The world’s largest-known gold rock specimen, dubbed King Henry after it was unearthed at a West Australian mine three years ago, has gone on permanent display after being sold to the Perth Mint for $3 million.
- King Henry was discovered on Father’s Day 2018 about 500 metres below the surface at the Beta Hunt mine near Kambalda
- The mine owners, Karora Resources, have sold the gold-covered rock to the Perth Mint for $3 million
- The metal value of the King Henry specimen is worth close to $3.5 million at today’s gold price
The 94-kilogram specimen is named after air-leg miner Henry Dole, who discovered the gold-encrusted rock half a kilometre below the surface at the Beta Hunt mine in WA’s Goldfields.
The government-owned mint dipped into its gold reserves to buy the rock, which contains an estimated 1,400 ounces of gold.
King Henry adds to the 122-year-old mint’s existing collection of rare gold specimens and its famous Australian Kangaroo One Tonne Gold Coin, estimated to be worth more than $60 million.
Chief executive Richard Hayes described the acquisition as a “great deal for the state”.
He said today’s gold price meant the value of the metal content was around $3.5 million and collectors were known to pay a premium for rare specimens.
“Typically something like this would trade for up to two, two-and-a-half times what its actual gold value is,” Mr Hayes said.
Other buyers showed interest
The sale lays to rest fears the specimen would be sold offshore after the mine’s owners, Canada’s Karora Resources (formerly RNC Minerals), took King Henry on an overseas tour to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and China.
Karora Resources chief executive Paul Andre Huet said it was important the specimen remained in WA.
“The fact that it’s not melted into another doré bar and people get to see it on display for the next hundred or so years, we’re thrilled,” he said.
“It’s a timeless piece for sure.
Mr Hayes said the purchase ensured the King Henry specimen was preserved for future generations, avoiding the scenario that saw WA’s most famous gold nugget melted down.
The 35.5kg Golden Eagle, which earned its name because it was naturally shaped like an eagle with outstretched wings, was unearthed by 16-year-old Jim Larcombe in 1931 on his father’s claim in the Goldfields.
The Golden Eagle was sold to the state government and melted down during the height of the Great Depression.
“The sad part of Australia’s gold history is that so many nuggets found in the early days were melted down for their value,” Mr Hayes said.
“We’re very privileged and proud to have been able to be part of maintaining this part of Australia’s cultural heritage for display.
Hunt for next rich patch
Beta Hunt is a small mine in the scheme of WA’s gold mining industry, but its growing reputation for producing spectacular gold specimens is well deserved.
Most of the industry is lucky to see specks of the precious metal, but Beta Hunt has recorded 12 strikes of coarse gold since the Father’s Day Vein in 2018.
While spectacular in nature, none have come close to replicating the Father’s Day Vein, which produced more than 27,000 ounces from an area the size of a lounge room.
“Not yet, but anything could happen in the future at Beta Hunt. There’s certainly a lot of gold in this mine,” Mr Huet said.
“We keep our fingers crossed all the time that we will encounter something larger than Father’s Day, and it could very well happen in this district, there’s no doubt.”
The Father’s Day Vein made Karora Resources more than $40 million and saved the mine from what seemed like certain closure.
It led to the decision to buy the nearby Higginsville operation for $50 million, growing the company’s workforce from 100 to 450.
Miners ‘truffling’ for gold
One recent discovery of coarse gold sparked the team into action at Beta Hunt, where they conduct a now-familiar process they refer to as “truffling”.
Mine foreman Warren Edwards first coined the phrase, which describes how workers comb over rock looking for visible gold.
Once the ore is brought to the surface, a loader spreads the rock on the ground, it is watered down and workers pick out the visible gold.
“Since we do it so often we’ve termed it truffling,” senior mine geologist Zaf Thanos said.
“It’s just like a truffle hog finds a truffle … with your hands down and digging through the dirt.
“It was initially named after our foreman … he’s good at it.
“It sticks out quite clearly and we just pick it up off the top.”