Welcome to the first edition of Gold Net Australia Online Magazine. This edition is provided FREE. Through this medium we will bring to you, a wide range of interesting articles, data, general interest stories, anecdotes, and historical facts that relate to Australian Gold.
Primarily designed for the privateer, many articles will be directed towards where gold can be found today. How to find it, and the infrastructure supporting the detecting and sluicing hobbyist, will take precedence in the publication.
The history of Gold in Australia is an exciting and adventurous journey, through the last 150 years. Many old gold towns visited in Australia today provide an incredible visual record of that great period of prosperity, with an abundance of buildings preserved for posterity. Bendigo and Ballarat in Victoria, Bathurst in New South Wales, and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia display fine examples. A number of articles written by well-recognized Australian authorities will aid and assist the privateer in their quest to find this elusive metal.
It is our desire to promote to the gold enthusiast worldwide the enormous advantages of visiting this wondrous land, and engaging in your own quest to locate your share of gold, whilst at the same time enjoying the hospitality and uniqueness of this vast and inviting land.
We welcome your comments and letters, good and bad, and where possible we will strive to provide you with what you require for your own golden quest.
It will be our pleasure to provide this information for your entertainment and enjoyment. However, as we are a commercial organization from next month the cost of this publication will be $US4.50.
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2. THE WELCOME STRANGER NUGGET
by John Deason
It was between 9 and 10am on the fifth of February 1869. I was at work picking the surface for puddling and put the pick in the ground and felt what I thought was a stone, the second blow struck in the same way and the third also.
I scraped the ground with the pick and saw gold; then I cleared away further and right around the nugget. There was a stringy bark root going right across it and a small bit of gold stood up and the root of the stringy bark ran through this.
I tried to prise the nugget up with the pick but the handle broke. I then got a crowbar and raised the nugget to the surface. It weighed nearly three hundred weight (4,300oz), at first there was much quartz with the gold. As the nugget lay in the ground, the solid piece of gold was underneath and it was deep in the ground but the top of the nugget was not more than 1" below the surface.
The nugget was about 18" long by 16" wide and about 16" deep. My mate, Richard Oates, was working a short distance below the puddling machine in his paddock and I send my son down to call him. When my mate came, I said, "What do you think of it Dick? It is worth about 5,000 pounds?" "Oh" he said "more like 2,000 pounds".
We then got the dray and lifted the nugget into it and carted it down to my hut, which stood about 1 1/2 chain to the north of the old puddling machine. We took it out of the dray and put it in the fireplace, built a good fire on it and kept it burning for about 10 hours, leaving it cool for 2 hours, we sat up all night breaking it free from quartz. My wife, my mate and myself were the only persons who saw the nugget as it was first found.
When it was cool we broke 70lbs. quartz away from it . Besides detached pieces of gold there was one solid piece of it that weighted 128 lbs. troy (1,536 oz.). This was on the bottom of the nugget as it lay on the ground. There was a great deal of loose gold when the quartz was broken off. The 70 lbs. of quartz broken away had course and fine gold through it. It was taken to Mr. Edward Udey's battery close by and a load of other quartz with no gold in it was crushed with it and 60 oz. Of smelted gold was obtained.
Several small pieces of gold and quartz were broken off and given to friends after the burning. About 5 oz. of gold was given away and this has never been reckoned in with the weight of the nugget as sold to the bank. I still have a small piece of the gold, the only bit that is left (2-3dwts now in the Melbourne National Museum). The total weight of the gold was over 200 lbs. troy (2,400 oz.)
It was put in a calico bag and taken in Mr. Edey's spring cart to the London Bank, Dunolly. My mate, Mr. Udey and I went with it. The gold was smelted and yielded 2,380 oz. of gold 23 carots fine. The bank paid us 9,583 pounds for it.
by Nugget Jones
A BRIEF RESUME OF POPULAR LOCATIONS
All States and Territories have differing legislation relating to fossicking. In general all restrict fossicking to a hobby activity, with mechanical aids banned, other than simple tools. Please take particular note of the links provided to ensure you are within the legal requirements of respective States and Territories. If is doubt, ask local authorities, and all information will be provided.
NOTE: Fossicking is not permitted in National Parks throughout Australia.
STATE BY STATE
Western Australia is now the giant of gold reserves in Australia. The auriferous areas are extensive, with the best known sites well away from civilization, with few exceptions. Some of this country can be traversed in conventional two wheeled drive vehicles, but it is recommended that 4 wheel drive be used with extensive preparations if outback travelling is to be undertaken. In summer all of Western Australia is particularly hot, and most prospectors restrict their activities to the winter. It should be recognized that in the north of the State, throughout the year temperatures are over 80 degrees even in winter. It is a well-recognized fact that many fossickers from W.A. spend the summer in Victoria, and many Victorian fossickers spend the winter in W.A. Large tracts of W.A. have mining claims recorded. Check with local authorities before proceeding. Good areas to start are Kalgoorlie, Laverton and Leonora. During summer months, heavy rainfall may be encountered and roads made impassable, in the north of the State.
