Staying safe while prospecting and fossicking

Prospecting is a popular pastime in Western Australia, with everyone from tourists to professional prospectors taking part. The activity can take people to areas just outside regional centres to remote parts of the State, and for a day trip to weeks away at a time.

No matter how long you go for or how far you are away from a town or your familiarity with an area, the attention to safety should be the same. Unexpected events can happen to even the most experienced prospector or fossicker. It is how well prepared you are and how effectively you communicate that will determine the outcome.

Make sure you come home safely to your family and friends.

Before you leave:

  • plan your prospecting trip according to your experience level
  • let people know where you are going and how long you expect to be away
  • have a reliable person to act as a contact at home
  • leave behind a copy of maps for the area in which you intend to operate—mark the roads you are likely to use and possible camping and prospecting areas
  • leave details of the vehicles and people involved in the prospecting or fossicking trip and telephone/satellite numbers
  • consider having scheduled calls and agree on a back-up plan if the call is missed so it is clear when the alarm will be raised
  • familiarise yourself with your chosen communication devices before leaving home.

Communication devices

Most people take for granted that we can pick up a mobile phone and get help. However telecommunication coverage outside of a regional centre or in remote areas is not a given.

The use of communication devices which are satellite-based is strongly encouraged as an addition to telecommunication devices. These devices can be purchased or hired.

Satellite phones

  • These phones allow vital communication when required.

Personal locator beacons (PLBs)

  • When activated, the device transmits a message via a satellite to the emergency services. The transmitted coordinates are used by rescuers to pinpoint the location of the person.

  • These devices are small and inexpensive and can be purchased from most quality outdoor stores.
    They are designed to be carried by a person rather than stay in a vehicle and are ideal for use during prospecting and fossicking activities.

  • Carrying a PLB has been recommended to prospectors by the Coroner after an inquest into the death of a prospector in 2014.

Personal satellite tracking systems

  • These devices can send pre-prepared messages via a satellite-based provider.
  • Locators can be tracked using the internet.
  • Some devices have emergency alert functions but be aware these may have time delays attached.

PLBs should not be confused with global positioning systems (GPS) devices, which also use satellites to locate a position on the ground, but do not transmit location information to emergency services.

For more information on beacons, go to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

In the field

Being on foot away from the vehicle and the camp exposes the prospector to the effects of climate, terrain and how the land is being used. It is recommended that you:

  • carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) and a communication device on you at all times
  • carry adequate water and food for the trip (4 to 6 litres of water per person per day, more in hot or humid conditions)
  • have a suitable first aid kit and the medications you need
  • have an emergency kit (e.g. matches, whistle, mirror, thermal blanket)
  • wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the conditions.

Be vigilant around old mining centres and workings and mindful of pastoral, farming, mining or exploration activities.

Keep up-to-date with conditions while in the field by contacting:

  • Local Shire—road and weather updates; water and fuel sources
  • Landowners—ground, road and track conditions; stock and vehicle movements; planned burn offs; mining and exploration activities such as haulage, ground surveys and drilling
  • Police—road conditions, safety alerts.

Prospecting in remote areas - pamphlet - 534 Kb

This pamphlet is a guide on planning your prospecting trip in Western Australia.

Travelling in remote locations - mine safety matters pamphlet - 489 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices when travelling in remote locations.

Prospecting in Western Australia - 2987 Kb

A reference guide providing visiting prospectors with a summary of their rights and obligations.

Other resources

DMIRS's Resources Safety Division is the regulator of safety legislation in Western Australia for the minerals, petroleum and dangerous goods sectors. Although prospectors and fossickers may not be subject to the safety legislation, some concepts are universal to all people who work in remote areas.

Although aimed at the mining industry, the following resources may be of interest as they cover the hazards of working or travelling in remote areas:

Old mine workings - pamphlet - 1185 Kb

This pamphlet outlines the hazards of abandoned mine workings.