May 25, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

The Origins of Mining in Australia

3 min read

Mining and mineral exploration have been a big part of the country’s heritage and culture for a long time now. It’s a proud tradition that goes back to the 19th century when the country was still a British colony. But how did it all start? And how did it all develop? Mind out below.

The 1850s Gold Rush

When gold deposits were discovered in Australia, there was a rush on these locations. Known as the gold rushes, they also happened in the US, this saw a huge amount of prospectors and workers heading to the locations of the deposits. There was gold discovered in Australia in 1823 and other times, but it wasn’t until the bigger discoveries in 1851 that rushes occurred. Many of the people involved in the rush were migrants from Europe.

Many people had headed to California in 1848 for the earlier gold rush there. They then came back when opportunities arose in New South Wales. It was a pretty chaotic year in 1851, and the years that followed. The local government authorities, at times, struggled to keep hold of the situation. But the growth of the population that came with the rush allowed the country to grow as there were more workers to work in agriculture afterwards.


The Tin Boom

Just a couple of decades after the gold rush, there was a boom in tin mining. The metal was first discovered in Tasmania, at Mount Bischoff. It became one of the most important countries for the production of tin. And it was a welcome boost to the industry after the crazy success of the gold rush lost steam. There were many positive knock-on effects of the tin boom for the rest of the mining industry too.

Just after this boom in tin production, some of the country’s biggest and most successful mines were opened for business for the first time. In Queensland, a copper and gold mine was opened. South Australia continued to focus on tin with a few new mines opening. While lead and zinc were mined at Broken Hill in New South Wales. This was a massive lift for the country’s entire industry.

The 20th Century Revival

About 100 years after the original gold rush in Australia, just when things looked to be a decline, another resource boom occurred. Before the 1960s, everyone assumed that the country did not have enough reserves of iron to cover domestic usage. But discoveries of new metals helped to change the fortunes of the country’s mining industry. It remains healthy to this day, with companies such as DM Civil contractors enjoying success.


This initial revival was helped by the lifting of export controls and the opening of new mining regions. The new metals that were discovered were bauxite, rutile, tungsten and nickel. Oil, natural gas and uranium were also discovered. This rich supply of new resources caused a massive boom effect, and many companies got rich off the back of it. Exporting to Europe and Japan, Australia became a major hub for mining.