Queensland has a warm climate year round, and in winter the days are pleasantly warm throughout the State. Large areas have been set aside for fossickers and these include some private land where negotiations by the government with landholders have substantially increased fossicking areas. It is recommended that 4 wheeled drive vehicles be used in the northern areas of the State, where fossicking areas are located in remote country. During summer months heavy rainfall in the north of the State may cause flooding and render roads impassable. October through to March is summer in the southern hemisphere.
New South Wales has abolished the necessity to hold a fossickers Licence. Fossicking is permitted in State Forests, but conditions apply. This State has many rivers with alluvial gold, and quite good results can be obtained. A favourite metal detector location is Tibooburra, in the north east of the State. The auriferous ground covers large areas, and is readily accessible, although remote. In the New England region of the State, the scenery is breathtaking, and substantial areas are suitable for both metal detecting and sluicing operations. A note of caution. If you visit this region in winter, the nights can be bitterly cold.
South Australia has sites set aside for fossickers, through the Adelaide Hills. Opportunities exist throughout the hills and this area had been under utilized. In more remote areas, favourite sites are Waukeringa, Tarcoola, and the northern Flinders Ranges.
It is recommended that 4 wheel drive vehicles be used in these areas. In the summer temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees.
Tasmania has extensive areas for metal detecting and sluicing operations. Mainly on the north west coast. Fossicking is permitted in State Forests and some Crown Land. (That is - land owned by the Government) Many of these areas are very remote, and dense forests abound throughout this region. Boasting some of the most picturesque and remote areas in Australia caution is required in preparing for fossicking trips. Winter in Tasmania can be bitterly cold. Tasmania is an island State south of mainland Australia.
Northern Territory has large areas of auriferous ground. The most accessible being just south of Darwin, and areas east of Alice Springs. Large areas exist in remote areas north west of Alice Springs towards the Western Australian border, in the Tanami region. These areas are remote and extreme caution needs to be exercised in travelling to such remote locations. 4 Wheeled drive vehicle are required and it is recommended that at least two vehicles travel in convoy throughout this remote area. The Northern Territory is about the size of California with a population less than 250,000 inhabitants. Always seek local advice before traversing this area.
Situated on the Calder Highway, northwest of Melbourne, approximately 2 1/2 hours driving time, is the small but pleasant town of Wedderburn, and if it is larger pieces of gold you are after, this is a good place to start.
First a brief history of the area. In 1852 the entire Wedderburn goldfield was situated on a large sheep station owned by Mr. D. Peters. The name of the station was Torpitchen.
Some say the district was originally known as Korong after the nearby Mount Korong, but many original maps show Borung, but as long as the gold is there people will say one or the other.
I would like to quote the story as told of the original gold discovery by the station owner Mr. Peters. It is said it was a shepherd working for Peters named Brady who actually found gold on the 10th May 1852, at Welshmans Point south of the town of Wedderburn, and showed Peters. Peters' own story is as follows;
"Knowing that if a goldfield was found near my station, it would enhance the value of my property I examined the outlying country carefully and felt convinced of the existence of gold in the Korong Ranges. I purchased a cradle and the other necessary implements for alluvial digging and offered them to the people in my employ to try ground. The offer was readily accepted and I pointed out spots, which appeared most promising, but being their first assay at digging, they were not immediately rewarded. They persevered for a few days when they were fortunately joined by a couple of Californian diggers who were prospecting and whose practiced eyes recognised the auriferous appearance of the country.
Gold was soon found, and when I went to see what chances there were for success, I found the little party much glated with their prospects. They were at work in a little hollow known afterward as "The nursery," where the soil was very rich and where they had struck the bottom at 5 feet from the surface. "Would you like a cup of tea" asked one of the men pointing to a large pannikin of dark brown tea. I stopped to pick it up but almost let it fall, so much greater was the weight than I had expected. For it was half filled with gold. The men laughed when they saw my surprise, having dropped this treasure into the tea to hide it from covetous eyes of any chance passer by."
It is probable the truth lies somewhere between the shepherd finding it first with prospecting then commenced by Mr. Peters and others. Nothing beats a good story of success does it?
I have supplied a list of nuggets found over 100 oz., prior to 1900, along with their locations;
Western Australia is a unique and gigantic area occupying 1/3 of the Australian continent. Sparsely populated, with less than 2 million inhabitants it has enormous mineral reserves, and produces about 200 tons of gold each year. The outback is a bleak and forbidding place in WA, and even today, dying of thirst or exposure is a real possibility in remote areas, if insufficient care is not taken in preparing to traverse this forbidding land.
