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Reality TV gold mining offers only a few ounces of reality

Fred Walsh, vice president of the Nova Scotia Prospectors Association, gave gold panning demonstrations at the 2018 Nova Scotia Gem and Mineral Show in Parrsboro.
Fred Walsh, vice president of the Nova Scotia Prospectors Association, gave gold panning demonstrations at the 2018 Nova Scotia Gem and Mineral Show in Parrsboro. - Dave Mathieson

PARRSBORO, N.S. – Prospecting for gold in Nova Scotia probably won’t make you rich.

“On those TV shows where they show you $27,000 worth of gold in a jar, the guy is usually standing right in front of a $160,000 machine, and that’s not counting the crusher, the dump trucks, the salaries, and the fuel for all those machines,” said Fred Walsh, vice president of the Nova Scotia Prospectors Association.

Walsh has no need for big machinery. He’s a one-man operation, scouring the woods of Nova Scotia by himself looking for gold nuggets.

“The thing about the gold in Nova Scotia is that it’s the visible gold; the nugget gold,” said the 62-year-old. “It’s 95 per cent pure gold. People go crazy for that.”

Walsh, originally from Newfoundland, has lived in Nova Scotia for 36 years and has been prospecting for gold in Nova Scotia for 22 years.

“It’s about getting out in the woods and getting around. You get a prospector’s license for $30 from the province, and that’s for life,” said Walsh. “That gives you the ability to prospect on crown land in Nova Scotia and on private land with the landowner’s permission.”

Walsh has prospected from Yarmouth up to Cape Breton, and says he’s never had a problem with landowners.

“Some people own 1,000 acres of land they’ve never set foot on, so most people, when you talk to them, are very reasonable and they know what I’m doing.”

Nova Scotia is dotted with old gold mines, and that’s where Walsh will often look for gold.

“Any rivers, streams, brooks and ponds near those areas, there’s a possibility of finding gold,” said Walsh. “It’s a hit or miss but those are good areas to start.”

He said old mines usually have mounds of dirt marking where they were mined.

“One hundred year ago they left mounds everywhere. It’s a good place to start digging,” said Walsh. “I found a quarter-ounce nugget one time going through one of those mounds but then I found nothing else in the other mounds.”

Walsh isn’t upset that he hasn’t hit the motherlode.

“I’m retired, so it’s a hobby for me,” said Walsh. “If you enjoy the outdoors and like looking around you can have a lot of fun.”

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