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I live near Sydney, Australia and I really like the idea of sourcing my own ore from the wilderness. I want to give my kids a really hands on education into how primitive industries actually kicked off.

Is there some source of public information explaining exactly where you would find surface deposits of ore? Is this going to be achievable for a lay person?

Edit: I'm thinking of copper ore, for example, which can be smelted into pea sized droplets relatively easily using a makeshift clay furnace with bellows. I didn't specify exactly which ore because I realise that ore is regional. I realise that it is unlawful to steal materials out of the environment, but I'm assuming that the likelihood of being prosecuted for conducting a small scale science experiment for your kids is relatively low. taking a couple buckets of gravel is not going to cause an environmental disaster. If the land is privately owned then it may be a matter of simply asking the landowner for permission.

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how can a complete novice find ore?

You don't.

In addition to Fred's excellent answer regarding the legalities of the matter, I would add the following:

  1. All of the easy stuff has already been found, and finding any more ore requires efforts beyond what you can do on your own.
  2. Stuff that is easy to find now is commonly in old mines or old mine tailings. These are dangerous places to be in. There is risk of collapse, acid mine drainage, and a bunch of other nasty things.
  3. Learning how to find "ore" regardless of the first two points requires proper education in geological sciences.
  4. Smelting copper ore, as per your idea, is a bad bad bad idea. Copper ore is usually in the form of copper sulfides. You really don't want to breath sulfur-bearing gases while you're smelting the ore.

If you are interested in looking for minerals and such, as a resident of New South Wales I recommend you talk a look at this website:

https://www.resourcesandgeoscience.nsw.gov.au/miners-and-explorers/fossicking-in-nsw

It contains information and resources that might be useful to you.

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This somewhat of a naive question.

Firstly what type of ore do you want: iron ore, gold, tin, nickel, copper, silver-lead-zinc, lithium, ... etc. Also, the difference between an ore deposit and a mineral deposit is economics - can profit be made by digging it up, processing it and turning it into a saleable commodity: gold bars, ingot or sheets of copper, concentrate of certain metal sulphides.

The other thing is, if you found something, what are you going to do with it. Within Australia there are laws and regulations regarding what can and can't be done regarding mineral resources. This is partly due to the State wanting it's cut via royalties and so the environment is supposedly looked after and neighbors are not affected - people living in towns etc. The State doesn't want to waste money cleaning up someone's environmental damage!

The other thing is, mineral deposits occur in certain types of geological settings. It's unlikely you'll find gold or iron ore in Sydney, but you will find coal. Geological knowledge is critical to be able to find most mineral deposits. Additionally, most surface deposits have either been mined or deemed uneconomic. To find something valuable it will most likely be covered by a thickness of rock or regolith.

The other thing is, if you happen to stumble on something, it might be pegged by an exploration or mining company. Removing anything from such leases is an unlawful act and if you are found you could face legal action. However, you may have limited rights to explore for some things provided you have a Prospector's Permit for the state or territory where you want to search.

All minerals in Australia are owned by the Crown (effectively the State or Territory), you can't go grabbing stuff just because you want to. If you own property in Australia, you only have rights to the top 100 metres. A mining company can legally mine under you house if the mine is greater than 100 metres in depth and the company has the necessary leases, permits and authorities from the State or Territory government authorities.

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