Consider then the hardships encountered by the diggers who in the 1890's traversed this barren and waterless place in search of ever-elusive gold. Many walked hundreds of miles over land to reach the latest gold rushes often paying exorbitant prices for water en route. Without that precious commodity, death was inevitable in this harsh environment when the temperature in summer often reaches 115 degrees and remains over 100 degrees for weeks at a time.
By 1892, the gold town of Coolgardie, some 300 miles east, north east of Perth was a thriving mass of diggers, eking a living from an extensive but sparsely vegetated area of diminishing and elusive gold. Infrastructure facilities were close to non-existent, with no telegraph, no bank and no mail delivery other than by bicycle.
Diggers, had arrived from all over the world. From Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, Italy and a dozen other European countries. All seeking their share of that elusive yellow metal so well hidden in the barren ground. There were many characters on the gold fields, with stories attesting to their feats of strength, endurance, cunning, zeal and tolerance, abounding. One such fellow, was a small Irishman, whose notoriety was to become legendary.
Patrick Hannan, was a small unobtrusive man of moderate habits and demeanour, who was born in County Clare, Ireland in 1842. He was to write pages of gold history in this country, and become a celebrated legend in his own life time.
At 21 he left his beloved Ireland in search of a better life, and worked in gold mines at Ballarat, Victoria in the 1860's, and in the South Island of New Zealand in the 1870's. During the 1880's be worked in a number of locations in Australia's interior where gold finds were still occurring, eventually crossing the Great Australian Bight by ship to join the rush at Coolgardie, in 1889.
Upon his arrival at Goolgardie he found the pickings scarce, and when news of another find swept through the camp, detailing an area to the north east Hannan moved to shift his lot with many others. He had joined with two other Irishman, Flanagan and Shea, and together they set forth towards the new location. About 25 miles east from Coolgardie, they camped.
Hannan was an experienced digger and recognizing the potential of the ground in the vicinity of the camp decided to take a closer look at his surrounds. In company with Flanagan, he almost immediately discovered pieces of gold lying on the ground. Closer inspection revealed many more pieces of gold in the vicinity. Unbeknown to them, they had discovered an area that would eventually rank as one of the most productive gold regions on earth - the Golden Mile at Kalgoorlie.
After a week of quietly extracting what they could without disclosing the find, Hannan decided it was time to report the find to authorities, thus enabling him the claim the acres granted to the discoverer of a distinctive goldfield. Disclosure caused an immediate rush to the area and within days the area was a thriving mass of men, picks, shovels and dry blowers.
Ironically, the area Hannan and his two compatriots selected was not the richest ground in the field. That being occupied by late comers to the rush. Surprisingly Hannan left the area a few months later, in January of 1894.
Living in such harsh, primitive conditions, with brackish water and unbearable heat had taken its toll, and Hannan was no longer the young strapping man he once was. Now over 50, he returned to Coolgardie, where friends nursed him back to health. Some three years later he returned to Kalgoorlie. He had been prospecting further north in the Menzies area.
At this point in his life he was penniless, and found difficulty in understanding the fuss that was made of him once he was recognized. He was more intrigued with the progress that had been made in the area. Permanent buildings, banks, a newspaper, and even a Miner's Institute. He was asked to point out the exact spot he found his gold, and in bewilderment he graciously complied. He was entertained by the area government representatives and generally applauded wherever he went. It was not until he was 61 that he was granted an annual pension of 100 pounds, which was later increased to 150 pounds. He spent his retirement in Brunswick Victoria, and died aged 82 in 1925.
by Tom Ferguson
The world of gold boasts many stories of triumphs and tragedies. Perhaps one of the most spectacular is the legendary story of the Londonderry find.
As the story goes, there was a group of Irish miners, somewhat down on their luck, and who were prospecting south of Coolgardie, in the winter of 1894. Pickings had been very lean indeed for some months and this group of diggers had almost had enough of this God forsaken place.
As the mood of the group had deteriorated, they found it easier to break up into two or three groups to ease tensions. Two of the diggers remained in the camp. One morning, sitting on a large quartz boulder one of them tapped away lightly at the rock, breaking small pieces off, and inspecting the dislodged pieces searching for a sign of even a small piece of that illusive yellow substance. After some time, frustration overcame him and he cracked hard into the rock dislodging a rather large piece of quartz. There before his eyes was a dandy site. A dandy site indeed. Bright yellow reflected in the morning sun, dazzling him as he looked intently at the gold encrusted rock. He and his mate fired the area and collected quite a few specimens. That night around the campfire, they disclosed their find to their mates.
For the next few weeks they worked feverishly extracting as much gold as they could. In the main it was from a hole in the ground which could only take two men at a time, and was about 9 feet long. They had extracted about 8,000 ounces, when inevitably news of the find leaked out causing a rush to the area.
