The door is likely to open wider for "recreational prospecters" to look for gold and gemstones in state forests. Photo: Marco Del Grande
Prospectors will be able to pan for gold, or use metal detectors to hunt for nuggets, in more Queensland state forests within months.
The Newman government is likely to open the door wider for "recreational prospectors" to look for gold and gemstones.
A spokeswoman for National Parks Minister Steve Dickson said no firm decision had yet been made, but the idea was being actively investigated.
Prospector Cory Dale. Photo: Supplied
"As part of our commitment to opening up the state's National Parks estate land, which had been systematically locked up by the former Labor government, we are also considering proposals to allow recreational fossickers greater access," she said.
This week, gold prospector Cory Dale questioned why small scale prospecting could not be further allowed in state forests.
Prospecting, even for recreational purposes, has been restricted in most state forests because of environmental damage concerns, except in designated areas.
Queensland has more than 20 designated fossicking areas, including at Gympie, Warwick and parts of central Queensland, where fossickers can search for gemstones using hand tools.
Here, people can search for for alluvial gold, sapphires, topaz, opal and amethysts with a fossickers licence, obtained from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines.
However most are well "worked out", prospectors say.
Mr Dale said gold could be found in Brisbane Forest Park near Mt Coot-tha, near Brookfield and in state forests near Warwick and Gympie, but people could not legally prospect.
Queensland Prospectors Club spokesman Warwick Anderson said he had been speaking with Mr Dickson and his director-general about getting better access to state forests.
"We would like better access in state forests, because they are the easiest ones and they are there for everyone to do something in," Mr Anderson said.
"With metal detecting, you know – you find a little target and dig a little hole – a maximum two feet deep.
"It is very low impact, that's just about it."
Mr Anderson said people in Victoria could use metal detectors and go fossicking in national parks.
In Queensland, fossickers were happy with extra space in state forests, Mr Anderson said.
He said Queenslanders could technically still fossick in state forests, but must ask for permission first.
"With the previous state government, their answer was always 'no'," he said.
"You would ask them 'why?' and they would say 'it's policy'."
Mr Anderson said fossicking boosted regional tourism.
"If you ring one of the caravan parks out near Claremont and ask them how much trade they do from prospecting, you know it is massive for them up there," he said.
Mr Anderson said controls under the Fossicking Act controlled the hand-held equipment that people could use to restrict damage.
"The biggest hole you are allowed to dig is two metres deep; so if you've dug a hole that is two metres deep, you will know that is not easier," he said.
"And you are not allowed to use any machinery, it has all got to be hand tools, like a shovel or a pick.
"So basically what we are after is to open up state forests.
"I mean, I can go and get a permit to run 1000 cattle in a state forest and you can imagine the damage that causes, but I can't get a permit to run a metal detector through there."