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The Department of Mines and Petroleum has revealed it is investigating three claims of illegal prospecting near Leinster and maximum penalties for those found guilty are set to increase to $150,000 early next year.

The Leinster investigations are ongoing and most likely will result in warnings.

The maximum penalty for an individual found guilty of illegal prospecting currently stands at $100,000.

Only one Goldfields case of illegal prospecting has been prosecuted by the DMP this year with hobby prospector Marion Eaton, 59, fronting the Geraldton Magistrate’s Court last month.

Eaton, who has never been in trouble with the law, pleaded guilty to carrying out unauthorised mining activities on September 5, 2011, when prospecting for gold with a metal detector on a tenement known as Six Mile Patch, about 12km south of Sandstone.

The court was told this was done without the authority or approval of the tenement holder.