Fabulous offers were made for this mine, and it was eventually sold to Lord Fingall who just happened to be visiting the area from the UK, for a reputed sum of 100,000 pounds. From just 2 ton of quartz, 8,000 oz of gold had been extracted. Fingall made all necessary arrangement to secure the mine and returned to England to float a company. Over 700,000 pounds was raised with the news of such a fabulous find, with Fingall and his partner allegedly pocketing 650,000 pounds leaving just 50,000 pounds to run the mine.
However when work eventually got under way at the mine it was quickly discovered that gold in this location was going to be a rare commodity indeed. Lord Fingall had returned to Coolgardie and upon discovering that indeed the mine seemed to have petered out was left with the unfortunate duty of advising the expectant share holders in London of the demise of the project.
Mining however continued at the 'hole' and odd rich shoots were encountered at various depths. Repercussions reverberated through the boardroom for many months, and the whole sordid saga ended in financial disaster for investors.
The resultant public disclosure of this debacle dampened for many years investment funds for legitimate projects. It was however recorded that the original owners returned to the eastern States of Australia quite wealthy young men.
Gold is often found in the most inhospitable of places, and the far north west of the state of New South Wales Australia is very inhospitable. Summer temperatures often remain over 40 degrees (104 f) for weeks at a time. There is very little surface water in the district and as the earliest white explorer to that part of Australia found life could be difficult in the desert.
In 1844 the explorer Charles Sturt left his home in Adelaide, South Australia, to search for the inland sea that was thought to fill the huge unknown and unexplored centre of the continent. Sturt's expedition at first followed the Murray River, then the Darling before striking away west and north toward the heart of the continent.
By the summer of 1845 Sturt and his party found themselves trapped by a fierce drought at a place he named Depot Glen. This was a semi-permanent water hole on Evelyn Creek a creek that flowed only after heavy rains and the only surface water for many days' march. While trapped in the Glen, Sturt's second in command, James Pool fell ill with what was thought to be peritonitis. Helpless to allay his friend's pain and suffering, Sturt wrote in his journal. "We are locked up (for the duration of the drought) as effectually as if we had wintered at the Pole."
In July 1845 James Pool died and was buried beside Depot Glen. His lonely grave can still be found, marked by a gnarled and twisted Grevillia tree. Sturt had the initials J.P. and the year, carved into the iron like trunk of that ancient desert tree. To stand in the meagre shade of that tree 154 years later and run your fingers over those crudely carved characters is to establish a direct link to the living history of the desert. Sturt named a nearby mount in honour of his second in command, Mount Pool and had his men erect a large stone Cairn on the summit, a Cairn that can still be seen from the nearby glen.
Winter temperatures in the desert are usually mild and pleasant, 15 to 25 degrees. (60-78 f) Sturt on the other hand experienced a killing heat so intense that he wrote in his journal "The lead dropped from our pencils. Our hair and the wool of the sheep ceased to grow and our nails became as brittle as glass."
Unknown to Sturt and his party the country they were exploring was part of a large goldfield. Beginning in the south around Mount Brown the auriferous country extended northward to where Tibooburra now stands. Bright quartz reefs shed gold into the flats, creeks and gullies of the Warratta range, deposits that were not to be found for another twenty two years.
In 1867 a shepherd found gold in Evelyn creek and the rush was on. Men followed in Sturt's footsteps up the Murray, The Darling, and then on foot across the wild and inhospitable country to the new goldfield. Hundreds more walked up the track from Adelaide to Broken Hill and then on to Tibooburra. No one knows how many died on that perilous journey, but many did. For thirty years gold was dug, washed, and dry blown across the huge area around Depot Glen. The gold came from three main types of deposits.
1. It came from the shallow pre-Cambrian clayey loam 600 million years old that had been spread far and wide by wind and water.
This was a poor mans goldfield. The gold was mostly shallow and widely dispersed. Any man who could use a shovel and a dry blower could make good money. But water was always a problem. When water was available puddlers were used to separate the gold. Puddlers were more efficient than dry blowers. Sometimes the miners stockpiled their pay dirt for a year or more while awaiting a gully washer to fill their dams. While they waited they reverted to dry blowing for tucker* money. * (Ed: food)
TODAY AT MOUNT BROWN
Tibooburra has what is known as a "common," around the town, ground that is freely available to the citizens for the use of grazing their house cows, horses, etc,. The common also encloses two goldfields. The Tipperary and Two Mile diggings.
The gold around Tibooburra is mostly small, but it is everywhere. This is one of the few places I have ever seen where you can find gold every day. One rule that seems to work very well here is to search away from the old diggings, but always in sight of them. The old diggings themselves have been subject to many years of detecting and hold very little gold. It is the thousands of acres of "new ground," that will produce the most gold. Often it is found in patches. A patch may consist of only a few small bits, or it might contain hundreds of nuggets. If one nugget is found it pays to search that area very closely as that one nugget may signal the existence of a worthwhile patch. Once a patch is located it should be gridded both ways and not abandoned until exhausted.
