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Arltunga Gold Field, Central Desert Region, Northern Territory, Australia

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Latitude & Longitude (WGS84): 23° 27' 37'' South , 134° 42' 47'' East
Latitude & Longitude (decimal): -23.46044,134.71325

Arltunga was the first substantial settlement in central Australia, and is now a preserved mining ghost town. It was named after a sub-group of the Arrente Aborigines, who lived in the area. The South Australian explorer, David Lindsay, passed through the area on his five week trek from Port Darwin to the South Australian coast in 1887. He observed what he thought to be rubies in the area, in a gorge to the east of Arltunga, now known as Ruby Gap. This led to a short lived gemstone rush until they were found to be garnets. Miners attracted to the area originally by the garnets, found alluvial and reef gold at Arltunga, which was worked for a few years in the 1890's. The original gold discovery was at a site called Paddy's Rockhole in 1887.

The town was soon deserted but it enjoyed a revival with the construction of a government battery and cyanide works in 1896. This kept the town active till 1916. In 1911 the population was 56, and in 1933 it was 25. The town had a lack of water in what is rugged mountain desert country, and the terrain made the shipping of equipment and supplies difficult.

Arltunga has several preserved buildings including the hotel, police station, and government works. The site also includes a museum, cemetery, and several gold mines, where you can climb down ladders into the shafts. (At least several years ago when I visited- this may have been stopped since). Golden Chance, MacDonnell Reef, Joker, and Great Western Mines, can be visited after a short walk.

H.Y.L. Brown, South Australian government geologist, visited the field in 1902. He stated the gold occurrence was peculiar in a way he had never seen before. There were no defined lodes. Rather large outcrops of quartz with no wall to the country rock. The quartz occurs in irregular masses, and is intermixed with the quartzite country rock, and in veins of quartz with variable directions. The quartz often shows cubic cavities, being casts of pyrite cubes. Cellular quartz and gold traverses the quartzite in seams, or following fissures and joints, containing iron oxides, iron gossan, hematite, pyrites, kaolin, clay, rubble, sand, loam, earthy matter (?), and is often rich in gold, which is so loose it falls out when handled. Most gold is found as fine particles, and dust of a high Au value. The seams sometime widen into vugs.

Brown notes leases on the field as Boulder Extended, Excelsior, South, East, North, Central, Great Western, White Range Block (Luce's). Workings include Long Lead, (my favourite) Perkins Flying Scud, Black Angel, White Spur, Kaolin and Kaolin West. Mines include Christmas Reef, Golden Chance, Joker, MacDonnell Reefs, Valentine, and White Range. The most active period for the field was the 1890's to 1904.

Metal detecting is not allowed in the historical reserve or neighbouring aboriginal land. A small (about 1.5 x 1.5 km) fossicking reserve is set aside for metal detecting, 1.3 kilometres past the Arltunga Bush Hotel, at Paddy's Rockhole/Mission Creek, where the first gold was found in the area. Check whether a permit is needed, as this requirement can change depending on who is in government. Gold nuggets have been rarely seen from spot, at least publically.

Mineral List

Mineral list contains entries from the region specified including sub-localities

29 valid minerals.

Rock Types Recorded

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Regional Geology

This geological map and associated information on rock units at or nearby to the coordinates given for this locality is based on relatively small scale geological maps provided by various national Geological Surveys. This does not necessarily represent the complete geology at this locality but it gives a background for the region in which it is found.

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1600 - 2500 Ma
Cavenagh Metamorphics

Age: Proterozoic (1600 - 2500 Ma)

Stratigraphic Name: Cavenagh Metamorphics

Description: Well layered and massive quartzofeldspathic gneiss, para-amphibolite, amphibolite; rare calc-silicate rock, hematite quartzite

Comments: high grade metamorphic rock; synthesis of multiple published descriptions

Lithology: High grade metamorphic rock

Reference: Raymond, O.L., Liu, S., Gallagher, R., Zhang, W., Highet, L.M. Surface Geology of Australia 1:1 million scale dataset 2012 edition. Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia). [5]

Data and map coding provided by, used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

Localities in this Region

This page contains all mineral locality references listed on This does not claim to be a complete list. If you know of more minerals from this site, please register so you can add to our database. This locality information is for reference purposes only. You should never attempt to visit any sites listed in without first ensuring that you have the permission of the land and/or mineral rights holders for access and that you are aware of all safety precautions necessary.


Chronicle newspaper (Adelaide) (1902) The Arltunga Goldfield Government Geologist's Report, 05/07/1902.

Mackie, A.W. (1986) Geology and Mining History of the Arltunga Goldfield, 1887-1985, Department of Mines and Energy, Northern Territory Geological Survey, Northern Territory Government, Report 2.

Dirks, P.H.G.M. (1991) Structural controls on the distribution of gold-bearing quartz veins in the Arltunga gold field, Northern Territory, Australia. Economic Geology vol.86(2), pp.249-260.

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