Gold rush hits Germany

28th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

28 May 2004 , HAMBURG - After a pensioner out for a walk stumbled on a gold nugget in a stream, a gold rush is brewing in a part of Germany that was thought to be all mined out after centuries of extraction. In Katzhuette, amid the high hills of a region known as the Thuringian Forest, locals say enquiries have poured in from around the world about the chances of staking a claim to pan the streams. Officials however are convinced there is nothing but a few flakes left and say anyone is welcome to check for

28 May 2004

HAMBURG - After a pensioner out for a walk stumbled on a gold nugget in a stream, a gold rush is brewing in a part of Germany that was thought to be all mined out after centuries of extraction.

In Katzhuette, amid the high hills of a region known as the Thuringian Forest, locals say enquiries have poured in from around the world about the chances of staking a claim to pan the streams.

Officials however are convinced there is nothing but a few flakes left and say anyone is welcome to check for free.

Heinz Martin 64, was actually searching for deer antlers when he saw the glinting object in water near the town, 180 kilometres east of Frankfurt. After taking it home, he suspected it might not be real, or might have been planted as a publicity stunt.

But geologists confirmed it was the real thing, and word began to spread. By last week, television crews were swarming around the new Klondike and there were suggestions that the economy may have turned the corner in this former communist region of high unemployment.

After all, the nugget assayed at 9.64 grams of pure gold, Germany's biggest gold find in 200 years.

Wilfried Machold, the mayor of Katzhuette, population 2,000, reckons it is no big deal.

"People have been panning for gold in our streams for decades, but no one ever became wealthy from it," he said.

Martin's nugget, 2.2 centimetres long and about the size of a euro cent, is only of modest value.

"Going by the price on the London gold market, its worth less than EUR 100," said Michael Schade, a geologist who operates a private "gold museum" with his wife Karin in another town, Theuern, and who first confirmed the find to Martin earlier this month.

There have been suggestions that a collector might pay up to EUR 1,000 for the nugget because it is German, but there has been no sale. Martin and wife Liane have told reporters they plan to keep the nugget at a family memento after displaying it in a local museum.

Karin Schade said there had been an upsurge in amateur gold panning in recent days as visitors try to have fun and get rich at the same time. The Schades should know, as they sell gold pans.

"We've never sold them so fast in all our lives," the couple said.

Gold panning holidays have been a long-time selling point in these slow-moving hills, but Mayor Machold is worried that all the extra visitors will trample the new spring growth, although no one is allowed to set up gold-seeker tents in the woods.

"During the Middle Ages, more than four tons of gold was extracted from these hills," warned Schade, 49, a gold hunter who has panned and dug for gold in much of Europe as well as Canada, Alaska and Sibiria. "There are only leftovers here now."

The Schades offer panning courses to tourists.

"You need the knack, some patience and plenty of luck," explains Schade, who says he knows 243 streams in Thuringia province with gold in them.

"Mind you, it's just tiny flakes," he said. "If I compared the hours I spent to what I earn, it would be just 9 cents an hour."

 

DPA

Subject: German news

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