We first ventured to the Gemfields in 1988 while travelling around Australia. Whilst staying at the Anakie Caravan Park we tried our hand at fossicking at the “Glenalva fossicking area” where the first stone we found was a 35ct green. As you all know this is what they call a “sucker stone”. Stones like this turn normal people into “SAPPHIRE MAD MINERS”
We pegged our first two claims at “Divide” which was 45-foot ground (this means 45 foot to the bed rock, the layer of sapphire bearing wash is found just above this). We then bought our first working mining claim at Deep Lead for $2,000 including equipment, which was a mechanical shaker / Willoughby. The dirt was dug with a kanga jackhammer, shovelled into buckets and then dragged to the bottom of the shaft; it was then brought to the surface by a hand windless, where it was washed.
After a few months of this, realism struck. The only way to find more sapphires faster was with MACHINERY.
We had arrived at the Gemfields in a Mercedes Camper bus, towing a large trailer, which was filled with tools. On top of this was seated a Daihatsu 4 wheel drive. This trailer was to become the base for a mobile mining plant. See Picture
This first claim at Deep Lead was then “dug out” and we moved to our next claims. These we purchased on Bedford Hill. Here we mined for a while but did not have much luck, so we moved to another claim, back in the Deep Lead area.
Whilst digging this claim we went from electric jackhammers to air hammers to dig more dirt, faster. This created a new problem, it was much harder work. So not fazed we then built an underground dirt breaker. This made digging the dirt much quicker and we could dig 5 metres in about 30 minutes.
As you can see by this progression, mining is a matter of chasing your tail. As soon as one part of the plant is upgraded the next stage becomes too slow.
Our next move was to buy a super sucker to move the dirt to the surface faster. Then we had to build a bigger plant to handle this greater quantity of wash. By the time we got to this stage we were just one stage from machinery mining, all we needed was the ground.
We were then lucky enough to purchase a “MINERAL FREEHOLD”, the only one on the Central Queensland Sapphire Field.
This is where we are currently mining.