Prospectors in the Victorian High Country say they have struck gold near Swifts Creek and hope the discovery could eventually rejuvenate the former logging town. 

Key points:

  • Richard Darby has handed operation of his Snowstorm Gully mine to First AU
  • The exploration company says early drilling results have been encouraging
  • The exact amount of gold in the reef is not yet known

A five-hour drive northeast of Melbourne, Swifts Creek was once a bustling timber town but is now home to just a few-hundred people. 

Exploration company First AU started work at Snowstorm Gully last year, chipping rock to map potential drill sites.

Two men stand in front of a ute with a series of small gold processing machinery in the background.

Richard Darby, who owns the land for the Snowstorm project, pictured with advisor to First AU, Ryan Batros.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville

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The land is owned by Richard Darby who also runs the town’s general store.

He spent the past nine years searching for gold on the property himself but had to call in the professionals after a bad accident left him injured.

“When you look at the surface you can’t judge anything, but now they’re diamond drilling and it’s coming up with some amazing results,” Mr Darby said.

Four men at the top of an escarpment stand around trays of rock samples. Drilling rig in background.

First AU staff and contractors discuss recent rock samples drilled near Swifts Creek.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville

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‘Could be just as big as Bendigo’

First AU advisor, Ryan Batros, said it is difficult to quantify the site’s potential, but early signs are encouraging.

“We know where the gold is … and the grade we’ve been assaying has been high quality,” Mr Batros said.

A hand holds a gold pan filled with flecks of gold and water above long narrow blue plastic trays containing rock samples.

Gold and rock samples from the Snowstorm project near Swifts Creek.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville

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“The first couple of drill holes have come out … [with] around 20 grams. That’s big.

“It could be just as big as Bendigo and the Goldfields of Castlemaine.”

Between 1845 and 1926, 100,000 ounces of gold was extracted from the Swifts Creek goldfields. 

“It really is the forgotten goldfields …  this is a company maker, this could be absolutely mind blowing,” Mr Batros said. 

And the community of Swifts Creek is hoping the discovery could inspire an economic boost for the town. 

“Even if it was only 20 or 30 jobs it’d be a really good thing and help the school,” Mr Darby said.

Optimistic, but ‘it’s early days’ 

First AU’s chief geologist, Ian Neilson said the region’s strong history of alluvial and reef mining is encouraging for future development.

“We undertook a systematic rock chipping program looking to determine where there was visible gold or gold located,” Mr Neilson said.

A man holding a garden hose gestures over long, narrow trays containing cores of rock as onlookers gather around.

First AU chief geologist Ian Neilson discusses recent drill samples with visitors at the Snowstorm project site near Swifts Creek.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville

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“With initial drilling results we’ve been targeting and intersecting some of these reef-like structures so the preliminary results that have come through have been really encouraging which we’re really excited about.”

Argonaut Limited mining analyst, John Macdonald said the quartz vein identified by the company had returned a grade that in some other mines was considered commercial.

But he said the exploration was in its infancy but it was “a good start”.

“To get a mining prospect approved, you need to drill quite a lot of holes, this is the start of the process and they’ve had some early encouragement in the initial holes,” Mr Macdonald said.

“Exploration can be quite a rewarding business but it is a low probability exercise a lot of the time.

“It doesn’t always result in a commercial outcome for the shareholders and owners so you start with the assumption that everything is not very likely to work out but to everybody’s credit we always give these things a go.” 

A machine with hydraulic hoses drives a long metal tube into the ground. Brown water flows back to the surface out of the hole.

A drilling rig works at the Snowstorm project site.(

ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville

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Could East Gippsland be home to Victoria’s next big gold mine?
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