Gold is also found amongst the granite boulders that are scattered around the town. Much of this gold is in the sand itself, something that is rare in the world of gold distribution. Again the gold can be scattered singularly or in patches and again it is mostly small, less than a gram of flat, smooth gold but some nuggets will go over the ounce with many in the one to ten gram range. (.035 - .35oz) Other goldfields are scattered between Mount Brown and Tibooburra. These are mostly on private land and permission to search must be gained from the owners or their agents.
A four-wheel drive vehicle is most suited to this area but not absolutely necessary. Five winters in a row we visited Tibooburra in our old Nissan campervan and not once did we have a problem. We actually found a campervan the best for prospecting. Every day we went out and had with us in our van our refrigerator, food, and water. There were places we couldn't get to without 4-wheel drive but we found the amenities of the camper van more than compensated for that.
Detecting for gold in the desert is an experience that you will remember forever, but be careful, the desert exerts an irresistible attraction that will draw you back time and again no matter how you fared in finding gold. It has to do with the clear air and far horizons, the startling beauty of a patch of Sturt Desert Pea flowering in some shady gully, the unique flora and fauna that only you, moving slowly over the ground as you detect will see. If the gold doesn't draw you back the desert will.
The Southern and Central portions of the Loddon Tourism Area form part of Tourism Victoria's "Goldfields Tourism Region", the majority of the worlds largest nuggets have been found in this region.
Gold was discovered in the region about 1952 and thousands of people came to try their luck, the area soon gaining a reputation for disgorging huge nuggets. The townships of Wedderburn, Rheola, Kingower and Inglewood and their surrounds have produced nuggets weighing up to 68 lbs. Many of these fields were opened up in the latter half of the 1800's with the Berlin fields at Rheola contributing 98 nuggets weighing over 3 lbs. each. This pattern was repeated throughout the area and over 80% of the largest nuggets found in the world have been located here.
Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the USA came to Australia as a young man of 23 in 1897 and spent several years in this district working as a mining engineer. Due to the lack of water to wash auriferous gravel's the initial rush only lasted a few years. Rich finds in other areas also had their effect. However, quartz miners sank shafts to locate hidden reefs and a public crushing plant was opened in 1859. This activity kept mining going until the end of the 19th century when farming took over as the major industry in the area. The Government Battery at Wedderburn continued to operate intermittently right through to present times and gold mining companies have come and gone with varying degrees of success. The last major effort around this period was in 1910 when a large gold dredge was put into operation. However this soon failed once again due to lack of water.
Other than small scale casual prospecting it was the 1950's before gold hit the news again. A Wedderburn resident, Mr. Dave Butterick, who had been mining his back yard for three years discovered three nuggets with the largest being 145 oz. This created enormous publicity and according to newspapers of the day over 6,000 people poured into Wedderburn the weekend after the find was announced. A Mr. Albert Smith had also received permission to mine the road outside the Butterick's house and he soon found another nugget. This publicity started another mini gold rush, but again lack of water and the difficulty of digging the rock hard ground quenched people's enthusiasm and Wedderburn settled down again.
The beginning of the current gold rush began in the 1960's with the invention of the modern metal detectors. Once these devices started to become available prospectors headed for the goldfields and many large nuggets started to appear. For the first time prospectors did not need water and had a tool in their hands that told them when a piece of metal was buried a few centimetres under the ground. These were "metal detectors" rather than "gold detectors" as for every piece of gold found many bullets and nails etc. were dug up. However for the prospectors that persevered the rewards could be high. As the technology improved nuggets started to emerge in ever increasing numbers. In July 1980 three school boys on a detecting excursion found an 85 oz. nugget at Beggery Hills, another local found an 18 oz. piece a couple of days later followed by more finds. Within a week 130 ounces had come out of the ground.
This was only the start with Kevin Hillier finding the "Hand of Faith" in October 1980. This is the largest known nugget found in Australia with a detector and weighed 720 oz. It was sold to the Golden Nugget Saloon in Las Vegas for a reputed $1,000,000 and is still on display there. Another rush started and a few years later an Australian firm, Minelab Electronics started marketing a range of high technology metal detectors that have kept the gold rush going ever since.
Large nuggets are still coming out with weights up to several hundred ounces whilst hundreds of other nuggets ranging down to less than .05 oz. are being found each week by fossickers and professional detector users. From the above it can be seen that this area is full of the history of gold discovery in Australia and it is still a flourishing industry. If you have a detector or gold panning dish try your luck in our creeks and goldfields, you never know when you may strike it rich. Goldfields maps can be obtained from tourist outlets in various towns within the Loddon Shire, and if you are not detecting just roam around the area and soak up the atmosphere of the goldfields.
