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Wedderburn heart of gold find leaves owner anxious




Leo Mathews has been searching for gold for the last 15 years.

After a ‘drought’ of 15 months he finally struck gold in the form of a 25 ounce gold nugget he found while fossicking in the bushland north of Bendigo.

Describing it as very solid with no pipe clay or much detritus and shaped in the form of a heart, Leo has called it – The Heart of Gold.

“They’re rare, a bit like snowflakes; no two are the same,” he said.

Leo had had only been out in the field for about four hours that afternoon, with only two hours of detecting time when he came across an area in the bush that had been previously ‘worked over’. Noticing the middle part had been left untouched, he decided to explore further, having been spurred on by the small speck of gold he had found nearby.

Leo Mathews and his 25 ounce gold nugget valued at about $40,000. “It’s probably been sitting in the ground for millions of years waiting for me to come along and unearth it.”

That was when his high tech pulse induction detection started to make ‘some serious noise.’

“I had to bring the coil right up way up off the ground about three feet to get it to settle down and I knew then you could hear the long signal at the end and I thought ,’I reckon I’ve got something here’, not thinking it would be this big,” Leo said.

So he began to dig to the bottom of the one foot hole until he felt something hard.

“I could feel the weight against my fingers and the coldness of the gold and I thought, ‘Beauty I’ve finally got one’.”

Until the find, Leo had been feeling despondent about gold detecting but persevered.

“I’m not a quitter, I set my self to do something and I keep doing it,” he said.

When asked about what characteristics make for a good gold prospector, he said – determination, patience, and having low expectations.

Then there’s the metal detector.

“Machines have become a lot better over the years,” Leo said.

“Every two or three years now there is a Game changer, something new comes out or the coils get better and it just gives you more depth.”

Along with the machine is the technique. Leo said he likes to go ‘low and slow’.

“Keep a flat swing all the way through and just don’t be in a hurry, just take your time, that’s basically it,” Leo said.

An anxious time

Leo took up gold detecting as a form of exercise after knee replacement surgery. He said it gave him a reason to go out and walk through the bush.

He has been known to spend up to seven hours under the blazing sun of summer searching for gold.

“It’s hot and uncomfortable and you spend all day picking up a heap of rubbish, anything from bullets to little bits of wire, nails, you name it,” he said.

Aside from his recent find his largest nugget to date has been six-and-a-half grams.

But it’s not just the exercise and lure of riches that motivate him, it’s his love of the bush and the contemplative mood it inspires.

“It’s great getting out in the bush, it gives you a lot of time to think about things, things you’ve done in your life and things you would still like to do and that sort of thing,” Leo said.

But the quiet serenity inspired by the bush has been disrupted by the fear of theft.

“It changes your life,” he said.

“Something that valuable you have to be very careful, it’s over $40,000.”

In the meantime Leo is keeping it in a safe place until he finds a buyer.

When he finally sells it, he said he plans on paying off a few debts, finishing off the renovations on the house and taking his wife Eileen, who works as a nurse, on a ten day cruise.