Casual prospector's luck suddenly turns to gold

Craig Douglas with his 6.25oz gold nugget.PHOTO: HOKITIKA GUARDIAN
Craig Douglas with his 6.25oz gold nugget.PHOTO: HOKITIKA GUARDIAN
A Hokitika man is suddenly richer after finding the biggest gold nugget seen by local commercial gold buyers for about 40 years.

Craig Douglas said he almost fell over when he prised out what seemed to be an odd piece of rock from a creek bed in an undisclosed location in the Hokitika backblocks, on Monday.

The "rock" turned out to be a nicely formed gold nugget weighing 6.25 ounces (177g).

Mr Douglas, who has been recovering from a broken foot, grabbed the opportunity of a perfect day on Queen's Birthday to take a jaunt with his metal detector.

He was walking through a creek bed known to have been mined in the past when the metal detector suddenly sparked into life.

"It just about blew my ear drums off, so I thought I better check that."

Bending over, he noted a gap in the creek bed, suggesting a ready trap for something heavy, and stretching down and lifting off two large rocks, "I noticed a yellow outline".

"I almost walked straight past where it was. I thought it was more a spot where old coins or bottles would get stuck. It [the nugget] was literally just sitting in bedrock up a creek. I wasn't expecting to find anything like that. It just happened," Mr Douglas said.

"I nearly had a heart attack when it came out of the ground. I fell over against the bank and it took a little bit for my brain to catch up with what I was seeing."

Mr Douglas said he could hardly believe his luck.

"I had cellphone reception, so I rang my mother and said, `You'll never guess what I just found.' I was shaking. I was lost for words."

He had since been advised by two gold buyers in Westland that it was the biggest they had seen since a 14oz nugget from the Paparoa Range area turned up about 1979.

Mr Douglas' windfall was valued at $12,500 in weight value and $25,000 as a display piece.

He has been using his metal detector for nearly a decade, collecting old goldfields relics, pick heads, coins, bullets, the remnants of a rifle, and the odd bit of gold.

By late Wednesday, an anonymous gold buyer from Canterbury had snapped up the nugget, which was destined to be displayed in a private collection.

The price he paid, like the discovery site, was undisclosed.

 -  Brendon McMahon, Hokitika Guardian

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