An intriguing story of oppression and rebellion
in the Australian gold fields.
What ultimately brought about this insurrection is still debated with great candour even today. There is no doubt that a number of events, occurrences, appointments, incompetence and inaction, call them what you will, combined to provide the circumstances that ultimately led to bloody confrontation on a fresh summers morning at the Eureka diggings Ballarat on December 3rd. 1854.
Victoria was a young colony. The financial pressures on the government were intense. With a massive inflow of gold seekers from all over the world, the infra structure requirements were lagging well behind, and with each new gold find, the rushes that occurred, left the capital, Melbourne with very few able bodied men. They had, in the euphoria of the moment, scurried to the goldfields to find their fortunes.
Roads were unmade, and were in atrocious condition, especially those that had considerable traffic, like the road to Ballarat, where the population had blossomed to a healthy 20,000 persons in a few short months as the gold poured from the ground. Public infrastructure facilities were almost non-existent, with train lines still confined to a few small areas of Melbourne and most other public utilities stretched past breaking point and beyond. Ballarat at that time boasted at least 12 hotels, a number of banks and four theatres.
At Ballarat the local police contingent comprised of a considerable number of "reformed" convicts, mainly from Tasmania. Port Arthur, the Tasmanian penal colony was noted for its brutality and inhumane treatment, and was an area where the hardest convicts were domiciled.
The diggers in the main were good, hard working men. Men from all over the world. Irish, Cornish, Welsh, Scottish, Canadian, American, as well as a strong sprinkling of Europeans. Quite content to put in a hard days work, followed by a hard evening at the local tavern, unless, if married they were confined to their tents or living quarters by their wives. Almost all were self employed, and eked a living from the diggings. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but in general a living wage was made.
The government had imposed a mining fee of one pound per month. To a struggling miner that was not an insignificant amount, and on occasions difficulty was had in raising the sum. What was the bone of contention was the fact that a miner must carry the license with him at all times and produce the same on demand, when requested by a constable. The fine for non compliance was five pounds, half of which was paid to the constable upon conviction.
No wonder then that these "reformed" convicts, now constables, saw an opportunity to "make a quid" (Ed: Slang term for pound) and abuses abounded. They were compounded by corrupt officials who capitalised on the booty that was to be had. To often, drunken constables with the tacit consent of their superiors permitted intolerable and unreasonable behaviour, backing it with the force of law. One police magistrate in particular, named John D'Ewes was of particular concern to the diggers. Consorting with reputed criminals his actions were well known among the diggings. In particular his suggested financial interest in the Bentleys hotel, owned by the reformed convict James Bentley, who had a well deserved reputation for brutal treatment of drunken diggers.
What also irked the diggers were the regular inspections of the licenses, at the most inappropriate times. No time or place was sacred and all too often a digger would be roused from his bed during the night, to produce his "Gold License". The situation was becoming intolerable, and organized opposition to this legal thuggery was gathering momentum.
A new governor had been appointed and was due to arrive in Melbourne during the winter of 1854. Captain Sir Charles Hotham R.N., K.C.B. A naval captain with distinguished service, the diggers looked to his arrival to relieve the intolerable circumstances they were enduring.
There had previously been talk of rebellion as early as 1851. The then Governor
La Trobe, in an effort to decrease the burgeoning deficit, had introduced license fees for miners, to aid in curbing the rapidly increasing budget deficit. This had proved to be particularly unpopular with the diggers, and unrest was evident throughout the goldfields. Ballarat was no exception to this unrest, and a number of informal meetings and gatherings had been held prior to Governor
Hotham arriving. In general the consensus opinion was to wait and rely on the common sense of the new Governor to address the diggers grievances.
Such an eminent man would understand and right the wrongs.
The diggers were to be sadly disappointed with the faith they were placing in
the new Lieutenant Governor.
Over the years, many stories have been told of the Australian Gold fields. The majority of these stories have dealt with the most popular and productive areas such as Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland. These are the main destinations that most prospectors head to when searching for gold, as these are the more recognised areas to go. Due to this, overseas visitors always tend to head to these areas as they are the most publicised.
The problem with this is that many other areas are overlooked. They are treated as training areas for the beginner or by the more avid prospectors, as a place to just keep in touch with their expertise. When talking to local club member, I asked him whether he treated our local gold fields the same way as the Victoria goldfields. His answer was "No", and then he realised that he should be. This was because he realised that if his concentration level was the same, he may have better success here. This is such a pity, as many people may be overlooking a small wealth in gold.
