$20,000 gold theft reward

Ransacked mining equipment in the Goldsborough area on the West Coast from last week. Photo:...
Ransacked mining equipment in the Goldsborough area on the West Coast from last week. Photo: Supplied
Worried West Coast goldminers have posted a $20,000 reward in a bid to catch the thieves behind a cluster of gold heists, break-ins and vandalism at six or more claims in the past week.

On Wednesday evening, 52 miners representing at least 60 gold claims attended a meeting at the Australasian Hotel called by the West Coast Commercial Goldminers Association in response to the thefts, which last week targeted the Goldsborough area and a month earlier, Nelson Creek and Reefton.

The meeting agreed on several initiatives including a $20,000 reward leading to a conviction and

employing a security consultant to help mine operators beef up security at the secluded mine sites.

Goldminers association president Brett Cummings said miners were not so much outraged by recent events but had resolved to act now with the police, rather than people taking matters into their own hands.

"People are resolved. They know it's happened - they realise that leaping around and yelling at the police isn't going to help."

Ultimately, with some mines having only a few people on site, and the possibility of confrontation, they felt it was better to seek proper help, Mr Cummings said.

As well as offering a reward, the association will commission professional advice on how to address mine security.

"We've agreed to put the money up for a lot of that sort of stuff.

"We're all a bit surprised about how much of it has been going on ... it started to escalate a few months ago and it just seems to be slowly increasing."

The economic urgency of the thefts, together with the intentional damage to expensive equipment and machinery could not be underestimated given the about 60 gold claims operating on the West Coast.

"We're talking about a few hundred people's jobs. It's the damage that hurts people ... it's like robbing a shop and then burning it down."

Insurance was an issue given the practical difficulty of installing electronic security measures on the West Coast due to lack of power or cellphone coverage.

"It comes down to security ... obviously the best thing that we do is stop it in the first place."

He said they had to work with the insurance sector, "however it's very hard to insure for wash in the table".

Mr Cummings said the recent events followed a spate of fuel thefts at remote mine sites about 18 months ago.

"The only new thing in the society on the West Coast now is the whole infestation by gangs."

Any link to that aspect of organised crime was an open question.

"People have got to fund drug habits. Gold is one the easiest things to get rid of ... that's something that has got to be clamped down on."

Mr Cummings said police were involved and doing the best they could.

 - Brendon McMahon 

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