A torrent of mining exploration licence applications point to another rush on gold in Ballarat, potentially leading to hundreds of jobs in the future.
The historic Jubilee Gold Mine, near Scarsdale, could soon be operating again after a high-tech survey, while mining equipment companies could be exporting gear developed in Ballarat to the world.
According to the Minerals Council of Australia's Victorian director James Sorahan, about 80 million ounces of gold has been extracted from the Ballarat and Bendigo region since the first big gold rush in the 1800s.
He said that number could be almost doubled, as new techniques for exploration are developed.
The Fosterville mine, near Bendigo, is pumping out large amounts of high-grade gold, while Ballarat's gold mine has renewed investment and is going from strength to strength - and that's attracted other companies hoping to get in on the action.
Mr Sorahan said there are more than 200 licences in Victoria at the moment, with another 150 applications going through the state government.
"More exploration licences mean it is more likely there will be an increase in future mining production activity," he said in a statement.
"Exploration in the region employs geologists, drill rig operators and technicians."
That's something that Navarre Minerals managing director Geoff McDermott is aware of.
Last week, his company signed a deal to acquire the exploration licence covering the Jubilee Gold Mine - it produced more than 120,000 ounces of gold during its lifetime, before closing in 1912.
Mr McDermott, a former director at the Stawell Gold Mine, said gold mining was undergoing a "renaissance" in Victoria.
The company pored through the wealth of historic geological records, and determined there is likely a large amount of untouched gold at the Jubilee site.
Using the meticulous records, his team put together a 3D model of the existing mine, and worked out the pattern of the ore body.
"We're able to reconstruct the geology as the old-timers never had, but it allows us to see where the reefs are going, and plan where we should target the next phase," he said.
"The beauty is, we know from the records they had gold at the bottom of the mine, it's an immediate target without having to think too much about it.
"You're at least going to get some hits."
Mr McDermott estimated there could be dozens of jobs in the exploratory phase - from geologists and surveyors to data analysts - but if the mine gets off the ground, hundreds could be employed during the construction and production phases.
He cautioned it's an "iterative process", but is confident something will be found.
"From exploration to a mine is typically about 14 years on average, it doesn't happen overnight," he said.
"There's usually quite a few false starts, if you drill a hole and you don't see what you were expecting, you'll scratch your head and have a few sleepless nights."
Having the right technology, in exploration and production, is a key part of the process.
An advantage of Victorian mines is their small size means they can be more flexible, which helps mining equipment, technology, and service companies, or METS, to develop their products in the field.
Ballarat's Gekko Systems is a good example of this - the company's inventions to increase mining efficiency can be found across the world after working closely with the Ballarat Gold Mine.
The METS industry body, AustMine, is hoping to help other companies achieve the same success - it's launching an export hub with the federal government to create "packages" for mining companies looking for specific services.
Chief executive Christine Gibbs Stewart said the first stage would be identifying capabilities, particularly in places like Ballarat that have a mine, established players, and a university.
"Then we'll map that into what's happening across the state, and ultimately across the world - we'll identify opportunities overseas where those capabilities will match," she said.
An example could be gold mines in Papua New Guinea, where remote terrain poses challenges for local mining companies.
With the price of gold remaining high, she said it's likely other players in Ballarat could begin taking steps to grow their businesses.
"The way mining's moving, and the applications of technology, you're looking at computer science, digital analytics, and growing occupations such as augmented and virtual reality - if people like playing video games, they might like working in a mining operation," she said.
"Soon, underground mines won't have people in them, it'll be operated remotely from above ground, people will be operating equipment that could potentially be kilometres below ground.
"But there's also traditional occupations in the mining industry, like welders, fitters and turners, they're all important as well."
The trick with gold mining is planning far enough into the future to ensure there's a constant flow of ore being processed, without overreaching and hitting dry spells - this is again where METS companies play a role.
At the Ballarat Gold Mine, which came under new leadership last year, drilling underground has increased 50 per cent, and 15 per cent annual growth over the next five years is expected.
The mine's drilling fleet has increased from four to six rigs, while staff numbers have increased 17 per cent.
Board representative Mike Gu said in a statement the mine was moving into a new chapter.
"We are transitioning from a model of 'staying in business' to 'growth' and a mine for the future," he said.
If trends continue, that's "good news" for Ballarat, Ms Stewart added.
"As the price continues to go up, if there's one mineral people are banking on in terms of stability, it's gold," she said.
"That's what Victoria has, and particularly Ballarat has."
Mr McDermott agreed.
"There's never been a better time to be in Victoria looking for gold," he said.
"With the amount of money being spent on exploration, it's only a matter of time before we see the next significant find in Victoria."
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