More than 18,000 fossicking licences have been issued over the last two financial years with the State Government recording an upsurge in the number of people hunting for precious metals and gems.

Resources Minister Scott Stewart has urged families to put fossicking on their to-do lists during the holidays and help support regional communities.

In 2017, the Pride of Tomahawk sapphire was discovered at Anakie.

The gem, which has been likened to the size of a golf ball, was found by an amateur fossicker.

And one of the rarest sapphires found in the history of gem mining was unearthed in central Queensland more than 80 years ago.

Prospector Clyde Doxford holding gold nuggets he mined from the Charters Towers area. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Prospector Clyde Doxford holding gold nuggets he mined from the Charters Towers area. Picture: Liam Kidston.

A prospector also found a 1.1763kg gold nugget in a paddock in the Charters Towers region in 2017, which was just 15cm underground.

"Whether you're hunting for gold in Charters Towers and Clermont, searching for sapphires around Emerald or looking for the vibrant and colourful gemstones of Agate Creek, and western opals at Yowah and Opalton - Queensland is a fossicker's paradise," Mr Stewart said. 

The Minister said there were numerous, and proven, rich fossicking areas across the state.

"Find your fortune using hand tools such as picks, shovels, hammers, sieves, shakers, electronic detectors and other similar tools," he said.

"You can collect gemstones, ornamental stones, mineral specimens, alluvial gold -

including nuggets and some fossil specimens, but not meteorites or fossils of vertebrate


Fossickers are reminded they are required to fill in holes they have dug so the area is safe for others.

"State Government officers undertake targeted checks on site to ensure fossicking activities are happening safely and that people are following the rules," Mr Stewart said.

"It's been a tough year for Queenslanders but we're encouraging everyone to get out and

support our regional communities and explore our state's natural beauty by urging more

families to put fossicking on your must-do list these holidays."

Originally published as Qld's new gold rush: Where you can dig up treasure