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Prospecting is the first stage of the geological analysis (second – exploration) of a territory. It is the physical search for minerals, fossils, precious metals or mineral specimens, and is also known as fossicking.
Prospecting is physical labour, involving traversing (traditionally on foot or on horseback), panning, sifting and outcrop investigation, looking for signs of mineralisation. In some areas a prospector must also make claims, meaning they must erect posts with the appropriate placards on all four corners of a desired land they wish to prospect and register this claim before they may take samples. In other areas publicly held lands are open to prospecting without staking a mining claim.