There are many places in New South Wales, South Australia, Northern Territory and even Tasmania that should be treated as prospective ground. Many nuggets of various sizes have been found with metal detectors throughout these areas. In South Australia, we have many goldfields such as Teetulpa, Mannahill, Ulooloo, Tarcoola, and Waukaringa, just to name a few. These goldfields are a reasonable distance from Adelaide, but we have local goldfields that are only about one hours drive from Adelaide. The main ones are the Barossa, Echunga and Gumeracha goldfields. More gold came out of these areas, than most people realise. Due to this, we will look closer at them.
The first authentic discovery of gold in South Australia was in January 1846. This was the Victoria mine located near Montacute, which is only 10 miles from Adelaide. The amount of gold that came out of this mine was only about 24 ounces, but this was the start of the gold era for South Australia.
The Barossa Goldfields was discovered in 1868 by Job Harris. He was the local publican at the Sandy Creek Hotel at the time when he made the discovery at Spike Gully. By sunset the next day, there were approximately 40 men at the new field. Word spread very quickly, and by the end of the week, there were just under a thousand people at the field trying their luck. People came from everywhere and nearby towns became void of the local men as they became involved in the gold fever. Within a month, there were approximately 4,000 claims registered.
The local towns of Barossa and Victoria Hill began to flourish. People either hastily erected timber or canvas dwellings so as they could prospect for gold, or built stores, etc to supply this influx of people. Either way, they were all trying to cash in on the gold returns, one way or another. It was reported that ten "Pubs" were also built. These owners would have certainly had their own goldmines by supplying to the prospectors. The population grew at such a rate, it was reported that the population grew to 10,000 people at these two places.
In the first week of the rush, 250 ounces were found, with approximately 8,000 ounces being recorded for the year of operation. The average claim produced about 50 ounces, but it was reported that some claims were so rich that 250 ounces per man was being taken. From washed soil, miners were obtaining yields of about 1 to 1 1/2 ounces per ton.
Official records of the total amount of gold taken out of this area, does not give the true indication. This is because the miners were receiving a better price from Melbourne buyers than from the local Adelaide Banks. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 ounces of gold was produced. In today's terms, this would amount to approximately 46 million dollars Australian.
The Echunga Goldfields were discovered in late 1851 but was only declared a major find in 1852. There was a reward of one thousand pounds for the first acknowledged payable goldfield, which was advertised in the Government Gazette. This was claimed by two people by the names of Chapman and Hampton. They took 7 ounces of gold to the Treasury in Adelaide. They had to prove their claim by washing soil at the location , in front of officials, and get results. At first no gold was produced, and everyone thought that a scam had been masterminded. People were yelling out for the two to be lynched, besides other things. The Police had to protect the two at this stage.
Suddenly, gold appeared in the pan. The people changed their tune and started yelling which startled many, including the horses. People started washing for gold with anything that they could lay their hands on, from pots and pans to their hats. That day the officials took away over 1/2 ounce and declared it a genuine find. Within several days it was estimated that about 1,000 people had rushed to the sight. In two months, 684 licenses were taken out which cost 30 shillings each.
The main two areas of the Echunga goldfields, were the Chapel Hill and Jupiter Creek Diggings. In the Jupiter Creek Diggings, nuggets up to 7 ounces were found. There were also other numerous gullies where gold was found, and in one known as Blackwood Gully, numerous nuggets approximately 14 ounces were found. The largest nugget found in this gully was recorded at 16 ounces. In these diggings, a few diamonds were also found, but never on a commercial basis.
Again, records of total production of gold at the Echunga Diggings are not accurate due to the purchasing from interstate concerns. In 1871, total gold purchased by the South Australian Banks from the Echunga diggings was approximately 90,000 ounces. By 1898, the reported total amount of gold from the Chapman Gully Area was 286,720 ounces or approx. 8 tons. From these records and due to the purchasing from interstate concerns, which were not recorded, it is estimated that total gold obtained from these areas would be very close to 500,000 ounces of gold. Just think how much this would be worth at today's prices.
The Gumeracha Goldfields, also known as the Mt. Crawford Goldfields was discovered about 1884 by "Watts" and a few friends. They worked this area without telling anyone, but after about a year, the news started to filter out to others that they were finding quite a bit of gold. The rush was then on, and many claims were lodged. This first area where they found the gold, is known as Watts Gully, which as you can see was named after the finder. This gully was the richest area of the complete field.
Many large nuggets came out of this area, and some were of considerable weight. The Government purchased one that weighed 14 ounces 8 dwt. Nuggets up to thirty to forty ounces had been reported, and rumour has it that two nuggets weighing approx. 100 ounces were also found. Even through the last few years, nuggets of reasonable size have been found here. Generally, nuggets up to 10 grams are found. Several nuggets approximately 3 1/2 ounces have also been found, one I sited personally. About 4 years ago, I heard of a nugget being found just out of Watts Gully, using an older detector, which weighed approximately 16 ounces.
