Tasmania’s Crazy Gold Law: You Can Find It, But The Government Keeps It

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Written By Alex

Here in the US, the term “striking gold” means one thing: money.

That’s because in historical gold rushes from the east coast all the way to Nome, Alaska it was taken for granted that finders are keepers and losers are weepers. If you find the gold, you get to keep it all, minus royalties and taxes.

But what if you were just collecting gold on behalf of the government?

That’s the state of prospecting in Tasmania, an island state of Australia in the South Pacific, thanks to a strange 1995 law.

Who owns the gold in Tasmania?

I first heard about this watching this video by Tassie Boys Prospecting called “All my gold could be sent to the Queen!!!”

Tasmanian prospector and Youtuber Levi Triffitt sums it up in the video description: “My gold could be sent to the queen. That’s right – all those lovely gold nuggets, years of hard work, hundreds of days spent out prospecting only to have it all sent to the queen.”

I couldn’t believe it! He was just preparing to have his gold repossessed by the queen? Which queen? The queen? Is there a queen in Tasmania? I should’ve paid more attention in World History class.

Here’s the scoop.

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The Mineral Resources Development Act of 1995 (MRDA) is the act that governs prospecting and fossicking in Tasmania.

It created a government position called the Director of Mines aS the head of Mineral Resources Tasmania, and put it in charge of enforcing all matters involving prospecting and fossicking precious metals and gems.

The language isn’t totally clear, so a fellow from a website called AppleIsleProspector.com wrote an article about who owns the minerals in Tasmania in which he sent a letter to the Director of Mines in 2015 asking her who owns everything.

So I asked the Director of Mines to clarify the following: Do minerals collected in Tasmania under a prospecting licence belong to that prospector or not? After all, I’ve been coughing up my hard-earned cash to pay for a prospecting licence for nearly 20 years on the understanding that they do.

Apple Isle Prospector

The Director of Mines in 2015, Brett Stewart, said this:

A prospecting licence does not grant any right to a mineral, as an exploration licence or mining lease does, and the holder of a prospecting licence does not have ownership over a mineral found whilst prospecting.

Read the full response here.


I feel for any Tassie Prospectors over the years who thought they were owners of the gold they found. Imagine shooting a deer and having to process the meat and then bring it all to your local grocery store!

To make matters worse? No other Australian state has this law. Prospectors in mainland Australia can keep the gold they find for personal gain.

On the plus side, this law probably explains why Tasmanian prospectors on Youtube are finding such rich ground. It doesn’t seem like there’s much incentive for enterprising folks there to go out and find the shiny stuff.

6 ways for Tassies to use their gold

Looking on the bright side of things, if the gold you find has no monetary value to you then you can do all sorts of interesting things with it. Here’s a few ideas:

  1. Melt it into a block and use it as a doorstop
  2. Recreate the creek you found the gold by setting it in a live edge epoxy river table
  3. Make it into huge pirate jewelry and wear it out
  4. Turn it into a collar for your dog
  5. Replace the copper wiring in your house with gold wiring
  6. Sprinkle it on your birthday cake and eat it

Real Gold by Emily Riedel from Bering Sea Gold

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