DARWIN, Australia — A retired meat worker using only a pick and shovel has discovered a reef of gold-laden quartz--hailed as possibly one of Australia's richest finds--south of the outback town of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.
Ray Hall, 62, who has been prospecting all his life, struck the gold vein while digging behind his shed on Kurrinelli Station, about 900 miles south of Darwin in an area worked by Chinese gold miners last century.
Barry Coulter, the Northern Territory minister for mines and energy, said the find could turn out to be one of the biggest in Australia's history and make the Tennant Creek region the nation's next Kalgoorlie, a major gold-mining center.
"He came across a whole reef of quartz," Coulter said Monday. "When he filled a 44-gallon drum and drove into town to ask our mines and energy people to look at it, they almost fell off their chairs.
"The drum was full of very large gold nuggets. It's truly marvelous. He and his lady have been scratching away for years in that area," Coulter said.
The value of the gold contained in the drum alone was placed at more than $700,000.
Mining department officials were on the site of the discovery today and a drilling program to determine the extent of the find was to begin shortly, Coulter said.
Hall said he had been searching for a legendary gold seam--called the Mother Lode Reef South--for most of his life.