There is a mini-gold rush happening in Western Australia’s north.

The Pilbara region, previously synonymous with iron ore mining, is now witnessing a swag of junior gold plays on the hunt for the next precious metal find with investors in a buying frenzy.

Impact Minerals (ASX: IPT) is the latest junior to get in on the action, applying for nine new exploration licences in the Pilbara over 1300 sq km of ground prospective for conglomerate-hosted gold.

Impact was one of the best performing stocks on the ASX yesterday, surging as much as 85 per cent to an intraday high of 2.4c before cooling to close at 2.2c.

The ground is prospective for Witwatersrand-style conglomerate gold. The Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa holds the world’s largest known gold reserves and has produced 1.5 billion ounces.

Most the licence applications have passed through the period for objections under the Mining Act and now likely to be granted subject to native title approval which is expected to take about eight months.

Impact will begin a review of previous exploration and begin on-ground activities in early November and consider funding options for future exploration on the tenements.

The areas are close to licences held by Canadian-listed gold explorer Novo Resources.

Novo, along with ASX-listed joint venture partner Artemis Resources, started the ball rolling in the Pilbara with a significant gold nugget find at its Purdy’s Reward project located south of Karratha in Western Australia.

Artemis (ASX:ARV) has surged 300 per cent to yesterday’s close of 24c since its first announcement of the gold nugget recovery in early July and has recently raised $12 million to progress the project.

More recently, minnow De Grey Mining (ASX:DEG) surged as much as 150 per cent in Wednesday’s trading after finding 91 gold nuggets at a new gold target called Loudens Patch located at the base of the Mt Roe Basalt at its Pilbara project. Click here for Stockhead’s coverage.

The company is making hay while the sun shines, yesterday entering a trading halt pending a capital raise to fund its Pilbara project.

De Grey has also reported a 20 per cent increase in gold resources at the Pilbara gold project to over 1.2 million ounces.

Total resources at the project now stand at 23.8 million tonnes grading at 1.6 grams per tonne gold for 1.21 million ounces. The updated resource includes all drilling results up to end of the last quarter and includes new resources from Toweranna, Mallina and Leach Pad.

De Grey operations manager Andy Beckwith said the resource upgrade demonstrated the potential still to be discovered in the region.

“These resources will now be evaluated and added to our previous scoping study assessment, which noted that any increased mine life will make a significant positive financial impact.

De Grey’s priority now is to increase project resources through exploration, drilling and acquisition, he said.

The company is looking for open pit resources within 50 kilometres of proposed mine site.

De Grey was trading at 15c before entering the trading halt.

Another Pilbara-focused stock going gangbusters recently is Venturex Resources (ASX:VXR) which yesterday reported that its Whim Creek tenement package in the Pilbara lies adjacent to De Grey’s Loudens Patch discovery.

In light of De Grey’s results, Venturex is sending its geological team to inspect the area and undertake sampling.

Earlier this month, Venturex announced it had begun a review of its Whim Creek tenements and existing database for gold anomalies with potential for Witwatersrand-style conglomerate gold.

An initial program of soil sampling returned gold values of up to 100 parts per billion and copper results of up to 382 parts per million.

Since announcing the gold targets on September 6, the stock has gained 150 per cent to close yesterday at 1.5c.