Ken Degorgue, 31, who works in a shop that sells prospecting equipment, immediately called his boss, Julien Lamarque. “He was mad with joy,” said Mr Lamarque. “It is rare to find gold nuggets in France. “You could say it is the find of a lifetime.”
The value of gold
Gold currently sells for around €50 a gramme but the rarity of the nugget means it is worth a lot more to collectors than just the value of the metal. “Nuggets like this are usually only found in Australia,” said Mr Lamarque. “In France, you are much more likely to end up with tiny speckles of gold dust, which you have to carefully gather up one by one.”
One or two small commercial gold mines in Brittany still operate but most of France’s gold-mines closed around 20 years ago. The biggest mines were near Limoges and Carcassonne. Last year, there was a pollution scare when a dam at the mine near Carcassonne, containing arsenic which had been used in the refining process, threatened to overflow during a period of heavy rains.
The foothills of the Pyrenees are where most of the gold is found, mainly by prospectors using pans in rivers. Mr Lamarque, who runs the Gold Digger Shop in Boé, near Agen, said there are around 3,000 prospectors in France who regularly look for gold. “Once gold fever gets you, it is impossible to cure,” he said. “Ken, who has been working here for a month, has really been bitten.”
France is also a leader in the production of metal detectors specially tuned to detect gold. Toulouse-based company XP, which makes a variety of metal detectors, has sold its models specialising in gold detection all over the world.