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Prospectors warned to be safe, use PBL and GPS

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Prospectors have been warned to observe safety precautions before heading out bush this winter.

Cooler weather makes winter a good time for prospecting in the Western Australian goldfields, but WA mines and petroleum minister Michael Graham has urged prospectors to carry personal locator beacons (PLB) or EPIRBs.

“They're very small, they can fit in your pocket and even if you're getting out of your car, put it in your pocket as you go out,” Graham said.

“It's almost like wearing a seatbelt in a car but it's your seatbelt when you're not in your car.

Graham said there have been 22 prospectors that went missing in the past two and a half years.

"Last year we had about 12 cases and one prospector who went missing did have a personal locater beacon on them and we found them within about four hours,” he said.

Graham also said that more than 3000 people were issued with Miner’s Rights licenses this season.

Early last month a 76 year-old prospector, Peter O’Shaughnessy went missing while prospecting about 45 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie.

O’Shaughnessy was discovered within 24 hours of being reported missing, but not before he had resorted to building a shelter and drinking his own urine.

“The first sip is pretty hard to take, but you really just moisten your lips. Because it’s pretty salty,” O’Shaughnessy told his daughter, ABC Radio presenter Gillian O’Shaughnessy.

The helicopter pilot who found O’Shaughnessy said that he would not have been spotted if he hadn’t been waving his metal detector in the air.

O’Shaughnessy joined the state government campaign to improve prospector safety, which has been aimed at saving the expense of carrying out rescue searches.

An aircraft search can cost $5000 per hour.

O’Shaughnessy said that anyone travelling in a remote area should also carry a GPS.

“If I'd had the GPS I'd have just gone straight back to the car, they're the simplest things in the world to use,” he said.

Last year a 46 year-old prospector, Michael Menzies, was found dead near Menzies after a month-long search.

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