Northern Territory Government

Fossicking in the Northern Territory

Mud Tank Zircon Field

Scenery of Mud Tank Zircon Field 

Mud Tank Zircon Field Map (124.4 kb) 

History

The Mud Tank area on Alcoota Station in the Harts Range district is well known in the fossicking fraternity for its zircon material, a semi-precious Australian gem stone.

Initial exploration of the Mud Tank Carbonatite took place in 1940. An area of land was surveyed specifically to permit mining of both vermiculite and zircon in 1989 and was subsequently excised from the Alcoota Pastoral Lease.

Discoveries

Zircon, apatite, magnetite, martite.

The main diggings cover the crest of Zircon Hill, which is capped with magnetite and weathered calcite. The zircons are obtained by digging and sieving (wet and dry).

The zircons here are orange, pale brown, pink, purplish shades, colourless, yellow and parti-coloured, and may occur as small, double-terminated crystals or chips.

Larger zircon specimens with better-developed crystal faces are found on Specimen Hill, but the interior of the crystals is invariably cracked and generally considered unsuitable for cutting.

Waterworn zircons may be found in the low-lying area (the Flats) between Specimen Hill and Zircon Hill.

Access

Access is from the Plenty Highway 7.7 km east from the Gemtree Caravan Park. Turn right at Mud Tank Bore, where there are signs indicating the zircon fields, and continue south-west. Follow the signs to a gate (8 km), which is the entrance to the fossicking area. Total driving time from Alice Springs is approximately one and a half hours, with sealed roads to the Mud Tank Bore turn-off.

Access to the fossicking area is suitable for conventional vehicles with care.

Camping

Camping: "Bush camping" is permitted within the Mud Tank Zircon Field on both sides of the main track up to Marktree Creek. Campers must take their rubbish with them when they leave.

Accommodation and campsites are available at the Gemtree Caravan Park, along with a range of other facilities including fuel (diesel, leaded and unleaded) and a grocery store.

There is no water available at the fossicking area, but visitors are welcome to replenish water supplies with bore water from the Gemtree. As a matter of courtesy, please notify the office beforehand, and collect water only during daylight hours.

Travelling in the NT

Driving in the Northern Territory can pose unique challenges even to the experienced traveller, and road conditions can change rapidly. Check road conditions, rest stops and National Park closures prior to setting out.