NZ Day 3: The Alchemist

On the banks of this river we saw this lone man toiling away on a strange contraption made of a U shaped return circuit that pumped the water from the river in a trough and then it flowed back into the river, and there were few buckets and sieves and all around it. I found it curious seeing this man doing this boring looking routine while all rugged up for the cold weather and thought I should go up and say hello to him.
This is Sergio- Sorry, I’ve made this name up because I forgot what it actually was, but he said he immigrated here from the eastern Europe. Sergio works here more than 8 hours every day trying to find some Gold in the river banks. This part of New Zealand is known to have some gold in the area, and there was a Gold Mining boom here in the 1800s in the area. The gold found here is called ‘Alluvial’ Gold in the gold miner’s terms and it means the gold is deposited as small sand or particles in crevices in the small rocks and sand. Thus this gold doesn’t need to be dug out but rather washed out. 
Sergio’s mechanism involves a U shaped trough that has running water pumped by an electric motor and there are sieves of different gradient placed in the trough. Sergio digs up the sand on the bank in small batches and washes it in the running water all day- and at the time I found him and took this picture, he had some golden looking dust in his finest sieve. The largest bit was a flake that must be about 2mm wide but hair thin. The collective gold dust is gathered and refined later and has some metal value. Bigger particles are usually placed in small bottles floating in fluid or gel to make them look bigger and sell to the tourists as a souvenir at a price that would be many time higher than the metal value of the actual gold.
Sergio says he on an average gets about 200$NZ worth of gold, but its a very slow work. He had covered about 50 metres of this side of riverbank in last 6 months. His biggest regret at the moment is though that he  does all this work but doesn’t get to keep the gold. He actually works for some Contractor who has licence to forage for gold in the area, they watch over him from the office over the bank. 
It costs 7000$NZ to buy a licence from the Government to forage for gold for 2 years on these banks. Sergio is hopeful by the end of next year he will have saved enough to get a license and then work and find some gold for himself. He has his eyes set on the opposite bank of the same area as he thinks it’s not been foraged recently.
After talking to me and after letting me take a few pictures he asked “Are you a journalist?” 
I said no, just a tourist.
We said goodbye to the Alchemist and moved on our way to the Franz Josef town.

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