Two people are currently under investigation after an illegal mining operation was shut down in Inverell.
The Sapphire City played host to the NSW Resource Regulator as investigations led them to a property in Rickey's Lane, Sapphire.
When they entered the property, escorted by police officers, inspectors saw a large excavator and a dump truck near Frazer's Creek.
They witnessed earth being loaded into the truck, which was then taken to a nearby site to be processed with trommel, which is used to sieve, wash and sort dirt and minerals.
Inspectors then found three buckets full of blue stones, which they believe to be sapphires, with more seen lying in the trommel.
All rocks were seized for further examination.
Two people have been issued with prohibition directions, and have been ordered to immediately stop all illegal mining.
The site will be monitored to make sure operations do not continue, and investigations are continuing.
A Regulator spokesperson said busts like this weren't very common, with the most recent charge of this kind occurring last year.
"Thankfully instances of illegal mining are not common, however when they do occur we treat them very seriously," they told the Leader.
"For example, in 2019 we prosecuted Mudgee Stone for unlawful mining."
Mudgee Stone Co Pty Ltd and its company director were convicted and fined in Downing Centre Local Court and ordered to pay costs totaling $340,000 for a range of offences following prosecution by the Resources Regulator.
The maximum penalty for an offence of mining without authorisation is $1.1 million dollars in the case of a corporation and $220,000 or imprisonment for five years, or both, in the case of an individual.