Not so lucky gold ‘find’ a warning to grey nomads

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'We're rich and lucky!' But not for long!

Any grey nomad who has wandered around the Outback dreaming of stumbling across a giant gold nugget will understand the surge of joy felt by the four men who ‘struck it rich’ at a remote mining site in Western Australia.

However, it turned out that all that glisters is not gold as three of the four have now been fined $5,000 each for stealing, and the fourth is to stand trial later this year.

Andrew Mark Warren, Stephen Lindsay Rowe and Michael James Forward pleaded guilty to stealing $62,392 worth of gold from the tenement near the ghost town of Kunanalling, 32 kilometres north of Coolgardie. A fourth man, Glen Stephen Rutherford, has pleaded not guilty to the theft.

The emotional rollercoaster started when the group, which had been on an unsuccessful prospecting trip, stopped for a barbecue on June 4 last year.

Police said the men then entered a nearby mining pit and searched the floor of the pit for gold, using metal detectors and scraping at the dirt with their feet.

They eventually uncovered a “yellow metal-like substance” and ran the metal detector over it, which indicated it was gold. The eventual find weighed in at more than a kilogram.

The happy adventurers divided the gold into $13,000 shares, but things went south when they attempted to sell the gold via a Facebook post … and inadvertently alerted  the WA Police Gold Stealing Detection Unit.

The ABC reports that in handing down the sentence, Magistrate John O’Sullivan said it was clear there was no master plan in place … but he said the rules governing prospecting were well known and the men had made no attempt to adhere to them.

“People can’t just wander where they like and take what they find,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

Defence lawyers for Rowe, Warren and Forward said the men recognised they had done the wrong thing, mistakenly thinking the mine was inactive.

Police prosecutor Mark Sita said a fine was the most appropriate penalty, arguing the men themselves and other members of the public needed to be deterred from similarly opportunistic thefts.

The ABC says the case has resulted in something of a windfall for the WA Government, with all of the stolen gold forfeited to the state.

While the men were officially charged with defrauding tenement holder, Evolution Mining, by stealing the gold, prosecutors argued the gold, in fact, belonged to the Government.

The ABC understands the prosecution argument to be that because the gold had not been mined before it was stolen, it remains the property of the people of Western Australia, rather than the tenement holder.

  • Have you ever had a ‘lucky’ break which turned out to be anything but? Comment below.

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