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ABC News
ABC WA Regional Drive reporters

Gold prospecting in the outback not for the faint-hearted

Armed with metal detectors, prospectors chase gold through the bush.  (ABC Regional and Local: Jenny Feast)

For David Enright, chasing gold is not just a hobby — it's a lifestyle. 

After a back injury put him out of work 18 months ago, David, from Coffin Bay in South Australia, took off through the outback, metal detector in hand.

"I travel around a lot — [to the] Northern Territory, all the way down here to Marble Bar, then I'll go down to Kalgoorlie," he said.

David said prospecting offered an addictive thrill.

David Enright travels around outback Australia, prospecting.  (ABC Regional Drive: Louise Miolin)

WA Amalgamated Prospectors and Leaseholders Association (APLA) president James Allison said there were about 43,000 registered prospectors in WA.

"We contribute over $350 million a year into local economies, it's quite a big industry," Mr Allison said.

APLA runs "newbie" camps for beginner prospectors, teaching geology, equipment use, and bush safety.

Perth retirees Dianne and Perry Hepton recently completed one of the camps before setting off on their first gold chasing trip through Marble Bar.

"We fish, we travel around and look at scenery, this is something else to add to our list."

Dianne and Perry Hepton are hooked on prospecting, their latest hobby.  (ABC Regional Drive: Louise Miolin)

Gold standard safety

But prospecting is not for the faint-hearted — Mr Allison said people must be prepared with enough water and supplies, proper communication tools such as satellite phones, and personal locator beacons.

"Once you get into those regions, you realise the remoteness of the place and the distance between townships," he said.

That's an issue Marble Bar local Danielo Specogna knows first hand.

In 2012, he spent a harrowing night alone in the bush after becoming separated from his friend while prospecting. 

Marble Bar local Danielo Specogna got lost in the bush while prospecting in 2012.  (ABC Regional Drive: Louise Miolin)

Danielo buried himself in the sand while he waited for help.

"There was this eagle, just above me, circling, eying me off — and I just moved one arm out from under the sand and gave the finger, and it worked!

"It came morning, I heard the sirens, I walked out, tried to go towards the sound, I couldn't walk straight.

For David Enright, physical safety is not the only concern — prospecting is also a mental game.

"Normally I have my kelpie with me, and this time my kelpie is with my partner," he said.

"That's the hardest thing, being alone — it does take a toll."

But he said the buzz of striking gold was enough to keep him going.

Prospectors say striking gold is an addictive thrill.  (ABC Regional and Local: Jenny Feast)
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