Nine mining groups are seeking permission to explore Ulster sites for gold, following the success of the Galantas mine, near Omagh, County Tyrone.
New detailed maps have revealed the possible presence of gold around North Down and parts of Derry. Platinum has also been found in the region for the first time, in east Antrim.
Their work is expected to see at least £20m being ploughed into the local economy.
Garth Earls, director of Geological Survey NI, said he was confident of a postive outcome.
He said: “Will we find another precious metal mine? I would like to think we will.
“I would be disappointed if we didn’t find another bedrock gold occurrence.”
Firms from Canada, South Africa, Britain and local companies have taken out licenses to investigate further.