As you can see by this information, there are a lot of opportunities locally in South Australia. All it takes is someone with a bit of time, patience and confidence, and who knows what could eventuate from it. As one person I know said, "we often go to other goldfields in Victoria, and quite often, come back with only a small amount of gold. Then we try one of our local fields and find a half-ounce nugget." We then say, "we will have to come and camp up here for a week instead of going interstate. The trouble is, we never do.... we never treat it as a true goldfield as it is to close to home". Basically, South Australian goldfields are really underestimated and someday, a large find will be discovered. Just look at what they are saying about the prospects of the Tarcoola goldfields, but that's another story.
The discoverer of gold in New South Wales is shrouded in mystery. It is generally accepted that although the first records indicate discoveries as early as 1823, it was not until 1851 that gold in payable quantities was found by Hargraves, Lister and Tom, in the Bathurst - Orange region, some 100 miles west of Sydney.
A short time later the "Kerr Hundredweight" was found containing about 87 lb. of gold, in the Turon River, north of Bathurst. Other finds in the Bathurst - Orange area continued, and the first Australian gold rush began. Incredibly from these rushes in 1852, about 20 tons of gold was produced. At least that was the official figure. What was taken and not declared is a matter for conjecture and debate, but realistically that figure was substantially more than was officially declared.
In the decade that followed, the burgeoning colony bloomed. From a struggling far flung appendage of the British Empire, to the embryonic beginnings of a new, vibrant and wealthy multi cultural nation. Further gold finds at Braidwood, Mudgee, Nundle, and Stuart Town, along the Macquarie River Valley added stimulus to the rushes. Finds at Adelong, Tumbarumba, Kiandra, Young and Gundaroo contributed to the excitement of the era. Villages, towns, transport networks and associated industries rapidly developed adding prosperity and growth to the young colony. Gold finds continued throughout the 1860's. Alluvial gold was discovered in the Forbes-Parkes area. The Young district produced about 11 tons of gold in 4 years. Discoveries of reef gold were made at Parkes, and other locations produced significant finds that ranged across a large portion of the State.
Further discoveries continued into the 1870's. Notably at Hill End, where reef gold was found in large quantities. By 1870 a 15 head stamper was operating and enormous quantities of gold were extracted from the area. It was in this location that the "Holtermann" nugget was discovered on 19th October 1872. It weighed an incredible 629 lb. The largest piece of reef gold ever discovered anywhere in the world. This relatively small area produced a staggering 50 tons of gold.
In the 1880's discoveries continued, but both quantity and frequency were diminishing. Gold was discovered at Cobar and Peak Hill, but by the 1890's mining activity was rapidly proceeding towards company owned operations. Recovery required venture capital to extract the lower grade ore bodies entombed in higher volumes of ever deeper mines.
By the turn of the century, the abundance of new discoveries was diminishing. However, a number of new ore bodies were located and mined. Among the more notable being the Mount Boppy Mine, which in two decades produced 13 tons of gold. What became notable in this period, was the necessity to mine gold as well as other precious metals to maintain an economic viability.
For the next 50 years or so, gold mining continued throughout New South Wales, in a relatively static manner. Older mines, and gold producing areas were revisited and some were re-activated. Among the more notable being the Lake George Mine at Captains Flat, (1937). Dredging on the Cudgegong and Macquarie Rivers 1938-1958, and the Cowarra area up until 1942.
During the 1970's resurgence in mining activity occurred throughout Australia. Gold, copper, uranium, bauxite, lead, silver, zinc, dolomite, gas and oil all experienced a renaissance. Commodities' trading on world markets was buoyant, and venture capital abundant. These events created an environment that again stimulated interest in gold and other minerals and with geo technical satellite support and improved ground tracking facilities, a number of significant finds were made, mainly at depth.
These technologies have resulted in a number of discoveries throughout Australia. In New South Wales, gold mining was recommenced in Hillgrove, Temora, and Peak Mine near Cobar . New discoveries initiated projects at McKinnons Tank Mine and at Northparkes Mine, (Both 1994) In 1995 underground operations began at Browns Creek Mine, Blayney, and in 1997 at Cadia Hill near Orange. Further significant discoveries near Cadia Hill have recently been made.
Further exploration of previously exploited gold areas at Cobar, Parkes, Peak Hill, Junction Reefs, Browns Creek, Adelong and Mineral Hill, has resulted in significant additional deposits, some of which have been re-activated. To give some indication of the extent, estimated ore reserves at North Parkes are 65 million tons. A new find at Lake Cowal, near West Wyalong has resources estimated at 36 million tons.
By the year 2000, New South Wales will produce an estimated 20 tons of gold annually. Incredibly, more than was produced in the boom year of 1852. The gold industry remains vibrant and alive in New South Wales.