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Resource Extraction & Processing

The History of Mining in Australia

Iron ore
Iron ore

Silver and copper ores were discovered in Australia in the 1840s, just when the early colonies were about to go bankrupt. It led to an influx of immigrants and mines like Wheal Watkins and Wheal Gawler opened in South Australia. It wasn’t until 1851 that an unknown person found gold near Ophir, New South Wales. Only a few weeks later, colonists found gold near a colony in Victoria.

This gave birth to the Australian gold rush, which greatly impacted the country’s economy. Finding gold made Victoria the richest colony in Australia. Around 1855, the country produced 40 per cent of the world’s gold. It also had a huge influence on the population and people were brought in to do the hard work. In 1851, Australia had a population of only 437,655. It increased to 1,151,957 ten years later in 1861.

Finding more gold and other metals

Over the next 50 years, more gold was found at Mt Morgan, Mt Bischoff, Kalgoorlie, and Coolgardie. Miners also found zinc, lead, and silver at Broken Hill, New South Wales. Iron ores were discovered at Iron Baron and Iron Knob.

Despite an increase in the value of all metals, production tamed down between 1900 and 1950. That was probably because the government had strong restrictions over the export of iron. The iron industry boomed when the ban was removed. It led to the establishment of the Pilbara iron ore region.

The Bureau of Mineral Resources, now known as Geoscience Australia, help to speed up the excavation process. During the end of the 20th century, Australian mining industries found more metals including uranium, tungsten, nickel, rutile (an ore of titanium), and bauxite (an ore of aluminum). They also found large reserves of oil and natural gas, which gave further hopes of a strong economy.

Today, Australia has become the largest exporter of raw metals and other materials to Japan and European nations.


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