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Gold rush surges back to West Coast as prices rise during pandemic

In the 1800s, the West Coast went mad with miners searching for elusive flakes of gold, hoping for a golden strike.

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Sunday's Rebecca Wright is deep in the West Coast with the locals, looking for hidden treasure. Source: Sunday

Now people are at it again and there's another gold rush, with crews sluicing, dredging and digging - and for good reason.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a lucrative spike in gold prices, so everyone from major operations to the locals are going for gold.

It's an addictive, highly secretive business, with the new generation of fossickers inspired by overseas gold hunting shows.

Now one of them, amateur hobbyist Darren Coker, is making his own videos for YouTube.

"My biggest day would be just over two grams and my biggest nugget being 1.6 grams," he told TVNZ1's Sunday.  

"I was in disbelief when I found it because it’s the largest piece I've found in my pan so far."

He compares it to winning the Lotto - you've got to be in it to win it - and dreams of "the big nugget".

"I'd love to get on a dredge, and get out there and do some scuba diving and suck out some of the alluvial stuff from the riverbeds deep down."

At nearly NZ$3000 an ounce, the potential for gold-mining profit is up 30 per cent on a year ago.

"We get good days and bad days sometimes you pick up a gram obviously you are in the wrong spot and some days you can pick up a couple of ounces," hobbyist dredger Gordon Storer says.

But it's not an easy motherload to get. 

"The Buller River is a wild river," Storer says.

"The moment you disrespect it, it will chew you up and spit you out."

Watch the video for the full Sunday story.