, he said.
‘You need encouragement at every stage of the process to go ahead.’
According to the website mindat.org, a database of mineral localities, deposits and mines, funded by the mining industry, there have been a series of small mining operations in the area in question since the European invasion.
Many were focused in a small area around Uki, and included the mining of gold, pyrite, silver and quartz.
However, Mary Lee Connery from the Murwillumbah Historical Society said that, historically, gold mining attempts in the region were ‘not terribly successful’.